In this increasingly distracting digital age, many of us have lost the ability to adjust to being distracted for long periods of time. Some of us don't even know how to focus on work. We have been so distracted that if someone can sit for long periods and focus deeply on one task without being distracted, they are seen as having one of the superpowers of this generation. This sounds a little extreme, but it might be more accurate than you think. But there are some unique techniques that, if applied correctly and in the right circumstances, could improve one's ability to adjust to distractions and develop a laser-like focus.
Why distraction robbed you of your time and energy?
Due to the over-reliance on digital devices that are deliberately designed to grab our attention, priorities and deep focus have fallen victim to the attack of the attention trap. Just think how many times you check your devices (social media, text messages, email, YouTube, etc.) on any given day, even at work. Probably a little too much, right? But don't be ashamed. Numerous studies have shown that most of us spend too much time on our phones.((Saving Time: Time Statistics 2019: Here's How Much You Use Your Phone During Your Workday)) But our screen time habits aren't the only maneuver that harms our ability to focus intensely at work. Moving between many activities and responsibilities is crammed into our normal daily routine and makes deep concentration very difficult, especially if you are a key decision maker. Having to deal with annoying co-workers who are constantly pulling you in, vying for your attention, can be very distracting and even annoying. Unfortunately, these violations have become the norm. We now live in a world that floods us with annoyance and begs our attention, leaving us with virtually no uninterrupted time to focus. An empirical study from the University of California, Irvine found that ((UC Irvine: cost interrupted work: higher speed and stress)) A typical worker switches tasks every three minutes on average. It can take about 23 minutes to recover from the distraction at work. A study has shown that breaks in the workplace can result in a lot of wasted time and energy throughout the work day. He also showed that as a result, anxiety associated with the loss of time for work breaks increases stress. Succumbing to these distractions can lead you down the road of mediocrity and failure that you never want to have in your job. Which leads to the Million Dollar Question - how can i focus on work?
Strategies for staying focused at work
A word of caution - there is no "quick and easy" fix for how to stay focused at work. A well-publicized hack or find that perfect app, or just meditating, might not be the most effective answer for everyone. The key is to be very strategic in your approach and be prepared to experience some discomfort. If you can't, chances are your work hours will slip away to an activity that Cal Newport, renowned author and professor of computer science at Georgetown University, calls 'flat":
“Low-intensity, tangible-type tasks are often performed while distracted. These efforts usually do not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”
This is the kind of work that fills most of our days. A more efficient and ultimately productive way to spend our jobs by practicing what Newport calls 'deep':
“Professional activity performed in a state of distraction of free concentration that pushes one's cognitive abilities to the limit. These efforts create new value, improve your craft, and are difficult to replicate.”
The concept was coined by Newport in a 2016 bestseller, deep work: rules for targeted success in a maddened world. The author of six self-improvement books suggests that by taking control of our time and attention from the many diversions that try to steal it, we can master the art of deep work. Let's take a look at some of Newport's unusual strategies and recommendations that can greatly improve your ability to adjust to distractions at work or in your daily life.
1. Know Your Triggers
To achieve deep work or stay focused consistently for long periods of time, the first step is to look deep inside yourself to find out why you resist focusing in the first place. We are all different in some way or another. Some of us may have a desktop filled with work stuff and still be able to focus, but you've been thrown off by one employee just entering our space. The likelihood of being distracted has a lot to do with the amount of something being pulled to our attention. Therefore, increased self-observation and deep introspection will help you determine the boundaries of replicas. There are three typical signals that you should set limits for Or you let your limits slip:
- The discomfort
You can't always avoid every distraction. But if you are aware of your weaknesses, the more likely you are to put in the right systems designed to significantly reduce the impact of distractions.
Border, limit defining you in a relationship with someone or something. Boundaries can be physical, digital, emotional and even spiritual. Learning to set boundaries is essential to limit the disruptions and distractions in your life. Healthy boundaries will give you the ability to do what you want to focus on. It serves as a framework to focus your efforts and manage your energy allowing you to do your best work. The first step in setting boundaries is knowing your triggers and limitations - is it mental, emotional, physical or spiritual? Keep in mind that your limits are your own, so it will most likely be different from others' limits.
Imagine the ridicule you'll receive for posting a "don't interrupt" sign on your office door or your front desk in this ultra-sensitive era. He will probably not be received favorably by your colleagues. Most of us are just too much of a crowd pleaser to become the perfect recluse and risk getting chastised for it. Often, our inability to set boundaries is the result of our fear of offending those around us. But frankly, you have no obligation beyond your own fault to be immediately available to everyone all the time.
2. Prioritize Your Letters
Depending on which company you work for and your specific role, there's a good chance you'll get a steady stream of emails per day. Email messages are one of the most pressing aspects of working life. We are currently sending approximately 200 billion emails a day.((Radocati: Radicati, who is in the group to write statistics 2014-2018 report)) Newport argues that writing takes up mind space and attention that could be directed to deep work. He considers email to be:
"The petty activities of the quintessence are especially insidious in their grip on most mental attention workers."
These little virtual envelopes spark such feelings of curiosity and excitement, it's pretty hard to loosen its powerful grip on our attention. Newport recommends several strategies:
Guard Your Email Address
- Do not publicly list your email address or on your website if you are a business owner.
- There are different messages or separate contact forms for different requests.
- Process-oriented approach. Reduce some of the back and forths letters by posting a more thorough and complete match. This will close loops on the conversation faster.
- The priority of the messages you receive. Understand that not every email you receive requires a response.
Inbox Method Zero
Another email strategy can be to apply the polarizing email zero method. Originally conceived by Merlin Mann, owner 43 folders, Inbox Zero will help you set aside certain chunks of time to read and respond to emails so that they don't take over your day. Here are some tenants of Mann's original view of Zip Zero:
- Keep your email application closed for most of the day.
- When processing emails, follow the principle of delete, delegate, reply, defer or do.
- Respond immediately to messages that can be answered in two minutes or less.
3. Eliminate Digital Entertainment
We mentioned earlier how much of a distracting force digital devices have become. If you're like most workers, you don't spend all your time at work doing real work. To be honest. And even if you do, you will be the envy of many by reading this article. Cyberloafing is so rampant in the workplace that it costs US companies up to $85 billion a year, according to the University of Nevada study.((University of Nevada: email statistical report)) To overcome this, Newport suggests staying away from distracting websites and apps for a certain amount of time.
“Schedule in advance when you will use the Internet, and then avoid it altogether after hours.”
Here are a few strategies to help with your digital de-clutter:
- Site-blocking applications for accessing the Internet at specified intervals.
- Develop willpower not to check your phone every 10 minutes. Get used to select "Do Not Disturb" mode on your smartphone or keep it face down.
Minimize your notifications by ignoring the noise
Inexcusably screen your phone calls - set boundaries to only receive very important calls while you work.
4. Methodically Schedule Every Day
Planning carefully each day is the best way to approach deep work and one of the best strategies on how to stay focused at work. This imposes time constraints, creating a healthy 'time' pressure. One of the main reasons why most people lose focus during the work day is due to the lack of a structured plan or schedule. Newport admits that not every day will go as planned. But recommends “schedule every minute of the day” no matter. The lockdown time (also known as boxing time) approach will hold you accountable by setting aside specific periods for specific types of work. The division of the working day into blocks and the assignment of each activity allows you to determine what is most important. There are other time-boxing methods such as the previously mentioned postal zero и Day-theming. Theme-Day dedicates each day of the week to a specific topic rather than switching between different types of work or responsibilities throughout the day. This strategy is not about planning the perfect day. It's about being able to provide structure to your work day, forcing you to be more focused on your time. When planning each working day, you will be in control of the time, because you will know exactly what you want to achieve and when.
As Newport covered in the book:
“Our ability to do deep work is becoming increasingly rare at the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable.”
Our brains have a hard time dealing with the sheer amount of attention triggers that are constantly trying to derail our concentration on a daily basis. No wonder learning to become the masters of our focus and not the slaves of our ever-growing distractions is so hard. Luckily, there are several strategies on how to stay focused, presented in deep work, that if done right and practiced consistently, can greatly increase your productivity at work.
More Tips to Help You Stay Focused
- How to Focus and Increase Your Productivity (The Complete Guide)
- How not to be distracted: 10 practical tips to sharpen your attention
- How to Improve Attention: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain