Do you have trouble concentrating at work?
Whether it's a chronic problem related to your time management style or you just want to become more productive, here are seven proven techniques that will make your distractions disappear and let you accomplish even more.
1. Get a grip on procrastination
You might not think of procrastination as a distraction, but putting things off creates a level of stress that compromises your ability to focus and be effective.
A study published in a European management journal found that procrastination is “a self-handicapping behavior that leads to wasted time, poor performance, and increased stress.”
If procrastination is a problem for you, there are steps you can take to get it under control.
Frances Booth, the author of “The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World,” suggests 15 Tricks to Overcome Procrastination. These include things like making a list of what you’re putting off right now, breaking big tough projects into smaller pieces and giving yourself tight deadlines to complete them.
Her most powerful statement is worth repeating:
“The cost of putting something off might include new business we could have done or earnings we could have made had we got on with the task immediately.”
2. Understand your time management style
Entrepreneur and best-selling author Kevin Kruse developed a quiz to help you figure out your time management style. Kruse has identified four types of time management styles:
- Frantic and confused
- Spinning your wheels
- Distracted and frustrated
- Calm and confident
Taking the quiz can be a good first step to understanding how your personal style might be creating problems for you:
- If you’re frantic and confused, you may have trouble setting priorities and making a plan. You need to take steps to be sure you know how you should be spending your time and develop a system for getting things done.
- If you’re spinning your wheels, you may not be making the most of your organizational skills, and knowing what needs your attention first.
- People who are distracted and frustrated often know what they need to accomplish, but have trouble staying on task, so progress is slow.
- Even if you are calm and confident, Kruse says, it’s likely that you’re always looking for ways to increase your productivity.
3. Better manage your social media engagement
Nearly all businesses can benefit from social media engagement. But as I always say, time spent on social media may not deliver the ROI you need.
On more than one occasion, I’ve recommended different ways to be more efficient on social media. Patel reports that one survey found that 43 percent of CEOs spend more than six hours per week on social media.
Maybe you have six hours a week to devote to social media, but I don’t. Finding ways to meet your business objectives through social media engagement in the most efficient way possible will help you reduce the distraction of social media.
4. Plan for your time
There are only so many hours in a day, and you can’t get back wasted time. According to ActionCoach, a business coaching firm, poor time management is a bad habit. They suggest ten steps to overcome that bad habit and get your groove going.
Every one of them involves planning and setting priorities. This is essential to staying focused!
5. First things first
Do you have trouble setting priorities? This distraction might be keeping you from using your time well.
There are many systems for setting priorities. One technique that has survived the test of time is the A-B-C method. Some people use more letters, but you get the idea.
Sit down with your to-do list and assign an “A” to tasks that are urgent and important. Assign a “B” to things that are important but not urgent. Everything else gets a “C” because it’s not important.
Of course, the “A” list is your priority. This simple system will help you, and if you do it every day, you’ll have fewer distractions.
6. Stay on task
Which leads us to the real problem, staying on task. Some people have more trouble with this than others. If it’s a challenge for you, consider the advice of David Rock, author of “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.”
In an article for Psychology Today, Rock notes that
He cites studies of productivity that show the waste related to distractions in the workplace and discusses the problem of disruption, noting that it can take people 25 minutes to return to their task if they’re interrupted.
Switching activities can be especially disastrous. Which is something to keep in mind when you’re planning your time — and underscores the value of planning time blocks for certain activities.
7. Develop efficient processes
An excellent way to reduce distraction is to have a routine or process for all of the tasks you need to accomplish on a regular basis. I do a lot of writing, and to stay focused I use an outline to help keep him on task during the writing process.
Whatever your work is, develop a process for things you often do. You don’t need the time-wasting distraction of starting from scratch every time.
There are many articles, books and other resources that can help you overcome distractions. These seven techniques have been used by many and with a little effort you can come up with just the right combination to make your distractions at work disappear.
What tricks do you use to maintain focus throughout the day?