It’s all too easy to get distracted in the workplace. With phone calls, meetings, emergency emails, instant messages, social media, and gatherings by the water cooler, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done in the office. But distractions like these take you away from the work you’re hired to do. If not controlled, distractions can lower your productivity and leave you in a chronic state of catch-up.
To make your working life more stress-free, check out these five tips on how to stay focused at work.
Prioritize A To-Do List
Making a list of what needs to be done during the workday (or during the week) puts your time in order. Prioritizing that list helps you sort your options so that you fulfill your obligations promptly. Posting the list in a prominent place at your work space, where it cannot be ignored, will help get you back on track when distractions (inevitably) pull you away from your projects.
Turn Off Distractions
If your computer is set up to alert you to tweets, Facebook notifications, Slack, Skype, etc., you’ll find it hard to focus on the task at hand. Fortunately there are a lot of tools available to block online distractions while you work. Check out KeepMeOut, StayFocusd, Cold Turkey, and Freedom.
Also consider putting your phone on mute and setting your instant messaging options to “unavailable” when you’ve got to get something done.
Work In Spurts
Few people can work effectively hour after hour without end. An occasional break, say, every 90 minutes or so, increases your ability to focus. Spend your break away from your work space. Take a vigorous walk, have a meal or snack, chat with a coworker, or listen to music. You’ll return refreshed for another sprint and better fortified to resist distractions.
Stay Fed And Hydrated
There are a lot of really good reasons to be distracted, but being hungry or thirsty are two of the best. Avoid these excuses to leave your office by having a bottle of water within reach at all times. Also keep healthy snacks available so you don’t have to raid the vending machine when hunger strikes in the middle of a paragraph.
If you’re easily distracted by the chattering going on in the next cubicle, the ringing of someone else’s phone, or the rattle of wheels on the mail cart, consider cancelling out the noise with a good pair of headphones.
If soft, ambient music helps you concentrate, indulge yourself. Consider plugging into coffitivity.com, which surrounds you with the gentle hum of a morning cafe or the rumbling bustle of a university campus bistro.