Something constantly breaks us off from work: email, calls, colleagues' conversations, and even our own thoughts. Under these conditions, how can one concentrate on important tasks, protect oneself from information fatigue and correctly allocate time? We offer 10 tips to help you deal with distractions and become more productive.
First rule: concentrate on only one thing. We are often distracted because modern society has unrealistic expectations for us. They want us to consume oceans of information without stopping. We must be constantly available to her. Many respond to this alarming rise in demands, focusing on several tasks at once. And this approach does not bring us good.
We are suffering from a fundamentally incorrect stereotype: they say that it is necessary to do several things at the same time in order to cope with the load of modern problems. But multitasking tactics usually lead to a dead end.
It's hard for us to concentrate. Our attention is scattered. We become impolite. Our performance is reduced. We are losing control of the surrounding reality. We pretend to have time to do a lot. Why are we pretending to be? Because our brain is not able to fully work on more than one task at a time. This will be confirmed by any neurophysiologist.
Pointless worries about past events or baseless worries about the future are the main and tireless plunderers of our time. Thoughts about what others will say interfere with us.
The first step towards overcoming all these obstacles is to achieve full awareness. Notice to yourself what your thoughts revolve around. Is this some kind of concrete “splinter” from the past? Or do you have a habit of worrying about the bends that may await you in the future?
Remind yourself that such thoughts are not only useless, but also counterproductive: they prevent us from being present here and now. We are not able to change the past, predict the future or establish control over other people. At this particular moment, we can only focus on solving a specific problem, which will make a positive contribution to our life, our work and the reality that is seething around us.
When we try to remember all the things that we have to do in the foreseeable future, this often turns into an additional stress load. But if we transfer the list of tasks to paper, then we remove the burden of fear that we might forget something.
A person is able to simultaneously keep in mind. List compilation allows you to free mental resources in order to concentrate on one specific task and not be distracted by disturbing thoughts about other duties.
Using lists, we can sort and structure the seemingly heavy mountain of tasks, focus on the most relevant of them and achieve maximum efficiency.
Mark Twain once said that if you eat a frog in the morning, the rest of the day promises to be wonderful, since the worst is already over. Your “frog” is the largest and most important work, the one that you most often put aside in a long box. However, it is she who at the moment will positively affect your achievements, and most importantly - your life.
The first rule of eating frogs: of the two proposed, you need to start with the most nasty.
In other words, if you need to perform two important tasks, start with a larger, more complex and the most important one. Accustom yourself to take up the matter without delay, to bring it to the end and only then move on to another.
To reduce the temptation to postpone the task, each active phase of the project should take no more than 25 minutes.
This technique involves dividing the task into periods, the end of which is monitored using a timer. Each such period is accompanied by a short break. After four periods of work, a longer break follows.
The technique is especially effective when necessary to do what you do not want to do at all. When we know that we will work on the task for 25 minutes, and as soon as the timer rings, we can be distracted, the work becomes psychologically easier.
You must create a positive work environment for yourself that promotes productive activities. Eliminate all possible interference. If you are having difficulty working on a project or task, distractions will only become pretexts for you to interrupt.
The Internet, colleagues who are always ready to chat with you, phone calls, pop-up email notifications - all this helps you to start putting off work. Eliminate all distractions for at least 25 minutes and get down to business.
In most work collectives it is impossible not to be distracted. It is difficult to return to the desired course if the conversation with which you were interrupted is out of control and you do not understand when it will end. Therefore, you must immediately set the time frame. The best way to do this is to announce what you are doing now, to the person who is heading for you, and then ask focused questions. Here are some examples:
“I'm just trying to clear my mail. Are you here for a short time or is it worth making an appointment for another time? ”
“I need to make some phone calls. Do you want to discuss something specific or can we talk later? ”
“I'm going to the meeting in about five minutes. Can you briefly tell me your problem in half a minute, or is it better if I call you after the meeting? ”
Why do we agree to have lunch with a friend, although busy with an important project? We take on additional responsibilities at the request of the chef, despite the fact that they were going to devote more time to the family? We come to the aid of a neighbor, even if it interferes with our plans? It's simple: we are afraid to let people down or ruin our relationship.
But we forget that we have the right to choose. Do not turn your own life into chaos, endlessly solving other people's problems. Say no and people will begin to value your time. And you do not have to regret every time your complaisance.
From today, try to make all insignificant and “problematic” requests to say no, and use the free time to complete a more important task. Refuse unequivocally, but politely. “I'm flattered that you thought about me, but I'm afraid the download doesn't allow me” or “I would really like to, but I'm terribly busy.” Such forms of refusal will allow you to maintain a warm relationship with the interlocutor, and get rid of unnecessary small tasks that “clog” your day.
Doing the same thing day after day can be terribly boring. Tired of monotony, we begin to be distracted at every opportunity. To avoid this, develop different modes for different days of the week.
That's what Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, does. Each day has a specific theme. Monday is for meetings and company management. Tuesday is dedicated to product development. Wednesday is about marketing, communications, and development, and Thursday is about communicating with developers and partners. Friday is the day of the company and its culture.
This routine helps maintain calm in the midst of chaos. Every day, Dorsey focuses all his efforts on one topic, and does not spray them on several tasks. His work week always follows these rules, so colleagues and partners can easily adapt to it.
Schedule what time you will open your email daily. For most people, the best option that least interferes with their workflow is to check incoming correspondence four times a day and allocate no more than 15 minutes for each “session”.
1. First thing in the morning. Most people start their day with an email check to make sure they don’t miss something urgent.
2. Before the lunch break. Lunch time is a very natural pause in your business activity. To make this time more productive, you can check your email.
3. The middle of the afternoon. This is another natural pause when you need to take a break or you are going to leave for a business meeting.
4. The end of the working day. If you free up your inbox as much as possible before you leave the workplace, then the next morning you will immediately go to view new messages.
1. Recognize your goal
This is really absolutely necessary so that your attention is not scattered to the mass of various, but truly useless information that continuously and everywhere enters the brain. The goal must be absolutely concrete, tangible and visible (see “What an Effectively Formulated Goal Looks Like”). In addition, it should be in your brain constantly, sharply indicated in case you suddenly forget about it for a while. This constant sense of purpose is a powerful motivator that can inspire you to make maximum efforts to achieve it in reality.
And so that all actions aimed at achieving it are truly effective, and no extraneous factors can distract you from the most important thing, you need to periodically imagine everything that will happen after its achievement.
2. The goal should be as realistic as possible.
This is very significant, because the inability to concentrate is due precisely to the unreality and vagueness of the task. In addition, it is almost impossible to concentrate on the elusive and unspecific goal, which means that it will be almost impossible to achieve it. The real goal is able to constantly keep you toned, because you can at any time, if you wish, determine at what exactly stage you are now on the way to it. And this feeling is the strongest motive for directing all efforts to bring its achievement as close as possible.
3. Set specific obligations
For starters, this may be a specific time frame, but if you suddenly really realize that for some reasonably objective reasons you cannot meet the deadline, you must necessarily “agree with yourself” that the task set must still be solved. It is difficult enough to achieve a positive result if you have a bad habit of quitting work halfway.
4. Learn how to set the right pace for the working day.
A swift start in the morning turns the work into the right business direction. To do this, you must begin to perform work tasks as soon as you arrive at the office. Do not be distracted by unnecessary little things. Remember one important rule: a quick, effective start will entail a truly productive day.
5. Know how to take breaks
It has long been proven that real labor productivity is manifested in certain cycles:
- infusion into the workflow - 10-15 minutes,
- 30 minutes of the most efficient work,
- stage of gradual exhaustion - in 45 minutes from the moment of the beginning of work.
That is why it is advisable to take short ten-minute breaks between cycles of the labor process. This change of work and rest allows you to maintain your own performance at a really high level during the day (see "How to maintain performance at the workplace").
Thoughtless immersion in work without rest depletes strength and is as unproductive as a constant relaxed state. Switch to an effective mode of operation in which hourly intensive employment is replaced by a ten-minute break, and you will see how much more productive you have become to work.
6. Train your own sharpness of feelings
This can be achieved by stable exercises to improve certain feelings, and as a result, you will realize that this is a very useful skill that helps you to concentrate at the right time. Engage in training in hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste in a variety of ways and means, and soon you will notice that you can accurately identify different aromas or sensations.
The exercises that you can perform for these purposes absolutely everywhere, wherever you are at the moment, will help you learn how to concentrate on elementary details, and then turn into a sustainable skill.
1. Various extraneous sounds
Ambient noise is a truly annoying external factor that can nullify all concentration efforts. It can be the sound of a working TV and loud music, and sounds from the street. To significantly reduce the effect of this irritant, you need to close the window or just go to another, quieter room.
If the reason for the impossibility to concentrate is other people who are with you in the same room, then do not hesitate to ask them to speak quieter or even keep silence. Just explain that you are busy with a serious business, the implementation of which requires special attention from you. And if you learn to focus in a similar place with an increased noise background, then you will become the owner of an extremely rare, but very important ability that many dream of.
2. Own stream of consciousness
The constant internal dialogue during work, which requires full concentration, is quite annoying and distracting. Unnecessarily disturbing thoughts at the moment prevent you from concentrating on the work you are doing, and in order to get rid of this process, you just need to “scroll” in your head and then think exclusively about your goal for some time. This will help you tune in to the desired result and complete your task quickly and correctly. Try to keep your goal in front of your eyes - this will help you focus and not be distracted by other extraneous problems.
3. Internet annoyance
As often before the very beginning of work or directly during its implementation, one wants to be distracted by the news of the World Wide Web and thereby significantly delay the moment when you still have to return to the usual routine. Sometimes it seems like a minute check of personal mail or news on social networks is delayed to half an hour, or even more lost time.
An excellent way out in this situation for you will be a clear planning of your working time. Try to set priorities that fully reflect your goals, and also write down all the stages of a specific job.
Agree with yourself to limit the time you visit Internet sites that are not related to your work, it is best to do this before you start work or directly during the break. Understand one thing: periodically being distracted by social networks, you postpone the achievement of the desired result, because each subsequent infusion into the desired business pace will require up to fifteen minutes of working time. Do not grab a lot of things at the same time, be able to correctly identify and prioritize - this will help you better focus on your work.
4. Negative mood
How often to justify their own inaction, people begin to talk about unwell well-being or the lack of a working mood. Most often, these are the usual excuses that justify your laziness in your own eyes. Drive away such thoughts, constantly think about the result and the established deadlines for your work. These thoughts will help you really work hard and be in a positive mood.
5. Workplace lighting
It should be bright enough to stimulate your work. If the lighting is excessively dim, then your eyes will quickly get tired during work, and this will ultimately lead to a scattering of attention to the general malaise. Try to choose a lamp with a soft enough non-aggressive light, one that is right for you. Keep in mind that good lighting is the key to quality work.
6. Reasonable and thoughtful organization of the workplace
You should not choose an overly large and soft armchair or sofa, since such furniture helps to relax in the workplace. An office chair is much better - it will provide a comfortable fit and a positive working mood. Try to organize your place of work so that the conditions are comfortable enough, and the necessary items are located at an affordable distance.
In fact, in reality, focusing on the most important is not just a volitional effort. Many internal and external factors can help in this, and some of them, on the contrary, can permanently and permanently distract from the process. But you can learn to concentrate and focus; these important skills will help you achieve your goals really effectively and in a fairly short time. And the desire to learn something depends entirely on you.