We’ve all been there: trying to multitask, but actually getting no tasks done. Workplaces are full of distractions, both personal and professional. New project ideas, trays of goodies, gossip, that new GIF going around… the temptations are endless.
Here are five ways you can train your brain to tune out all the noise and really engage in what you’re doing. You’ll be much more productive and infinitely more satisfied with the work you’re doing when you can give it all of your attention, even for just an hour at a time. There are also some great apps that will help you boost your productivity.
Take a second to assess your state of mind
Typically, we are most likely to divert our attention when we’re feeling daunted or uncomfortable. The next few times you realize you’ve been interrupted, try and retrace your feelings to the moment just before you lost your focus. Were you nervous? Bored? Angry with your boss? This will help give you a sense of danger zones so you can learn to avoid them.
Triage to get to the most important stuff
Usually the easy stuff is the most pressing, takes up the most of our headspace, and is the least important. Try knocking off all of the menial and logistical tasks first thing so you can devote the rest of your day to the important, more substantive projects.
Schedule your most important hours
Figure out your most productive hours of the day and make them sacred. At your best from 9 a.m. until your first coffee break? Or maybe just after the boss has left in the afternoon? Make a schedule for your deepest concentration and stick to it. Don’t let anyone disturb you.
Train your concentration muscles
Good focus doesn’t happen overnight. Your ability to focus is a muscle and must be built up gradually. Time yourself between interruptions and try to power through to make your period of highest concentration longer and longer every day. You will get stronger and better at it, and work might even become a pleasure.
Have a problem you can’t quite figure out? Too much going on around you? Too many chefs? Take it outside and go for a short walk to clear your head. Sometimes we do our best thinking when our bodies are moving automatically and our brains are free to roam.