11 Ways To Stay Focused At Work, According To 6 Entrepreneurs
Meeting the daily expectations of your job description is one thing, but staying on task from 9 to 5 is another issue entirely. Between iPhone notifications, text messages, and incoming emails 24/7, staying focused at work has never been more important — or potentially challenging. And while intentional breaks during the workday are integral to good health and productivity — like getting up to stretch, take a walk, or meditate for a few minutes — distractions are different.
According to a study from UC Irvine, it can takes about 23 minutes to bounce back from a distraction at work. Inc. reports that workplace interruptions can wind up costing a lot of time throughout the course of the day. According to the UC Irvine study, recovering from interruptions at work also increases stress, as workers struggle to work faster to catch up with projects. Inc. also notes that workers typically switch tasks every three minutes on average, so prioritizing how you use your time at work, and setting boundaries with digital distractions, is key.
"When you're the boss, it's so easy to get distracted because everyone is always coming to you with so many needs and questions throughout the day," Lindzi Shanks, co-founder of XO Marshmallow, tells Bustle via email. Making to-do lists and spending time away from her phone is helpful, Shanks says, as is scheduling time when she's not available: "I had to learn to ask for 'me time' ... where people can't interrupt me. Having these blocks of time allows me to get a lot of focused work done."
Fortunately, like any skill set, increasing the ability to tune out distractions is something that can be developed with practice, combined with a few key strategies. Here are 11 ways to level up your ability to tune out distractions, so you can focus at work like a distraction-free expert.
1. Shut Your Notifications Off
If you can, shut off notifications on your phone and browser at work. Silencing your phone is a simple way to reduce interruptions while you're working, according to Inc.
"I definitely turn off all my social media and email notifications on my cell phone [during the workday]," Kat Connor, also co-founder of XO Marshmallow tells Bustle. She further notes that winding down at the end of they day by checking Instagram and Facebook helps her to transition out of work mode while indulging in a mini distraction. "It segments my day from work to play," Connor says.
2. Tackle Your Toughest Tasks First
According to Lifehack, tackling your most difficult project first will give you a great sense of accomplishment at the top of your workday. Getting your hardest task out of the way helps amp up focus on less demanding projects afterwards, and also creates a positive feeling of momentum for the day.
3. Set Up An Email Response Time Policy
Necessary workplace emails between colleagues aside, set up a schedule for when you check and reply to emails. According to Inc., adding a response time policy to your email signature can help minimize distractions by setting up a boundary as to when you're available, and when folks can expect to hear back from you.
4. Take Intentional Work Breaks
Lifehack notes that while distractions are a problem at work, taking intentional work breaks actually helps boost productivity and focus. So, make sure to take a walk outside in the fresh air, grab a few minutes for meditation, or get a bit of exercise in. And take the time to eat lunch. Some rest throughout the day can help you reset while at work.
5. Keep A Bullet Journal
Keeping a bullet journal at work can help you keep your mind clear, so you can focus. Luke Wright, founder of MudLOVE, tells Bustle that "Bullet journaling techniques help me plan for each day, and [stay] realistic about what's possible in a day's work." Seeing all your to-dos and random thoughts at a glance can help you keep your mental process clutter-free.
6. Have An End Goal In Mind
Competitive runner and Aaptiv trainer Meg Takacs tells Bustle via email that setting up daily goals by prioritizing what's most important, and building your schedule around your goals so that they stay front and center throughout the day, helps maintain the necessary focus to get things done. "This way, when distractions appear, you'll be better able to keep your eye on the prize," Takacs says.
7. Do A Productivity Challenge
Inc. notes that some healthy competition can be a great way to get more done everyday. Grab a workplace buddy or two, and set up a productivity challenge to see who can get more done by day's end.
8. Get Plenty Of Sleep At Night
The connection between a well rested brain and greater mental focus is real. Lifehack notes that, especially if you've got a big project or presentation coming up the next day, getting enough shut eye is key to upping your focus.
9. Create A To-Do List
To-do lists are a great way to keep track of what needs to be done every day, every week, and also in the long-term. Sara Meyer, co-founder of Little Bird Kitchen, tells Bustle via email that "I'm constantly creating to-do lists with sections for now, soon, big picture, and one for family, too."
10. Release What You Can't Control
You're never going to have total control over every variable throughout your day, Takacs further notes. By getting clear on what's in your control and what isn't, you'll be less thrown off when you do encounter unexpected distractions, and you'll be able to bounce back more quickly as you work to course correct. "Controlling what you can control is a big part of avoiding distractions ... distractions can serve as obstacles that you can [choose] to overcome," Takacs says.
11. Schedule In Vacation Time
Ginny Mahar, co-founder of Thyroid Refresh, tells Bustle that skipping out on vacation time can backfire when it comes to productivity, and lead to major burnout. "Unplug so you can refresh ... No matter how much I feel like I have to do, I've learned that turning it off is crucial to getting the most out of my workdays. The work will always be there when I return," Mahar says.
Learning to focus your attention in order to tune out distractions is a key way to get the most out of your day, while boosting your effectiveness at work in the long run. Pick a strategy or two that feels manageable to start, and then build on those as you go. With some commitment and practice, you'll be leveling up your productivity at work like an expert in no time.