Does the day ahead seem daunting? Here are some tricks to help get you going.
By Demetra Zougras
It’s 8 am and you’re ready to start a new day at the office. As you approach your cubicle, you already see an enormous stack of paperwork sitting on your desk, with a sticky note from your boss asking you to have it all done by the end of the day. Before you know it, you’re sitting at your desk with four windows open, including Facebook, Yahoo and your personal email account.
Time is ticking: It’s now close to 9:30 am, and still you haven’t touched a single piece of paper sitting in the “High Priority” manila folder. What do you do? Pull out your cell phone to text back your friend who had texted you last night?
For the average person working in an office or from home, it’s easy to become distracted. Yet finding focus, or being able to completely concentrate on a specific project or list of tasks, helps people get things done easily. The keys are learning how to center your attention, avoid distraction and stay super-productive throughout your whole workday.
The first thing you want to do to get into focus mode. Have a good cup of coffee. Coffee or tea helps people feel more alert and capable of concentrating better. If coffee or tea isn’t quite your cup of… coffee or tea… try mint gum, which also can help boost your alertness.
Next, plan your workday. Set goals, and if helpful sub-goals, to finish a detailed project. Big projects can be overwhelming, especially when you have a long list of things to do. Goals help you visualize what you want to get done, and adding sub-goals makes the completion process go by more quickly and seamlessly.
Another way to get focused is to clear your area and establish and maintain a workable background environment. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re in a loud office or if your desk is messy. If you work in a loud atmosphere, respectfully ask your co-workers to entertain a few quiet hours while you tackle that tough project. If that doesn’t work, bring a pair of headphones to the office and play some light background music to tune out potentially distracting conversation and noises. You also will want to clear your desk if it looks untidy. Anything from loose papers to snacks to personal photos can become distractions. De-clutter your workspace, leaving out only what you really need (e.g., PC or tablet, paper, pen, water bottle) to help you stay in the zone.
Time to escape the virtual world of social media and personal emails, not to mention, cell phones. When you want to get work done, log out of and exit personal interest browsers—news sites, celebrity gossip blogs, your Facebook account, etc.—as these windows can easily trap you in and make you lose track of time. Cell phones are perhaps the worst distraction offenders to have in sight when you want to get work done. Keep your phone on silent on your desk, and only respond to alerts if necessary. If it can wait, respond during a dedicated break time.
This leads to the last (but certainly not least) point: Schedule time for breaks! A heavy workload can be draining, and even after working hard for 45 minutes, you may become easily distracted from boredom or fatigue. Make time for breaks to reward yourself. This is when you should check your phone, eat a light snack, walk around or grab some fresh air. Scattered breaks are good re-energizers and will serve you well when you get back to work.
If you follow these tips throughout your workday, you may well be surprised when you check the last to-do item off your list, and you’re ready to go home!