You have a deadline pending and now all you need to do is stay focused and get started on your work. To accomplish this, you clear you agenda and make it so you finally are alone in front of your workspace. You begin by adjusting your chair, straightening up your desk and then, instead of focusing on getting your work done, you start to notice the flashing light on your phone, the ring that you have a new message on Facebook, a burning curiosity to check celebrity gossip pages, a sudden urge to hear your mother’s voice or a sudden craving for a chocolate chip cookie. Having trouble staying focused? Join the club. Here are a few ways that a little focus pocus, can help in the art of avoiding distractions.
Let us begin by identifying what is distracting you. For many of us, it’s the claws of social media beckoning you to check in. If you are working on your computer, sign out of Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, or your email account, etc., so you can keep your eyes on the prize. If you can’t help yourself from still signing back in to Facebook, then simply block it from your personal computer. If you have apps that distract you on your phone, turn off your phone and check messages when you´ve finished or are on a break. You can also block apps on your phone if the need arises. Our real social lives are distracting as well, so tell those closest to you that you will not be answering messages during a certain period of time.
Read Related: Staying Motivated in a Tough Job Market
Circadian rhythms make it so that we all have a time of day when we’re the most distractible. Maybe you are a morning person and feel the most clear-headed before lunch time. If so, be sure to schedule your work time for then. Or you can be a night owl, who zooms in on her project once everyone is asleep. Scientific American´s Cindi May says, while these optimal working times may help, it´s not always certain your mind will play along. “Thus, being at your best may be over-rated, at least for people seeking innovative ideas or creative solutions. To be sure, if your task requires strong focus and careful concentration – like balancing spreadsheets or reading a textbook – you are better off scheduling that task for your peak time of day. However, if you need to open your mind to alternative approaches and consider diverse options, it may be wise to do so when your filter is not so functional. You just may be able to see what you’ve been missing,” suggests May.
The art to staying focused is also knowing the time limits on your focus. For instance, start tracking how long it takes you to do a certain task on average. You may be able to focus on something that’s interesting for hours at a time. On the other hand, work that’s slightly tedious, if boring, is something you may only be able to tolerate for 30 minute stretches. Time yourself and take breaks afterwards as a reward. Short breaks recharge you so that you can regain your focus.
While a room of one’s own may have worked for Virginia Woolf, sometimes it can backfire. Being alone in a room, with only the task to be completed in front of you, can make it harder sometimes to stay focused. There is no one there to call your bluff or make you want to tune others out and concentrate on your work. Sometimes it can be helpful to work out in the open like at cafes where people bring their laptops or books to or your public library where there are other people around you equally concentrated in what they’re doing. Strangers can be helpful in keeping you accountable. Don’t forget to pack earplugs or headphones to block out annoying chit chat. Focus pocus, concentration magic.