Thanks to constant distractions from email, social media, and other technologies, the average human attention span according to a recent study has dwindled to just 8 seconds, not much more than a guppy. In addition, there's increasing pressure to get more done at work and work longer hours—these productivity hindrances can be especially detrimental to engagement and team growth.
Luckily, there are a few strategies you can implement to stay on track and deflect the distractions around you. Here are 6 ways to be more focused:
1. Periodically throughout your day ask: What's Important Now?
Have you ever started writing out your to-do list, only to realize that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it in? This is a surefire way to get overwhelmed, making it even harder to focus on what you need to do. To stay focused, prioritize your to-dos by asking What's Important Now? This question can help you keep on track throughout the day.
2. Avoid multi-focusing on important tasks.
We live in the age of multitasking. However, multitasking only works when you're engaged in tasks that don't take much thought. And if you try to focus and go deep on more than one thing at a time, you'll be far less productive than if you just focused on one thing. Important tasks require your undivided attention.
3. Break up your time in chunks.
Break up your focus into chunks of heightened productivity, with short breaks in between. Use the Pomodoro Technique—a strategy of working in 20-25 minute segments. Set a timer and work uninterrupted. This helps your mind to concentrate and allows for frequent, refreshing timeouts.
4. Focus on the effort, not the results.
While it is important to know what results you want, believe it or not, it can be counterproductive to focus too much on the result. The right activities produce the right results. So, it is more important to put your efforts and energy into the right activities that will get you the result you want.
5. Identify your best time to work.
We all have our own energy patterns filled with periods of high alertness or fatigue. Tuning into your natural rhythms will help you pinpoint when your energy is highest—and when you're most productive. These are the periods when you should do your most challenging work, because it will increase the chances that you will get the work done as efficiently as possible.
6. Create boundaries from interruptions.
Here is a wacky idea: schedule your interruptions and social media time—don't just react to it. Identify your big interrupters such as: social media, colleagues, friends, and family. To prevent interruptions, let your frequent interrupters know when it's a good time to connect with you so they don't reach out randomly. To establish a preset schedule, for instance, you could ask your colleagues to connect with you after 3pm unless there is something urgent. With some assertiveness, over time they'll respect your space and time. Also create some go to lines to maintain boundaries when someone interrupts your work flow like: "I am up against a deadline, I need to bear down and get this done." "My dance card is full." "Can this wait until 3pm? I would like to get this accomplished while I'm making such good progress."
Perhaps you can apply a similar concept to email or social media—instead of checking it constantly every few minutes, schedule a few times during the day when you will check it and respond.
Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.