It’s never been easier to become distracted. Between our digital devices and social media accounts with their endless notifications, on top of everything else that wants our attention, it’s an incredible challenge for people to stay on task.
Below are 10 helpful tips that we’ve prepared to help you keep your concentration and stay on task:
1. Start with Complex or Difficult Tasks
It’s always best to work on the most complex and challenging tasks earlier in the day when your concentration is likely to be at its best. This is most likely to be in the morning before lunch after a refreshing sleep and possibly a little help from a non-excessive dose of caffeine.
After lunch, most people’s productivity drops either because they’re full from lunch or because they’re looking forward to the end of the day. Therefore, the afternoon is ideal for simpler tasks that people can complete efficiently even with somewhat impaired concentration.
2. Removing Distractions
Over the last two years, the number of people working from home has spiked, creating an environment of massive potential distraction for all types of workers. To make your work area distraction-free, you first need to ensure that it’s quiet and that it has a door you can close and/or lock to keep others from barging in and disturbing you.
It also needs to be free from smartphone notifications and noise. Turning off all notifications and putting one’s phone out of sight is the best way to keep it from distracting you. In addition, using a landline phone in your office or home office will allow people to contact you in an emergency.
3. Use Social Media Blockers
While you’re trying to work, do you find yourself suddenly wondering about celebrity gossip or remembering a funny video you watched and would like to see again? Such thoughts often take you away “just for a minute” to Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites. The trouble is, once you’ve checked your notifications or watched that one funny clip, you invariably spot something else you want to see, and then something else. “Just a minute” becomes 20-30 fruitless minutes.
Social media blockers like AppBlock, FocusMe, and Freedom will help you to control these by setting temporary blocks on time-wasting sites during your work time. They work very well.
4. Try the Pomodoro Method
This is a technique designed to maximize productivity while also allowing for breaks. You start with blocks of 25 minutes, and the goal is to keep your mind completely focused on whatever task you’re doing for 25 minutes. When your time is up, you take a 5-minute break, and then you repeat the process of 25 minutes followed by 5 minutes 3 more times.
After four rounds of 25-5, you can take a longer break, perhaps 20-25 minutes. In that process, you’ve r spent a solid 1 hour and 40 minutes on work. Repeating the process trains one to become more and more able to hold concentration over longer and longer periods. When 25 minutes feels too short and easy, raise it to 35 minutes, and so on. Try the Chrome Extension Tomato Timer if you need a timer that’s not on your phone.
5. Maintain Energy Levels
Distraction and procrastination often go hand in hand with feelings of tiredness and fatigue. The thought of how much you still have to do makes you tired, forcing you to think you need more rest before starting your work. Maintaining your energy levels with healthy snacks and avoiding overeating during work time are great ways to stay fresh and alert throughout the day. Try things like trail mix, fresh fruit, some coffee or tea in the morning, and plenty of water all day.
6. Improve Sleep Health
Erratic sleep schedules are another big cause of becoming distracted and unproductive. The exact number of hours you sleep isn’t necessarily the most important thing. It’s about getting enough sleep and building a solid, regular sleeping routine. Avoiding caffeine after lunch, switching off all electronics when preparing to sleep, and learning to wind down with soothing music, a nice bath, or a reading session will help induce healthy and restful sleep.
7. Make Lists and Plans
When you have a lot to do in a day or across a week, it’s a good idea to create to-do lists and plans for accomplishing the workload. Big workloads sometimes fuel procrastination because people can’t get their heads around how they will tackle all the work. In short, they’re overwhelmed. Dividing it up into lists and creating a plan for the week with clear deadlines and milestones helps you tackle the mountain more effectively
8. Practice Being More Mindful
Do you ever daydream while you’re at work? Perhaps you imagine how wonderful it would be to duplicate yourself so you could send your double off to do your work while you stay wrapped up in blankets at home listening to your favorite Podcasts. We don’t realize how time-consuming these daydreams can be, so we must practice mindfulness. This means we make a more conscious effort to identify what we are doing (and not doing) vs. what we should be doing at any time. Being more aware and mindful of these things helps you snap out of the distraction and refocus your attention on work.
9. Modify Your Environment
Some people find that changes to their working environment are needed to help them focus and be more productive. It could be rearranging their desks or changing their entire home office. For example, many who work in education see the benefit of adding a second monitor to their computer setup. One screen might have research, and the other is where they’re typing. Even this minor tweak to our working environment can prove a huge boost to productivity.
10. Work on “Small Victories”
When you’ve got a lot to do, it can feel somewhat hopeless and like you have no chance of getting to the end of the task in any good way. If your work is like that, with frequent increases in workload and a feeling of being overwhelmed, you need to focus on the small victories. When you can work towards a series of small victories, they amalgamate into a larger win over time. If you’re focused only on conquering the mountain, you’ll likely have a harder time, and your productivity level may suffer.
Unit 4 employees were thrust into a work at home environment due to the pandemic and had to make big adjustments. While some employees love the new telecommute option, we know it’s a struggle for others. APC works on your behalf to fight for your benefits, so you have one less thing to distract you. Contact your Steward if you have any questions about the current telecommuting policy.