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Staying Focused at Work

Our productivity is directly related to the length of our attention span.  While advancements in technology have given us the ability to make lightning fast progress as we tackle day-to-day tasks, it also plays a part in our decreasing attention span, which is currently noted to be 15-20 minutes for the average adult. It is fact, our brains are effectively being re-wired by our high speed Internet that gives us the ability to rapidly click from one screen to the next; have multiple tabs open that we can move between and then be gratified by the instant delivery of information.  We are in essence losing our ability to be patient; meaning that we get bored much faster than the generation before us.  Boredom is often the heaviest contributor toward our inclination to give into distractions.

The negative impact that distractions have in the workplace can be substantial, but there are things that you can do to call a halt to them.  There are subtle changes in habits that can make a world of difference that will make your job easier, while driving up revenue.

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Staying on Task

  • Work from a plan.  A small to-do list that you can check off can be helpful.  Seeing the check-off’s will give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Tackle the task that least interests you, first thing in the morning while you’re still fresh.  Getting it out of the way will give you more energy for the things you actually enjoy doing.
  • Schedule blocks of time for different tasks that fits your personal attention span.
  • Control your distractions by actually scheduling them as opposed to letting them control you.  Let them serve as mini-rewards in between tasks.
  • Determine exactly what things steal your focus.  A little self observation will tell you what you need to fix.  Do you need to turn off email notifications; put incoming calls on hold or just plain shut your office door?
  • Avoid multi-tasking.  When you try to do too many things at one time odds are good you will get nothing completed.
  • Clear “stuff” from your workspace.  While gadgets and decorations may be fun they give you something to do in place of work.
  • Clear Clutter.  Clutter is lack of organization and that stalks your focus.  Use files, drawers, and cabinets to put away whatever you don’t need to complete your task.  The secondary benefit to that is being able to find what you want when you need it for the next project.
  • Consider the software that you use to do your job.  Does it have enough organization built in to keep you actively engaged?  For instance, if you work in Salesforce there is the ability to build call lists based on status.  If you add a status field to your Contact’s page with the same criteria as your Lead’s page you can create an organized list to call from that maintains your momentum and super-charges your results, especially if you use the Salesforce add-on, Incite2, offered by ShadeTree Technology.
  • Use white noise.  If you are distracted by the noise in the office or things going on outside you can effectively eliminate the disturbances with “white noise.”  There are several different applications available on the Internet, but I personally use ChatterBlocker.  It runs in the background.  I keep it at a low volume and it serves to mask the noises that distract.  It is $9.95 at chatterblocker.com  I have also used table top waterfalls, and soft instrumental music.  The idea is a repetitive sound that is a loop of constant.
  • Avoid eating lunch at your desk.  You can’t mentally regroup if you don’t change the view.

Getting a handle on the things that steal your focus will allow you to accomplish a lot more, and you will take a lot less work home with you.  Let some new habits take a bite out of an old problem.

Incite: to stir up or provoke to action