Do you find yourself zoning out of Zoom meetings? Reading the same email three times over yet still not actually reading a word it says? Spending two hours on a task that should have only taken one? All of these are signs you’re losing focus.
The good news is that with just a bit of effort you can regain and maintain focus throughout your workday. Here’s how:
Half-focus is the biggest saboteur of all, and it’s especially prevalent during Zoom meetings. Think about how often you find yourself multi-tasking and not paying full attention to the conversation going on in the meeting. That’s half-focusing, and it’s negatively impacting your productivity due to the fact that you aren’t giving either task your full attention.
Stay focused on one task at a time, no matter how mind-numbingly boring it may be. By giving it your full attention, you’ll get it done and out of the way faster. If you find yourself really struggling to focus, get up and move around for a few minutes. A change of scenery, even if it’s just moving from one room in your house to another, combined with movement helps to clear your mind and help you reset your focus.
There are a few scenarios where half-focusing is acceptable, however. For example, a meeting that truly should have been an email or a department-wide meeting where not all of the information is pertinent to your work are two times when half-focus is warranted.
Every interruption breaks your focus, no matter how brief that interruption may be. While it’s impossible to remove all distractions, keeping them to a minimum has a big impact on your workday.
For starters, limit the notifications on your phone, as it’s the biggest culprit for distractions. Turn off anything that isn’t relevant to work, and consider muting all notifications for a couple of hours a day so you have a block of time to be fully focused. Share your schedule with your partner and kids so they know when you’re working and when you’re free.
Experiment with tools to help maintain focus.
Listen to music – Studies have shown that music helps increase focus, and there are even playlists designed to maximize concentration. Opt for instrumental music so you aren’t distracted by lyrics. For maximum impact, connect your headphones to your computer rather than your phone so that when you want to skip a track your aren’t tempted to check Instagram too.
Try noise canceling headphones – Blocking out the audible distractions around you helps you stay in the work zone.
Try a focus extension for your browser to block sites that aren’t relevant to your work – This allows you to set which websites you can and can’t view while you’re working, so if you try to check Twitter and it’s on your blocked list, all you’ll see is a blurred out screen and a reminder to get back to work.
The longer your work without a break, the harder it becomes to focus. Your brain needs time to disconnect from work periodically throughout the day. Be diligent about both scheduling and taking breaks, as simply putting them on your schedule and constantly working through them obviously does not have any benefit. When you find yourself needing to work through a scheduled break, be sure to still take that break once you’ve finished the task.
Stop working so many hours.
Unfortunately, multiple studies have shown that we’re now working more hours at home than we were in the office. In an office, the workday had a relatively set start and end time, so by 5:00pm you’d be trying to finish up your work for the day so you could leave and go home.
Now that home is the office, it’s easier for the workday to stretch both earlier and later. Just because you can continue working doesn’t mean you should. That lack of a concrete end time can actually have a negative impact on focus. Without a clear end to the workday, there’s less urgency to buckle down and work. Remedy this issue by giving yourself a set time to finish up work each day and stick to it.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a day where no matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to find your focus. Schedule a few more breaks, work as much as you can, and try again tomorrow.