These days, between getting desktop notifications, keeping track of emails and responding promptly to text messages, it’s an absolute wonder how we’re able to get anything done and leave work on time — if you ever! — at all.
While it’s great that we’re so easily contactable and connected in this day and age, the truth is, getting bombarded with notifications all the time can be really distracting. And when you’re trying your best to stay on top of your daily tasks, it can be frustrating.
An online survey with learning company Udemy has reported that nearly 3 out of 4 workers have felt distracted in the work place. The cause can be myriad different factors, including lack of personal space in the office, technology and so much more.
Fortunately, there are some ways to stay on top of tasks at hand while you’re at work. We’ve tapped on some tips from tech entrepreneurs and threw in some of our own that’s proven to work:
I. Focus On One Thing At A Time
It might seem counterintuitive — especially when you’re trying to accomplish more at once — but focusing on one thing at a time could actually help you be more productive at work.
For Olga Vidisheva of Shoptiques, this method works. “I typically bucket my day into tasks and I try not to move on the next project until the first one is complete. Always see things through completion,” she was quoted as saying to Entrepreneur360’s Performance Index.
Unconvinced? According to research done by the University of California, San Francisco, our brain tends to lose its ability to concentrate when it’s made to multitask. When attempting to multitask, our prefrontal cortex (the portion of our brain that’s important for planning complex cognitive behaviour) goes haywire and doesn’t work as harmoniously as when focusing on one task as a time.
All of this means that there is a high chance we’re not actually putting our best work in when trying to multitask.
So, the next time you feel bad about not being able to multitask while at work, don’t worry about it. Multitasking, as it’s been proven, isn’t exactly a big badge of honour worth showing around in the workplace.
II. Dedicate A Set Time To Check Emails
We know it’s tempting to check your email every single time you hear that “DING!” but according to a UC Irvine study, checking your email constantly could actually be stressing you out more than you know.
“Without emails, people multitasked less and had a longer task focus, as measured by a lower frequency between windows and a longer duration of time spent working in each computer window,” says the study.
“Every morning, I read and filter through my emails once. I write down anything important and create my to-do list in the process. Once I get into the office, I spend the first three hours tackling these items. I do not check my emails again until these high-priority items are completed so I don’t waste my mental freshness getting caught up on things like ads, reports and junk mail,” Amber explains.
III. Take Small Breaks In Between
We understand that when you’re on a tight deadline the last thing you want to think about is going on a break but, according to entrepreneur Shirin Von Wulffen of French wellness brand Bastide, taking mental breaks has helped her plenty.
“My number one tip for being productive at work when I am feeling distracted: fresh air. I get out of the office and walk around the block to clear my head. Even 10 minutes helps me to come back refreshed and motivated,” Shirin reveals to MyDomaine.
However, she also stresses something really important when it comes to taking breaks, “I also refuse to feel guilty when I am not at the top of my game and accept that I am just refuelling for the next brainwave.”
IV. Mute Phone And Desktop Notifications At Work For 20 Minutes Straight
One of the easiest things you can do to keep you focused at work is to try out the Pomodoro technique. Here’s how it works: the technique requires you to work on a task for 20 minutes straight. Once you’re done with a said task, you’re allowed to take a five minute break.
By working on a task for 20 minutes straight, you’re allowing yourself to focus at work and if you complete your task before the stipulated time, the reward system means that you’re able to rest a little longer. Genius!
While you’re off trying out the technique, it’s important to note that you ought to switch off any phone or desktop notifications so that you’re able to better focus on what you need to do.
Taran Ghatrora of Blume — a women’s personal care delivery service — utilitises the Pomodoro technique to get through her day. “Things that would normally take me an hour get completed in 20 minutes since I’ve removed all distractions for that time period,” she revealed to MyDomaine.
Thinking of trying out the Pomodoro technique? Tomato Timer is a free and no-frills website you can use to get in on the Pomodoro technique.
V. Clear Your Workspace
Not only does tidying your workspace make your desk look more professional, it could also help you focus better at work.
Researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have found that a messy desk usually means multiple visual stimuli that leads to a more cluttered mind.
Besides, clearing your desk allows you to take a little break and while that happens, you might just feel inspiration strike!
VI. Have Quiet Moments Alone
This productivity tip tends to benefit entrepreneurs greatly.
Whether it’s taking an hour off to silent their phones or to reject meetings for the day, having quiet moments alone can help you reset your mind and prepare you for upcoming tasks.
PR and communications company specialist, Jennifer Bett Meyer, does this every day where possible.
“It’s important to set aside one hour each day to not answer emails, take calls or hold meetings. I use this time to read and do research for the business and our brands. It’s so important to not always be in a reactive state and allow yourself time to not be so scheduled.”
VII. Eat Right
If you’re the sort that often falls into a “food coma” after lunch and can’t seem to focus at work in the afternoon, chances are, you’re eating heavily refined carbs that could be affecting your mood.
Heavily refined foods like white rice and noodles tend to process glucose — a sugar produced when food breaks down — quickly, causing your blood sugar levels to shoot up. This means that you’re likely to feel energised momentarily before experiencing a crash when your blood sugar levels have stabilised — thus the food coma!
To avoid this, opt instead for complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grain pasta and vegetables like sweet potatoes that are lower in starch.
Alternatively, opt for healthier snacks low-fat nuts, protein bars and granola on your desk the next time you’re feeling peckish.