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Trouble Focusing at Work? These Tips Can Help

By Maurie Backman – Apr 16, 2018 at 6:18AM

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We all lose our concentration from time to time. But if it's happening often, here's how to get back on track.

If you're finding it difficult to stay focused at work, you're not alone. In a survey of over 35,000 leaders from thousands of companies across the globe, 73% admitted to getting distracted at work some or most of the time. Not only that, but 67% of those business leaders described their minds as cluttered -- meaning, full of competing thoughts without a clear set of priorities.

Even if you're not tasked with running a company, losing your concentration can impact your performance. If you'd rather bust out of that trap, here are a few tips for regaining focus and getting your job done right.

Man in suit daydreaming at a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Figure out when your concentration peaks

Some people have an easier time focusing first-thing in the morning, but then hit a wall later in the day. Others find it easier to concentrate in the late afternoon hours, when their workday is about to wrap up. No matter what peak period applies to you, be sure to schedule your most challenging tasks for those times when you find it easiest to focus. This way, if your mind does begin to wander, it shouldn't impact your productivity quite as much.

2. Turn off your email notifications

Like it or not, email is a big part of doing business, and many of us spend countless hours replying to messages during the day. That said, if you're having trouble focusing on key tasks, do yourself a favor and turn off your email notifications at times when you really need to concentrate. Chances are, if a message comes through that's truly urgent and you don't reply right away, the sender will follow up with a phone call or visit to your desk. If that doesn't happen, it means you can continue plugging away at the task at hand and carve out time to respond later.

3. Stop multitasking

Multitasking, by nature, makes us stop focusing on individual tasks in an effort to accomplish multiple objectives at once. It's also been proven to negatively impact employee productivity. Therefore, if you have priorities to work on, give them your full attention and ignore the various other tasks that are hanging over your head. You're better off doing a great job on one assignment at a time than doing a mediocre or poor job on multiple tasks simultaneously.

4. Work on difficult tasks in shorter increments

It's generally easier to focus for 30-minute periods than for hours at a time. Therefore, if you're working on something particularly challenging that requires your full attention, break that assignment up into smaller sessions and tackle it piece by piece. Another approach? Start working on that tough task at hand, but stop when you feel you've hit that wall. At that point, move on to something else, and then go back to the harder task later, when your mind has had a chance to refresh.

5. Eliminate noise

It's hard to focus on certain tasks when there's a ton of noise around you. But unless you work in a closed-door office, that's probably something you're exposed to regularly. Therefore, it pays to invest in a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones to drown out the workplace racket that frequently zaps your concentration.

Another option? Ask to work from home during high-volume periods if your office environment isn't conducive to powering through tasks. If you have a solid reputation as a reliable employee, your manager may be willing to comply. Of course, working from home opens the door to other distractions, from household chores to the TV beckoning in your living room, so if you go this route, you'll really need to remain disciplined. But if you feel you can trust yourself to stay on task, working from home ensures that your colleagues don't disrupt your workflow.

The better you learn to focus at work, the more productive you're likely to be. Follow these tips, and with any luck, your performance will soon pick up.

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