Work Tips 101: Concentrating in a World of Distractions
If your job consists of sitting in a chair in front of a computer screen for the majority of your workday, this article is for you. Vanguard has recently published a series of Tips & Tricks articles regarding productivity, your workspace environment, and your physical and mental health while you work. In a world of technology, screen time and endless distractions, we would like to provide some tips on how to increase your concentration during the workday.
Some of you may know ahead of time exactly what you are doing day-to-day. For others, every day brings new tasks and challenges on the fly. Whether you have a set schedule or you spend the day putting out fires, you need to establish some sort of structure to your day.
Set aside your first half hour of each day to go through your email and create a plan for your day. As a project manager, sometimes I am pulled into many different directions and touch on multiple projects each day. In the morning after getting through my emails, I write out a to-do list. I break this up into AM and PM. I prioritize what NEEDS to get done first and estimate how long each task will take. I typically put the longer, more timely tasks on my AM to do list. I do this because I feel most productive in the mornings, and getting the big tasks out of the way makes me feel accomplished and ready to tackle the afternoon tasks.
Give yourself about an hour a day or more, if you can, to handle urgent things that pop up as the day goes on. Here at Vanguard, we call this “CM time” for our developers. It’s always good to have that extra hour set aside during the day to account for tasks that go over the allotted time you have allowed yourself as well.
If you notice yourself losing focus and interest in the task in front of you, don’t try to power through it. Get up, walk around (doesn’t matter if you are at home or in a company office), and don’t bring your phone. Now that we are in the midst of spring, it may be a good idea to go outside for a few moments if you can and get some sunlight and fresh air. When you go back to your workspace, it is likely that you will feel concentrated and alert.
Getting up and moving is so important. If your break consists of sitting in the same spot, but just scrolling mindlessly on your phone, this is not a productive break because you need time away from your screens and may not feel so concentrated and alert after your break. Get up out of your chair multiple times a day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Oh, and drink some water! Your body and mind will thank you.
Distractions will be present whether you are in office or working from home. Distractions can be different for everyone. Here are some tips on limiting distractions:
- Turn off notifications – unless it pertains to your work, mute notifications for social media, personal emails, and anything else that will catch your eye and break your focus.
- Limit external conversation – if you are “in the zone” while working and a friend or family member sends you a text (first, make sure it is not an emergency) it is okay to ignore it until your next break. If you work from home, make sure that you are able to seclude yourself to a quiet place to focus so you are not distracted by others in your home.
- Don’t be distracted by things that pop up during the day. If you receive a pressing email, it is okay to wrap up what you are working on before hopping over to address that email. It can be very distracting to try to handle multiple tasks at once, so take it one thing at time.
Concentrating can be difficult in a world of distractions, but with structure, work breaks and making a conscious effort to limit distractions, you can set yourself to be productive. Here are some related recent Vanguard tips and tricks articles, if you are interested:
- Think about the tools you use: Keyboards
- Modify Your Workspace to Benefit Your Health
- Tips to Increase Productivity During Winter Months
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks every Friday!