By Joshua Wright
Do you find it hard to stay focused? Do you ever find yourself aimlessly scrawling through social media to avoid starting work? Or perhaps you find that even the simplest of tasks seem to take forever? Whether you easily get distracted or struggle with effective time management, this article offers numerous tips to help you become more productive.
During the 1990s, Italian architect Gaetano Pesce revolutionised the world of work with the invention of the open-plan office space. Quickly spreading across the globe, offices everywhere began ditching the four-walled cubicle in favour of large open desk spaces that allowed for greater creativity and better interactions among staff. Whilst this innovation had many perks, it wasn’t without its downsides. Whether it be the constant ringing of phones or the incessant chatting of co-workers it can be extremely hard to get any work done when surrounded by so many distractions. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to be more productive in the workplace without having to restructure the entire office.
- Listen to Music – Wearing headphones may help to mask the more distracting sounds of the workplace, enabling you to focus on the work at hand. Instrumental music is generally preferable to music with lyrics as the words may prove distracting, particularly whilst attempting to read or write. Whilst researching this article I discovered a wonderful piece of soothing electronic music by Ben Eno that was designed specifically to help calm nervous passengers before flights. If you’re prone to stress and anxiety under a deadline I recommend this song.
- Listen to nature sounds – A study conducted by the national trust found that listening to woodland sounds for a single minute resulted in people feeling 30% less anxious. If music isn’t your thing, listening to nature sounds may be an equally effective way to avoid distractions.
- Noise-cancelling headphones – Active Noise Cancellation technology detects low-frequency noise, eliminating distractions by releasing “phase inversion” sounds that counteract the noise. Even if you don’t listen to music, noise-cancelling headphones can be a great tool to cultivate focus in the face of a noisy work environment.
If you’re interested in learning more about the invention of the open-plan office, I recommend listening to Planet Money: Episode 704 – Open OfficePlanet Money: Episode 704 – Open Office.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to work for eight hours straight only to look back on your day and realise you haven’t accomplished anything. If you want to make the best use of your time, consider employing some of the time management strategies outlined below.
- Set Realistic Deadlines – According to Parkinson’s law, work expands to fill the amount of time you have to complete it. Put simply, a task that could take a day to do could take weeks to complete without the motivating pressure of a deadline. Consequently, if you want to become more productive at work, set yourself deadlines for your assignments. The time pressure will lead to greater focused working and help you avoid procrastination.
- Create Actionable Targets – Finding motivation to work can be challenging, particularly if the task at hand seems insurmountable. For large projects, it can be hard to know where to begin and demoralising to see how much work there is left to be done. In order to make the process less daunting, attempt to break projects down into small actionable targets. Setting little goals will help you see the progress you’re making and offer a sense of satisfaction as you’re able to complete each target.
- Learn not to overcommit – Before taking on more work, take a moment to consider whether you have time to devote to a new commitment. If you’re drowning in work try and avoid taking on extra responsibilities. It’s far better to know your limits and complete a few tasks to a good standard than to overcommit and underdeliver.
- Avoid distractions – There a numerous strategies you can use to avoid getting distracted. Most modern phones and laptops have some form of work or focus mode that stops incoming messages and notifications to prevent you from getting distracted. If you find it hard to put your phone down consider trying the Forest App. If you focus on work and resist touching your phone you can watch your tree grow, but if you get distracted the tree starts to wither!
If you want further guidance on effective time management, consider taking Kutambua’s free online Time Management Awareness Training. The short course elaborates on the topics outlined above, helping participants develop strategies to combat poor timekeeping to ensure productive work sessions. I also recommend listening to the Hidden Brain episode Deep Work Hidden Brain episode Deep Work as Cal Newport elegantly explains the benefits of working without distraction and outlines the strategies successful people use to focus.
Thank you for reading today’s article on cultivating focus. Hopefully, this article hasn’t been a distraction and you’ve found some helpful tips on how to be more productive. If you have any tips on effective time management or learning to focus please share them in the comments section below.