Stop and Refocus – Increasing Workplace Focus.
If you were told that in 2015 a huge number of people took a survey (Global Corporate Challenge) and over ⅓ of the respondents reported feeling overly-stressed at work I’m willing to bet you’d think that number was low. I can see most people jumping up from their desk to yell “wait wait, my vote wasn’t counted.” How about you?
Often we don’t notice that we are running on stress fumes from a constant backlog of responsibilities filling our lives, and seemingly erasing all of our time. Life can be a stressful endeavor even for the most dedicated and strong willed among us. Stress and lack of focus sidelines pretty much everyone more than we realize or care to admit.
pay mortgage, feed kids, fix car, estimate ROI, clean the gutters, call grandma, plan vacation, grocery shopping, doctors appointments, give presentations, do laundry, demand raise, focus focus focus, training session, on what I’m working on right now… Deadline looming over my head, monthly reports, crash bang boom my head’s pounding like a jazz solo… can’t focus
Remember it was only a couple of years ago that Twitter erupted with the news that France had banned companies from sending employees emails after 6:00 PM in an effort to help those employees un-stress. Many rejoiced and wondered how they could get a law of the same ilk passed in their country or state. The reaction was one of backlash against the feeling that work was invading our home and family life. Something had to be done.
A few days into the story the window was finally opened and the air of clarity came rushing in with news that we hadn’t got the whole story. The Economist quickly told us the story was “Not What It Seemed.” Nevertheless, the stories wildfire viral march highlighted a common problem manifesting itself in all corners of the working world. We’ve Lost Focus.
“Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.”
― Ann Voskamp,
There is hope, of course. Managers and Team Leaders can immediately Implement the following.
- Wash The Windows. Employees often don’t have a clear idea of what duties and responsibilities belong to them. Clarify what part of the job belongs to who and what’s most important and what requires less of a priority.
- Put Out The Fires. Create quiet areas within the workplace where employees can decompress, meditate or even work with no distractions and no WIFI.
- Create Feedback Opportunities. Schedule regular times where employees can express their feelings and thoughts about what causes unproductive stress in the workplace. Make these discussion spaces safe for everyone to speak their mind.
- Exchange Explorers. Exchange employees with other companies with the goal of finding and sharing what works and what doesn’t work within each organization. Make this an ongoing exploration.
“Be on guard. The road widens, and many of the detours are seductive.”
― David Foster Wallace,
Best 6 Tips for Increasing Workplace Focus
I can remember as far back as Kindergarten the teacher suggesting I needed to focus on the task at hand, of course at that time I had no idea just how important her words were. Today all of us are surrounded by a sea of information actively trying to distract us from “the task at hand.”
If you find yourself often distracted or maybe losing focus is becoming an issue I think these 6 tips will help you achieve a deep focus and hold onto it once you’ve got it. I easily could have made a list with dozens of tips on increasing workplace focus, but that might seem like I was asking you to run through a maze to find a prize, and might seem like an unfocused list.
- Keep A Daily Journal: Keeping a journal helps to declutter your mind along with giving you space to untangle all the info that has streamed in over the course of the day. Another great thing is that it’s not digital, this allows you to set aside time when you are disconnected, a bit of quiet reflective time and time to just be with yourself. Standing back from the whirl of each day will help you shed the unimportant and focus on what’s really important to you. Now that’s focus. And here’s a post about journal writing Journal Writing Paradox Burnishes Dialogue
- Work In Blocks: Studies have shown that the longer we stay focused on one task the easier it becomes for distractions to succeed in their nefarious attempts at (What Else?) distracting us. Focusing on the task at hand in blocks of 25, 45, or 60 minutes and then taking a short break will help us resist distractions and get more done. One of our favorite evangelists of working in blocks are The Pomodoro Technique people, and they’ve been around for years. Taking a break between blocks of as little as a couple of minutes can revitalize your focus and help keep stress and distractions at a distance.
- Trash Multitasking: You probably heard it before, but I”ll say it again, successful multitasking is a myth when it comes to tasks more complicated than raking the lawn while talking on the phone. Our brains switch from one task to the next and back again when we try to multitask leading to lower focus and productivity. NPR’s Ira Flatow hosts a short podcast looking at The Myth of Multitasking, it’s worth the distraction time of 18:00 minutes.
- Create Task Lists: Some of you might think this sounds boring or way to geeky to take seriously, but I promise you if you take it seriously it can transform your workplace focus. A task list gives you power over how you spend your time. You can put mundane boring tasks into time slots and not have to think about them outside of those time slots. Things like email can be relegated to 20 minutes in the morning and forgotten till the next slotted time. Some business have switched to a new system where if you need an urgent answer from another coworker you call them on the phone and not use email. What this does it allows workers to not worry they are missing an important email.
- Create A Quiet Area: A quiet room or area has no WIFI access and phones and other disruptive tech are shut off before entering. People use the quiet room to work on their laps tops, meditate or maybe even just think for an 30 or 60 minutes at a time. When you really need to focus you can signal management that you’re working in the quiet room and no one will contact you during that time slot. Many businesses are finding this increases focus, productivity, creativity and cuts down on workplace stress.
- Use Tech To Control Tech: Start off by shutting off most if not all notifications on your phone and tablets, this will dim the noise a bit. Next get to know what apps are available to help manage the noise and distractions such as Stay-Focused which set aside time to indulge and not be focused using Chrome browser. Focused Writer sets up a distraction free environment. Focus At Will brings music specially programmed to increase concentration. The next two are apps that I’ve used and endorse wholeheartedly. Buddhify has dozens of mindfulness audio meditation in the app for that quick refresh at your desk. Offtime has always been one of my favorites and the people behind it love what they have created.