Focus, being present or living in the moment. Chance are you’ve heard some version of this in the last few days. Being present has become a buzzy topic, one that everyone from lifestyle gurus to researchers. Headlines tell us over and over again that our attention spans are getting worse- but then some tell us that they’re just fine!
It’s certainly true that there are more platforms to create a presence on, more voices to listen to, and more news coming at us. So regardless of whether or not our attention spans are shrinking, the issue of where to focus still stands.
Here’s how to focus your attention better at work.
Set a Short Timer
When you’re first trying to reclaim your attention from your inbox or co-workers, start small. Set a 10 minute timer and try to focus on just one item. Maybe it’s deleting emails for 10 minutes. Perhaps it’s working on one blog post. Maybe it’s reading through an article for research.
Setting a timer gives you some accountability. Making it short to start with makes it more likely for you to focus on the task at hand. As you get better at focusing, you can slowly lengthen your timer.
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Tell People You’re Trying to Focus
Be upfront with as many people as you can that you’re trying to make some changes. If you can, tell co-workers or bosses that the first hour of the morning when you get in is your ‘deep work’ time and you’d like to not be disturbed. Setting boundaries helps train the people around you to respect them. If everyone knows the first hour of work you’re not to be disturbed, they’ll know not to set meetings with you at that time. That gives you the chance to really focus your attention better at work and get through your check list.
Be Honest with Yourself
One of the hardest things about focusing is that we lie to ourselves about it all the time. We think we can multi-task so we leave our phones on our desks and open 10 tabs while we are also trying to fill in a budget spreadsheet.
Be honest with yourself; if you know that seeing your phone out makes you want to scroll through social media ‘just to check,’ put your phone in a drawer. Open a new window with just the spreadsheet in it so that you won’t be distracted by the other tabs.
Setting a routine and boundaries will help you focus your attention better at work. You can’t focus on everything at once, so just stop trying. Instead of trying to get it all done at once, focus on one thing at a time, and you’ll find that you’re getting more actually done.