We live in an interruption-based culture that can be damaging to productivity. Most of the time, notifications from electronic devices only add to the distraction. In fact, many people are so used to getting interrupted at work that when they don't, they actually go looking for one. Distraction and constant multitasking can actually hurt small-business owners' performance.
10 Tips to Help Reduce Distractions and Increase Your Focus
These tips may help you increase your focus and complete the things that count:
1. Have a Plan the Night Before
Consider writing down two things that must get completed in order for that day to be productive. The reason there are two things is that perhaps the first task takes a shorter time than expected or it has a prerequisite, so it can't be completed. The second task is there as a backup. Do these items first before checking emails, returning phone calls or reading social media feeds since those can easily hijack the start of any day.
2. Turn Off the Distractions
Proactively checking for information may keep you from having it interrupt a concentrated work flow. You may want to turn off all notifications from smartphones and desktops applications. Consider checking email only four times per day and handling each inquiry only once. Controlling your devices, and not having that technology control you, may help reduce distractions and increase your focus.
3. Get Comfortable
This means something different for every small-business owner. Comfort could be determined by the clothes, the chair, the music, the temperature of the room or the work location. Knowing what environment makes you comfortable yet focused at the same time can help you maintain focus through the work day.
4. Practice Meditation
This may allow your mind to let go of interrupting thoughts and get centered on one thing. To start, consider sitting quietly in a place for three to five minutes a day. Close your eyes and count to 34.
This may be difficult at the beginning since the mind tends to wander to other thoughts that could prevent you from getting to 34. Simply letting go of that thought without self-judgement and counting again can help get you back on track. Notice any feelings or sensations while doing this exercise. This is a harder task than it may seem, so take your time.
5. Set Smaller Goals
Big goals may be great for motivational speeches, but they don't help anyone focus on getting important things done. Consider breaking down all goals to smaller pieces that can be accomplished more easily. As a result, this may only require focus for a shorter period of time, which may mean increased odds on completing the task.
Healthy adults need seven to nine hours each night. Many small-business owners cheat sleep to work longer hours in an effort to get more things done. What is worse, this "sleep debt" can build up over a long period of time. Sleep deprivation can actually be counterproductive to staying focused and completing tasks with the highest level of skill. Getting some rest may help you increase your focus and improve your overall health.
7. Use Visual Reminders
Stuck on the top of my office computer monitor are three words: "Focus, Focus, Focus." When I have difficulty sticking to a task or want to escape doing it to check email or social media, I look at this reminder and repeat those three words out loud. This cue really does help me!
8. Reward Yourself
Delaying gratification can actually help people focus on getting something done. To give it a try, choose the task and the customized reward (getting food, checking social media, calling a friend, etc.) before starting as a direct motivator.
9. Take a Walk
Standing up—or better yet, getting away from the office—can help increase your focus. Taking even a short walk away from work can help refresh the body and mind. Taking a break can help you refocus on the next task upon return.
10. Unplug and Play
Non-work and screen activities can help free your brain up to focus later on a new task. For at least 30 minutes a day, consider working out, going for a run or bike ride, playing sports, doing puzzles or playing chess. Remember that a healthy body means a healthy mind. It can be difficult to focus when the body is sick or the mind is depressed.
A version of this article was originally published on July 13, 2016.
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