No matter whether you’re a work-from-home telecommuter, high-powered executive with the coveted corner office or a resident of the ubiquitous corporate cube farm, constant distractions during the workday are a sad and annoying reality.
Indeed, being able to buckle down and focus intently on the many tasks at hand or instead be pulled in a million different directions by ringing phones, chatty coworkers or even just multiple projects can mean the difference between stellar creativity and stalled progress on every front.
Of course, for many of us this is easier said than done: after all, the world belongs to the multi-taskers who can leverage technologies—from work flow software to the latest email platform to myriad devices—to work smarter, faster and more efficiently. But on the other hand, what price do we pay for all these techie wonders? Simply put, more and more distractions that clog up concentration and hamper productivity.
That said, check out these relatively simple tips and tools that can help you find your focus again and get your gadgets working for you rather than against you.
- Get a Handle on Your Email
Whether you decide to strive for the concept of Inbox Zero—an email management regimen designed to keep your inbox empty or nearly empty—or just want to find a simpler way to wade through your messages, consider this tip: reduce the time you spend responding to them by using a notes application that helps you copy and paste replies automatically to your more frequent email contacts. You can literally have as many pre-loaded replies as you want in an easy-to-find format and the process will cut down the amount of time you spend returning messages considerably.
- Silence Your Smartphone Phone
It’s hard to turn your phone completely off during working hours or even just switch it to vibrate mode—what if you miss something really important or there’s an emergency? Rather than stress over notifications and texts you have to force yourself to ignore, consider assigning specific ringtones to your most important contacts such as your child’s school, your spouse, a parent etc. This way you’ll know when a call or text needs be answered or when you can put it out of your mind and concentrate.
- Take Your Notes Digital
When you’re struck by the next big genius idea in the middle of your day, the first impulse is to jot it down on a piece of paper. Problem is, before long you’re buried under a pile of Post-It notes. When you have a second, snap a photo of all those notes: then you can send the hardcopies to the recycle bin and not worry about losing track of your million-dollar plan.
- Stay on Schedule
According to productivity experts, pushing project deadlines back is the worst crusher of efficiency in the workplace. In fact, those experts recommend that, before you even make a timeline of what you need to do to arrive at the finish line, set the deadline first. This way you’re forced to, at the very least, get something together by the date you acknowledged. You can always devote additional time to fine-tuning said project later, but at least set a target a goal and meet it no matter what.
- Get Your Priorities in Order
Too often over-organizing and incessant planning can lead to procrastination: in essence you’re spending and inordinate amount of time thinking about what work needs to be done rather than just doing it. So begin by creating a chart that lists all your tasks by level of urgency. Set out to complete the simple but most important jobs first before moving on to those that will take longer. This way those quick and easy tasks won’t clutter your mind or your desk and you’ll be able to devote more time to larger yet still important projects.