At the beginning of the day, you are aggressively working on your daily tasks, only to find yourself chatting with your colleague just a couple of hours later. Unfortunately, you will come across several such distractions that will pull you away from your work.
According to a national survey of 1200 employees by Chicago-based ComPsych, nearly 90% of the employees said they checked social media at work. Some admit to doing it so excessively that it interferes with work.
How to Stay Productive All Day Long
Fortunately, one can easily overcome these distractions and stay productive all day. Try the following distraction-busting tips to get back to working on your ‘to-do’ list.
1. Plan Your Day to Reduce Chaos
One of the first things you need to learn is to plan your workday well in advance. Most people tend to plan for what they will do the next day before going to bed every night. This includes planning every aspect, from what they will have for breakfast to how they are going to finish the most important tasks. Developing a habit of planning the entire day in advance helps reduce chaos in a person’s daily life.
Before hitting the sack, take some time to review how successful your day was. Make sure to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Was there anything particular that distracted you? Make a note of every distraction, from morning to evening, to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Collecting and scrutinizing this information will help you improve your planning for the next day.
2. Eat Healthy Breakfast
Eating healthy breakfast is linked to several positive outcomes including enhanced memory, increased concentration, improved eating habits throughout the day, and better physical and mental health. Several studies have confirmed that children experiencing hunger in the morning are more likely to be hyperactive, absent, and tardy, in addition to having behavioral and attention problems more often than other children. This also applies to adults.
Research also indicates that the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals missed at breakfast cannot be made up for later in the day. People who skip breakfast have a less nutritious diet than those who eat this important meal. Find different breakfast options comprising carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that suit your palate. Make sure the breakfast also makes you feel full for at least 4 to 5 hours or until it’s time for lunch.
3. Block Online Distractions
The Internet distracts not only students but also working adults across the globe. If you think you’re the only one updating your Facebook status, think again! According to a survey, 60 to 80% of people’s time on the Internet at work has nothing to do with work. One of the easiest ways to remove these distractions is to unplug your modem. However, this trick only works if your job requires limited use of the Internet, which is not the case in most workplaces.
Fortunately, there are several apps designed to help you stay away from distracting websites, apps, and notifications. For example, you can use StayFocusd, a free Chrome extension to block distracting websites while you are working. Several other tools (paid as well as free) can help you avoid online distractions and stay focused, such as Focus for Mac, LeachBox for Firefox, and FocusLock for Android.
Keeping only the essential programs running on your screen will also increase your productivity. Get rid of extra icons and desktop clutter. Less active windows mean fewer distractions.
4. Remove External Distractions
One of the most crucial sources of distraction is your work environment. Whether you are working from your home or your cubicle, you can be faced with dozens of external distractions. If you are working from home, you may have to deal with occasional intrusions from your children or even a nosy neighbor. So, to avoid distractions, tell your children (if they are old enough to understand) that you are busy or plan your most important tasks when they are asleep.
Though you will need to deal with potential emergencies occasionally at work, most situations will simply distract you. The “headphone rule” is the most effective way of saying “I am busy, do not disturb” if you work in an office. Sometimes, however, you will be disturbed by an overly talkative colleague despite your best efforts. So, you may have to take a direct approach, such as saying loud and clear, “I am busy right now, can we talk about this later?” Don’t think about hurting your relationship with a chatty coworker. Remember, work comes first, everything else can wait.
5. Break Down Your Work into Smaller Tasks
You are more likely to procrastinate if you are working on a less appealing project. When working on a huge and uninteresting project, some people may have trouble starting the work, while others may lose focus as time progresses. Breaking down your larger activities into smaller tasks makes completing them easier and faster.
For example, finding an apartment is a huge and somewhat boring task. However, calling your friend to get the broker’s number (to start with) is a relatively small task that stands a better chance of getting done. So, get the broker’s number on day one, give him/her a call on the next day to schedule a meeting.
Treat yourself for completing small tasks. These rewards may include going out for lunch with your friends or eating your favorite ice cream on your way home. Even the simplest incentives can encourage you to finish the tasks on time. Another great way to tackle an overwhelming project is to do the most difficult tasks first thing in the morning as a fresh and clear mind increases your chances of getting it done. Simply put, implementing these two methods can increase your productivity significantly.
Clutter is one of the biggest distractions. Studies show that the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, making paper clutter the number-one problem for most businesses. You don’t want to clutter your desk or even the general office area with too much stuff as it can decrease productivity, resulting in accidental spills, slips and falls, and increased overall stress.
Make sure to organize your desk and clear off distracting items at the end of the day. It is better to remove anything that is not used often. For example, instead of having dozens of family photographs, limit yourself to only one, placing it in the most suitable spot. A well-organized desk will create a positive atmosphere, making going to work each morning a pleasurable experience.
Create an information management system and keep updating it as per your requirements. However, the twin tasks of de-cluttering your desk and creating an organizational system cannot take place overnight. So, you will need to be mindful of your daily routine for some time before the system starts displaying the benefits.
7. Take Short Breaks
Most people think that working through lunch or staying back until late portrays them as hard-working, while others think they are too busy to take short breaks. That notion couldn’t be farther from the truth. The human brain has evolved to seek out and pay attention to new information as this quality was critical for survival in the early stages of evolution. Unfortunately, this means focusing on one thing for a long time has become nearly impossible over the centuries. That’s why after a while, your mind starts wandering even if there are no external distractions.
The brain is just like a muscle, if it gets overtaxed it gets drained, resulting in stress, poor performance, and even mental burnout. So, if you feel yourself losing focus when performing a monotonous task, take a short break. In fact, including regular short breaks in your daily routine can ensure higher productivity. Something as simple as a 10-minute walk can help you recharge your mind. Alternatively, you can also chat with a friend, visit your favorite blog or play a game on your mobile to relax your mind.
8. Train Your Mind to Stay Focused
Despite your best efforts, your mind is going to wander after a while. Fortunately, you can learn to control your thoughts to avoid distractions and increase your productivity. Some of the age-old techniques such as yoga and meditation can help to sharpen your focus to a greater extent.
According to scientific research, meditation can significantly improve attention, working memory, creativity, immune function, emotional regulation, self-control, cognitive and school performance, and inculcate healthy habits while reducing stress. You don’t need to stay in a cave meditating for months to enjoy all these benefits. Even 10 to 20 minutes of meditation and yoga every day can go a long way.
Practicing mindfulness throughout the day will also improve your concentration. For example, when eating your breakfast or lunch, pay attention to the food, focus on its flavor, aroma, and texture. Chew the food slowly. In other words, enjoy your daily meals with a conscious mind. Make it a habit to practice mindfulness during your short breaks.
Whether working from home or from the office, one can easily get distracted, resulting in reduced performance. No one wants to be a slave to their distractions.
However, with a little bit of self-discipline, you can improve your concentration and learn to combat daily distractions. These tips will make your journey towards a super-productive life easier.