to Improve our
Focus at Work
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is
the problem. We all have twenty-four
In a world filled with instant access
to information, coworkers and
friends, finishing a solid eight hours
of work seems nearly impossible.
Avoiding distractions, however, is not a
Herculean task. Just like getting to the
gym each day, staying focused while at
work is a matter of building good habits.
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your
eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly
what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their
1. Set clear goals:
Instead of saying, “I’m going to work a solid eight hours every
day,” make a list of your top priorities for the week. This helps
you avoid reacting to every distraction that comes up. Review
your list each morning and decide realistically what tasks you
can accomplish that day. Be concrete: “I’m going to finish steps
1-3 of the project by noon.”
2. Work in 60-90-minute blocks
As we work, our alertness drops off, increasing the
lure of distractions. Set a timer and take a break at
the end of each cycle. Reset your focus by listening
to music for a few minutes, taking a short walk, or
going for lunch.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at
hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a
Alexander Graham Bell
3. Turn off the world
Let’s face it, the world is a distracting place. Avoid temptation
by severing all ties. This includes email, office phones, cell
phones and your coworkers. This might require finding a quiet
place away from your office to work such as booking a
conference room or hiding out in your office. If you need to, set
up a system for urgent messages to reach you. This doesn’t
include where to go for happy hour.
4. Schedule distractions
Distractions are not all bad, but you need to make them work for
you. Use them as reward for a solid chunk of work. Start out
with distractions that are good for you, such as working out or
calling your friends. If Facebook and Twitter are your thing,
block off time in your schedule to post or browse other people’s
updates, but stick to your schedule. Remember, you control the
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus
to see the light.”
5. Practice not being distracted
Meditation is a great way to do this because it’s just you and
your thoughts. If that’s not your thing, practice single-tasking
throughout your day. At lunch, just eat. Don’t read the
newspaper or check your email at the same time. In meetings,
don’t doodle in your notebook or play with your phone.
6. Pay attention to yourself
Start to notice when and how you get distracted.
What thoughts happen just before that? Are you tired,
hungry, or bored? As you learn what triggers your
distractions, you can head them off before you slip
into an hour-long IM chat.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is
not an act but a habit.”
7. Use technology to your advantage
From blocking out distracting websites to tracking
how much time you spend surfing the web, many
apps can actually help you stay focused. Once you
identify what your habits are, pick one that will help
you meet your goals, but don’t let these become
distractions in themselves.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with
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