“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
~ Steve Jobs
- Reduce interruptions; don’t try to get rid of them because you can’t. Meetings, co-worker questions, socializing, emails, phone calls – they will be there. Find ways on how you can cut through the noise to give complete attention to one task today. Turn off attention demanding apps and devices. Here’s what you can do to reduce interruptions when work demands complete attention: Turn off your cell phone, PDA, instant messengers, email reminders, put up “please do not disturb” or “In deep concentration – interruptions not welcome” signs at your cubicle entrance or office door.
- Practice deliberate focus. With multitasking being the norm at our workplace, it is hard to find focus and finding time to give undivided attention to one task. There are the must dos and can also dos – identify what really needs to be done in the target time frame. Working on the wrong tasks with focus might not lead to conducive results and satisfaction. If a task has been on your back for long and it most certainly needs attention and completion – just stick to that one. Don’t take any other assignment until you get that monkey off your back. Peter Bregman in 18 minutes to Finding your Focus Master Distractions says: “The trick is to choose your focus deliberately and wisely, and then consistently remind yourself of that focus throughout the day.”
- Say No. Above all it is more of train your brain than telling others not to disturb. We have more control over our actions as opposed to others. Distractions, ah yes, there will be many, but how we train our mind to focus is what matters most. Saying no to what you cannot handle and knowing what’s on your plate is the key. Zach Ketterhagen in an article in Americanashram.com says it well: “There is too much work to fill my days. Without a clear focus and understanding of why I am doing the work, I easily burn-out and become less effective. I’m able to say no (without the guilt) when I’m working smarter. Working smarter is knowing which tasks help fulfill the goals of the organization–and which don’t.”
- Not all days are equally productive; it depends on your state of mind or health, the environment or some inexplicable reason hard to point. A quick analysis can help you find days when you estimate to be least interrupted by distractions. It could be days with fewer or no meetings or days when you’re not involved in fire-fighting tasks on working on tight deadlines.
- Changing environment helps, if working in cubicle with noisy co workers cannot be avoided it’s time to find solace working from home either one or two days a week or finding an empty conference room and booking it for an hour or so to continue with your task uninterrupted. Better lighting, natural plants, or even music (on headphones) may be other factors that can promote concentration.
And if nothing else works, studies have proven that meditation helps increase focus and that’s exactly what can help train our brains to focus on remaining focused.
What has worked for you in completing tasks successfully irrespective of the distractions around?
An interesting infographic via Atlassian on time wasted at workplace: (Click to see larger image)