The best way to stay focused looks different for everyone. For some people, it means methodically checking things off of your to-do list. For others, it means getting into a flow state or getting better at time management.But whether you work from home or from the office, one thing is universal: We all have to cope with distractions. From news alerts to social media, to notifications from coworkers on Slack, it can seem like everything is conspiring to break our concentration. If we don’t get a handle on our distractions, the workday can last long enough to cause overwhelm and burnout.So, here are our tips on how to stay focused, improve your productivity, and sustain your mental energy over a longer period of time.
How do you know if you need help focusing?
It almost seems easier to define what it means to be unfocused than defining what it means to be focused. Here are a few examples of what it’s like to be distracted:
- Your mind wanders while you’re at work.
- You zone out during virtual meetings.
- You keep getting interrupted with notifications.
- You don’t know where to start and keep procrastinating.
- You read the same words over and over without retaining anything.
Focus feels like the opposite of these situations: being able to concentrate on a single task at once, without losing your place or struggling to pay attention.But a lack of focus isn’t the only problem you might run into: Hyperfocus, or the sense of having too much focus on a single task, can lead to difficulties balancing your workload, maintaining your physical health, or seeing the bigger picture.Overcoming procrastination is also a component of focus, since the inability to start a task when you want to can contribute to stress and overwhelm.
How to stay focused in 3 steps
Learning how to stay focused and increase your attention span can take some effort, especially if you’re used to multitasking or working in high-stress environments.For those who are new to working from home or setting your own schedule, a sudden lack of distractions and external pressure can take some getting used to.By following these three steps, you can learn to be aware of your mental state and develop better productivity habits to keep you in the zone.
Step 1: Maintain your physical and mental health
Staying focused starts by being mentally and physically healthy. Here are some quick tips for maintaining your wellbeing.
If you’re struggling to focus, ask yourself if you’re getting enough sleep and are eating enough throughout the day.We generally feel best when our days align with our circadian rhythms. Try to adjust your work schedule to line up with your biological clock instead of the other way around.Additionally, our brains need a lot of fuel to maintain a state of focus, so make time for full meals and snacks to keep your energy levels up. Try not to overly rely on caffeine, but look for more holistic health changes.
If your distracted mind is your way of avoiding work-related anxiety, consider trying meditation or breathing exercises before you start work. (An app like Headspace is great for beginning meditators.) Short breaks can also help you reset your mood by refocusing your attention on something else, like a word game or a podcast.Finally, it’s key to seek help if your challenges with focusing are due to a medical or mental health condition. Hyperfocus can be a sign of ADHD, and there are treatments available if your issues with focus are interfering with your work or personal life.
Step 2: Take charge of your environment
Once you’ve gotten your physical and mental well-being under control, the next step is to optimize your workspace. Whether you work from home, from a busy office, or from the local coffee shop, minimizing distractions can make a big difference.We recommend investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. A good pair can be expensive, but trust us: They’ll pay off when construction starts on the house next door or the dog down the street won’t stop barking.Next, turn off notifications on all of your devices. Yes, we know this is so difficult to, but the news alerts, family Whatsapp messages, and dating app notifications all have to go. (Don’t worry – you can turn them back on again after work.)If you need to, you can customize your notification settings so important work emails and emergency phone calls can come through.Otherwise, do everything you can to avoid distractions: You can even set your Slack status to “in the zone” so your colleagues know not to interrupt you.
Step 3: Choose a time management strategy
The last step is to choose a time management strategy. We all have different ways of getting things done, so try a few approaches to see what works best for you.Here are just a few of our favorite time management methods:Schedule everything the day before. Write down your to-do list the day before, so you don’t waste time in the morning wondering how to get started.Start with a specific task. Some people like to start the day by getting the hardest or most important task out of the way first. Other people like to start off with a bunch of smaller tasks to get the momentum going. Either option is fine!Use the Pomodoro Technique. This method is a popular time management technique in which you focus on a task for a short period of time and then take a break. The most common option is 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, but you can adjust it as necessary. All you have to do is set a timer!Use a time-tracking tool. It’s a little creepy when your boss insists on taking screenshots of your desktop every 15 minutes. But when you keep your own tabs on what you’re doing throughout the day, you can review your time-tracking results at the end of the day to learn how to allocate your time better.
Don’t forget the big picture
Remember, being able to stay focused isn’t an end in itself. In fact, being too focused on specific tasks can also distract us from bigger goals and objectives.Take time to zoom out and see your work from a wider lens. Are your habits helping you get more done, feel better at work, or achieve specific long-term goals? Are you focusing too much in one area and side-lining other tasks as a result? How are you working towards your long-term goals?If not, spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish over the next year or so. Maybe that means putting together a vision board or personal mission statement.If you’re still struggling to stay focused, reflect on whether vague expectations and poor project management practices could be the issue. Consider asking your manager to provide more specific day-to-day tasks or objectives, or more effective collaboration tools for you and your team.
Focus on the conversation as Anchor AI takes meeting notes
There are plenty of things that can interfere with focus, from technological distractions to lack of sleep. By taking steps to improve your surroundings, schedule, and general wellness, you can quickly become an expert at how to stay focused at work.But if there’s one thing that almost always gets in the way of concentration, it’s having to take good notes. An effective note taker has to pay attention to what’s being said, while also transcribing key points for future reference.With Anchor AI, you can spend less time taking notes and more time focusing. Our automated tool can take notes in real-time so you don’t have to wait for them to be transcribed before reviewing them at the end of the workday.Learn more about how Anchor AI works and try the beta version.