Some of us do our best work under pressure, while others can only focus on important tasks in a distraction-free work environment. And with more remote work options than ever before — from home offices to cafes and co-working spaces — learning how to stay focused at work can take some effort.
No matter your work location or attention span, here are five tools to help you stay focused at work — at home, in virtual meetings, and in any other workspace.
How to Stay Focused at Work
Having trouble with focus and time management is nothing new: In fact, according to a book by Adam Grant, the ancient Egyptians had two words for procrastination. One had a negative connotation — laziness — and the other was more positive: “waiting for the right time.” Procrastinating on tasks until you’re in the right mindset is fine, as long as you have a strategy in place to get things done by the end of the workday.
Here are three scenarios that can make it hard to stay focused at work, and a few tips for navigating each one:
Back-to-back meetings can be draining, especially when they take place over Zoom or Microsoft Teams and you’ve been staring at the same computer screen all day. It can be tempting to zone out, but you don’t want to miss anything important, and you don’t want your co-workers to think you aren’t interested in what they have to say.
One solution is to use AI note-taking to help you get more out of virtual meetings. You’ll still have to pay attention, but you won’t be distracted by writing things down, and you can always review your notes later to see if there’s anything you’ve missed.
Working from home can be distracting for entirely different reasons. Instead of getting interrupted by co-workers, you may have to deal with pets, children, roommates, and friends or family members. And if your workspace doubles as your living space, you may struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
To be productive at home, you’ll want to follow a consistent routine, set boundaries with the people you live with, and avoid taking phone calls outside of work hours. By being intentional about when you work, you’ll be able to stay focused and avoid burnout.
In Public Spaces
Remote and hybrid work models give employees the flexibility to work outside the office, at locations like cafes, libraries, and co-working spaces. But if you’ve ever tried working from a public space, you’ll know that you even have less control over the environment — the music, seating arrangements, etc. — than in almost any other workspace.
This is one situation in which noise-canceling headphones are practically a requirement. Although they won't eliminate external stimuli, they can make it easier to concentrate on work tasks in busy environments, including on public transit and in airports.
Why It’s Important to Stay Focused
At the end of the day, a lack of focus doesn’t always result in poor work performance. Maybe you’ve been able to keep up with your to-do list just fine in a constant state of distraction. But constantly multitasking or feeling overwhelmed at work isn’t good for your mental health, and there are benefits to getting into a state of deep focus.
Here are three reasons why it’s important to stay focused at work:
1. So You Don’t Miss Anything
It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to overlook important details when you’re distracted or aren’t paying attention. Whether you’re attending a daily scrum meeting or a board meeting, take a short break and get into the right mindset before the meeting starts.
Look over the meeting agenda in advance so you can be prepared to ask questions and use an automated note-taking tool to take notes so you don’t have to. That way, you’ll have a record of any important decisions, action items, and other updates.
2. So You Appear Engaged and Interested
Staying focused isn’t just good for your own well-being, it’s also important for building teamwork and collaboration. No one wants to be delivering an important report while other people are checking emails, browsing social media, or otherwise losing focus.
Check your energy levels throughout the workday, and don’t let boredom or a lack of sleep prevent you from showing up for your colleagues when they need you.
3. Because Multitasking Isn’t Great for Productivity
How many times do we need the experts to tell us that multitasking doesn’t work before we stop listening to our favorite podcast while trying to get to Inbox Zero? Multitasking can make us feel productive, but it doesn’t allow us to perform truly deep work.
Instead of multitasking, use the Pomodoro Technique to focus on a task for 25 minutes, with a five-minute break in between tasks for rest or physical activity.
5 Tools to Help You Stay Focused at Work
These productivity hacks and time management techniques can help you learn how to stay focused at work and in meetings, but sometimes you need a little extra support to keep you on track. That’s where time management apps and other productivity tools come in. Here are five useful tools to help you make deep focus a reality.
1. Anchor AI
Anchor AI is an automated note-taking tool and task management platform that can help your entire team stay focused at work and get more out of meetings. From taking notes to writing meeting summaries, Anchor AI can help you capture important details while freeing up attendees to participate in the discussion and stay present and engaged.
Plus, Anchor AI can automatically identify action items and add them to a built-in action item tracker — complete with due dates and reminders to ensure they get done.
Signing up for Anchor AI is free, and you can upgrade if you need access to advanced features, such as Ask Anchor and Meeting Minutes.
Sometimes, turning off Slack and email notifications isn’t enough to get you into the zone. After all, streaming platforms and social media sites are just a few clicks away. That’s why website blockers like Freedom are so handy.
Freedom is a cross-platform website blocker that works on all of your devices: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and more. You can choose which specific apps and websites you want it to block, and which times of day you want to get into work mode.
You can try it out for free for seven days. Premium pricing starts at $8.99 per month, or $3.33 per month if you get an annual subscription.
A big part of learning how to stay focused at work is knowing how to identify stress and anxiety before it interferes with your workflow. Mood tracking apps like Moodfit can help you monitor your emotions in the workplace and find a link between your thoughts and behaviors. You’ll get to understand why you work the way you do.
Moodfit starts at $1.67 per month, or $99.99 for a lifetime membership. And if Moodfit isn’t right for you, there are plenty of similar mood tracking apps to choose from.
Listening to music can be a great way to get into the zone, but sometimes you just don’t have time to put together the perfect playlist. Brain.fm is specifically designed for work mode, with music that’s “scientifically proven to increase focus” and is “highly effective for people with ADHD or attention difficulties.”
You’ll answer some questions when you sign up to help Brain.fm find the right playlist for you. You can also choose from themes like Relax, Sleep, and Meditate. Brain.fm costs $6.99 per month or $49.99 per year after a 14-day free trial.
5. Cleer Enduro ANC Headphones
Noise-canceling headphones are great for working in public spaces or in any loud work environment. These Cleer Enduro noise-canceling (ANC) headphones work by covering up background noises, including music and industrial noise, but you can also set them to Conversation mode so you can easily communicate with your colleagues.
These Cleer Enduro headphones are a great deal at $149, but you can also find ANC headphones by Bose and Sony at a variety of price points.
Improve Focus With Automated Note-Taking
Sometimes, staying focused at work can use up all the concentration you have. That’s when you know it’s time to delegate some of the effort to productivity tools like website blockers and note-taking apps. By using the right tools to help you focus, you’ll spend less time trying to avoid distractions and more time doing great work.
Remember, Anchor AI can take notes for you, so you don’t have to multitask during meetings. Simply invite Anchor AI to your next virtual meeting or upload the Zoom recording, and it will automatically take notes, identify action items, and add due dates and assignees.
Sign up for free and get started with AI note-taking today!