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.
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. ”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.