9 hot tips to cultivate a razor sharp focus at work

Having difficulty concentrating on projects or tasks at work? Ciara Conlon shares some tips on how you can get things done

Woman in suit pointing finger on bullseye

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “What do I need to focus on?” Sounds like a silly question, but often we find it difficult to focus because we haven’t quite clarified what our priorities are. Because we have so many responsibilities, tasks and goals, where to start is often a difficulty.

1. Get clear about your priorities

Prioritisation is a simple thing that we tend to overcomplicate. Redefine your goals; make sure you know what your yearly, monthly and weekly goals are and your priorities will become evident. Spend some time taking an overview of your job. If you cannot make these decisions alone, call in your manager or boss to help you clarify your goals and priorities. Once you have this clear you are on your way to laser sharp focus.

2. Remove the distractions

We live in the age of distraction. Besides, constant connectivity sure doesn’t help the situation. Phones, laptops, tablets: no place is free from technology. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it brings with it some disadvantages. Turn off all notifications of emails, tweets and posts. Take back the control of your time. Check your email or visit social media sites when you have assigned time for it, not whenever someone else wants to get in touch.

Turn off all notifications of emails, tweets and posts. Take back the control of your time

3. Master the interruptions

man working on a computer wearing noise-cancelling headphonesThe easiest way to manage interruptions is by communication. Let those around you know you are trying to focus. This can be done verbally or by an agreed sign, such as the wearing of a specific cap. I suggest wearing headphones. This alerts those around you that you are trying to focus on work while blocking out the sounds with some music. And if someone taps you on the shoulder, be assertive. Remind them you have your headphones on and would like to be given some time to finish your work.

4. Clear your mind

It is difficult to focus when you have a lot on your mind. Do a “mind download”: get everything out of your head so that you can be sure you are not forgetting about anything that needs to be done. Once your tasks are outlined, you can plan and schedule the work that needs to be done. When it’s scheduled, you no longer have to worry about it.

5. Break down large tasks

At times, even after you have created the time and space to concentrate on your work, you are unable to do so. Are you perhaps feeling overwhelmed with the enormity of your task? Sometimes we find it difficult to focus when we have a large piece of work or project to complete. The best thing to do here is to break the task or project down into manageable bits. If you are writing a book, you can try breaking it down into chapters, then assigning headings and subheadings. This will allow you to approach your task in a more organised and disciplined manner.

6. Meditate and practise mindfulness

girl meditation on her desk at officeMeditation is good for the soul, and it also helps you to live more in the present moment. It is therefore a powerful tool for helping you to focus. Living more mindfully you are less likely to allow past regrets or future worries to disturb your present state of mind. Training your mind to be in the here and now is a skill that will improve your ability to focus.

7. Stay hydrated and stay nourished

Eating the right food and staying hydrated can have a powerful effect on how much work you can get done in a day. Not eating the right food at the right time can make you feel lethargic, sleepy or irritable. This can adversely affect your ability to concentrate on your work. Make sure that you eat wholesome meals or munch on healthy snacks whenever you feel hungry. Furthermore, drink plenty of water to ensure you stay hydrated.

Make sure that you eat wholesome meals or munch on healthy snacks whenever you feel hungry

8. Work with your energy

Don’t fight yourself and don’t try to focus at times when it doesn’t suit you. If you focus best in the morning, then work in the morning. If it works for you in the afternoon, then work in the afternoon. Most people work best in the morning when the body’s rhythms dictate more alertness. However, you may not be one of them. Understand yourself and realise that sometimes you don’t have to go with the flow. Figure out what time works best for you and then schedule your work accordingly.

9. Try doing some exercise

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, was once asked, “What is your number one productivity tip?” His answer was, “Working out.” Exercise gives you energy. Additionally, the release of endorphins elevates your mood, making you feel more optimistic and motivated. It helps clear the mind, reduce stress and to focus better.

[This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.]

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Ciara Conlon
Ciara Conlon is a productivity consultant and author of Chaos to Control. She helps busy professionals save time and get productive. Ciara has developed strategies to help her find time to work, write, rest and play, all before breakfast.


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