Everyday, you walk into your office ready to be your most productive self. You start your computer, check your email, and you’re ready to start working on a deadline. Except, you still have your email open in one browser and your phone to the right of you with one notification popping up after another. Also, your co-worker just dropped by to catch up. These things are all fine and innocent individually but together, they make you lose focus at work. Eventually, you find it nearly impossible to enter a state of mind where you are deep in the zone.
Below are five things you may be subconsciously doing that make you lose focus at work, thereby preventing you from being your most productive self.
You know that familiar feeling that creeps in sometimes when you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone. Am I qualified to lead this project? Am I smart enough to write this article? Am I the right person for this job? Self-doubt is the ultimate dream killer. Once I start doubting myself, it’s so difficult to get out of that spiral. The doubts just keep piling on, ultimately pulling me out of focus. It becomes impossible to get back to the mental state I need to be in to actually get something accomplished. It’s also a huge waste of time and my practical side knows it’s all a lie.
Sometimes the best way to deal is to take a walk, phone a friend, or even read a chapter from a book. Do something else and then get back to work. You need a quick change of scenario to rid yourself of all that toxic negative energy. Just remember, you are qualified. You are smart enough. You were hired for a reason. There is no one else that will do this job as well as you can.
Checking your phone too often
I usually have my phone close by in case my daughter’s school needs to reach me. However, I recognize that it is the ultimate distraction. Between social media notifications and text messages, it feels like I’m always glancing over to the side. Besides literally hiding your phone from yourself, one thing you can do for a much needed reality check is to look at your screen time in your settings. For me, this served as a very rude awakening that I was spending too much time staring at a screen and too little time engaging in my actual real life.
Not planning your day
Sometimes it’s not enough to create a to-do list. Before the end of each day, I like to have at least one major task set for the next day so I can get in and get started on it immediately. Previously, I would look at my planner each morning to get a sense of everything I needed to get accomplished. That worked for a while but I started to feel like I was taking up too much time in the beginning of my day with task planning. By prioritizing items the day before, I have items I know absolutely must get accomplished. I put a symbol next to those items or highlight them. I then list anything else that needs to get done but not necessarily that day. If I complete them, great! If not, I won’t be hard on myself.
For example, if I have a babysitter on Monday, I know I’ll want to complete at least one blog post, reply to my emails and pitch at least one brand. If I’m with my baby on Tuesday, I know I’ll want to prep dinner, do a fun outdoor activity with him, and potentially finish a load of laundry (on a good day). Other things will inevitably creep up but I know that if I finish at least three things, that will have been a productive day in my mind.
Checking your email incessantly
I am so guilty of this. I usually have my email open in a separate browser which makes checking it frequently oh so tempting. Every time I have a free minute, I check my inbox. In a previous role, I used Outlook. Every time a new email came in, I would also receive an alert that popped up in the lower right corner of my screen. I would immediately stop what I was doing and address the email, therefore seriously killing my momentum.
I use Gmail now and although I don’t have alerts set up for incoming messages, I did notice that I was switching browsers too often to check for anything new. I now set aside time in the morning, lunch and afternoon to check my inbox so I can stay focused on my work the rest of the day.
Not thinking about your end goal
I remember my first job out of pharmacy school. I said yes to every project that came my way. My reasoning was wanting more exposure to new projects so I could continue to learn and grow. It came from a good place but it was really hurting me in the long run. Some of my projects had tremendous value and others were really not serving my ultimate goals. The more you say yes to work, the more more projects that come your way. You are effectively showing that you can handle the workload.
I continued to do these projects for years because they were my responsibility but looking back, I should have filtered requests based on my end goal. Later in my career, if someone asked me to be part of a committee or lead a new initiative, I would thank them for the opportunity and ask if I could get back to them by the end of the week. This gives you some time to think about what value you could contribute and whether the project makes sense. It also gives you the chance to discuss your involvement with your manager, who may have a greater sense of what is coming down the pipeline. You want to be a team player while thinking strategically about your time and resources.
How do you focus best at work? Are there certain tips you keep in mind to stay focused in the moment and get things done? Comment below!