In the distraction economy, focus is a rare commodity. We can’t do meaningful work unless we maintain focus. Good leaders not only achieve greater focus but also equip team members with focus-boosting tools.
Don’t let another week go by with fractured focus. Below, you’ll find nine practices to destroy distractions in your daily work. Choose at least one of these tools to add to your work today.
1. Calendar your focus time.
What gets scheduled gets done. Block your calendar when you can get into peak performance. For instance, I do my best work early in the morning, so I schedule early alone time to complete my most important projects. If you aren’t familiar with chronotypes, consider reading When by Daniel Pink. You’ll identify when you work best so you can schedule demanding tasks in your most productive time periods.
2. Isolate yourself.
I first realized isolation was helpful when I noticed my productivity soar while seated on an airplane. I do my most creative work at 35,000 feet. The combination of white noise and distance from my community lets me crank out lots of content.
Replicate this on the ground by closing your office door or wearing headphones to signal to teammates when you’re in deep work. You may even verbalize to coworkers or your boss that you need a few hours of uninterrupted work. At Michael Hyatt & Co., we believe so much in isolation that we designate Wednesdays as no meeting days. Isolation is essential.
3. Go offline.
Turn off notifications or use a tool that blocks content. You don’t have the mental strength to overcome pop-ups on your own. I use a tool called Freedom on my desktop. On my phone, I delete nonessential apps and set screen time controls for social media apps required for work. I don’t even know the code to bypass the limits. My wife keeps the code so I can’t breach my digital distraction firewall. To win the war on focus, you must take down the tech giants.
4. Turn the room temperature down.
In a study published by Scientific American, participants were asked to proofread an article. Some worked in a room at 77°F while others worked in a room set to 67°F. Those in the cool room found twice as many errors as their counterparts. Science proves it—cooler rooms improve concentration. Optimal temperature varies by person, so test out different settings to find your perfect thermostat setting.
5. Get comfortable.
When you’re uncomfortable, you’re distracted. Find a comfortable posture. This doesn’t mean lying in bed. Don’t get so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep. I feel most comfortable working from a standing position, so I spend the majority of my days at my stand-up desk. Find what works for you.
6. Put on music that aids concentration.
Researchers at Stanford University studied the effect of music on the brain and found that it engaged areas of the brain involved in paying attention, making predictions, and updating memory. When I write, I listen to a playlist of instrumental and epic soundtracks. It gives me a sense of purpose. It’s designed to impact emotion, and it does. I feel more aware of my larger purpose in the world. For help finding this type of music, search the Focus genre on Spotify or use apps like Focus@Will.
7. Notice the effect of food on your ability to focus.
For some people, three cups of coffee help with focus. Others feel jittery after the slightest amount of caffeine. Pay attention to how your body reacts to what you consume and don’t skip meals. You may need snacks in your desk drawer or a water bottle with markers that track your daily hydration. Add foods known to increase brain function to your regular diet.
8. Set mini-goals.
Mini-goals are projects you can accomplish in a designated period of time. For example, I set a mini-goal to write a 500-word blog post in 45 minutes several mornings per week. I use a timer on my desktop. I know my average is 75 minutes per blog post, so setting a 45-minute timer helps me stay focused in my race against the clock. Identify potential mini-goals and allot less time than you think you need.
9. Set a timer and take frequent breaks.
Timers add deadlines. Depending on your personality type, this can be very motivating. Timers also remind you to take breaks. If you power through too long on a project, you’ll run out of battery.
Breaks take many forms. You may go on a walk, meditate, take an afternoon nap, or make a cup of coffee. Whatever you do, clear your mind for a few minutes and you’ll feel almost immediate benefits.
On a typical workday, I take a mid-morning break. I leave my office, which is located in a building behind my house, and walk inside my home to briefly chat with my wife. Later, I break for lunch and an afternoon nap. Breaks renew my energy. Each time I return to my desk, I work with fresh eyes and fresh motivation.
Distractions are everywhere. Without intentional actions, you will fall prey to them again and again. Win the war on focus by using the focus-boosting strategies above.