In the last few months, I’ve been trying to find a way to improve my ability to focus when I work. Working from home has its challenges in focusing on what’s important, just like it can be working in an ordinary office setting.
Here I’ll share the five different tactics and new habits I’ve implemented to improve my focus. Let’s dive in!
It seems it’s getting harder for us to focus at work. There are so many things robbing our attention, like emails, phone calls, text-messages, last-minute meetings, not to mention all the fireworks that flash on our phones with disturbing notifications showing up on the screen. Most of the time, these things aren’t of an urgent matter anyway. Therefore, we should be able to eliminate most of them fairly easily.
The first step is to be aware of these attention-robbing activities and knowing it’s within our power to do something about them. All these outside distractions shouldn’t be allowed to deplete your focus on the work you need to do. Instead, you should be in control.
So, what can we do about it?
Let me share the five things I’ve done which have helped me improve my focus.
Get Enough Sleep And Improve Your Focus
Getting enough sleep is essential for your ability to focus for longer periods of time. It’s different from person to person how much sleep he or she needs to recharge. Recently I’ve read a few books on sleep, and I found a couple of eye-opening nuggets in Shawn Stevenson’s ‘Sleep Smarter – 21 essential strategies to sleep your way to a better body, better health, and bigger success‘. One of them is that we sleep in 90-minute cycles going from light to heavy sleep in each of these cycles. So when you plan your sleep, don’t go for 7 or 8 hours, because then you’ll wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle. Instead, go for either 6, 7.5, or 9 hours. This insight has helped with my morning drowsiness so that I’m now waking up with a much clearer head and ready for the day ahead.
Going to bed around the same time every night will also improve your sleep and affect your ability to focus better at work.
Oh, and shutting off your electronics at least an hour before you go to sleep will improve your sleep quality, as well.
Start Your Day on Purpose
I never used to give much thought to the importance of getting the right foot out of bed, so to speak, being intentional about how my days started using the “excuse” of always telling myself that I’m not a morning person and more of a night owl.
But about three months ago, I started something I never thought possible.
I began getting up at 5 am on most weekdays, even though I’m working from home, doing a morning routine that sets the tone for the rest of the day, kicking it off on a positive note. This past weekend I actually did it Saturday and Sunday too! (crazy, I know)
Now you might sit there thinking to yourself; you’re one crazy guy! And if you are, then I’m inclined to agree with you. But let me share why I’ve started this practice and why I’m hooked on it.
Since I started doing my morning routine, I feel much more energized during the day (I guess that’s what winning your morning does to you). My productivity has increased thanks to an improved ability to focus during the day.
It’s taken some getting used to; I’m not going to lie. The first couple of weeks, I crashed around 1 or 2 pm, having to take a nap. But as I’ve gotten used to this new routine, the benefits are piling up. And I do not need naps anymore!
This morning WIN routine, as I choose to call it, has not only boosted my ability to focus better throughout the day but increased my sense of well-being as well.
Being mindful of how you choose to start your day is another way to improve your focus at work.
Workday Kick-off Routine
If you’re someone who dives in head-first and starts cracking when you get to work, then you might want to consider setting up a workday kick-off routine.
Again, it’s about being intentional about how you approach your day.
Taking time on the front-end of the workday to go through your tasks of the day, checking your emails, and reaching out to those you need to contact as a first thing will help make sure you set yourself up doing your best work.
Doing this will free up time during the early hours of your workday to do your most important work without being distracted.
If necessary, let your closest colleagues know what you have planned for the day, so they don’t disturb you during your deep work session.
Block Off Time For WIN Sprints
Now this concept has worked wonders for me the last few weeks. I’ve been trying to find a way to buckle down getting more productive. And after trying different things, I found that 45 and 60 minutes were too little to really do deep work. But working in blocks of 90-minutes has improved my productivity because it’s enough time to really get into the flow of things and what I’m doing.
Today, I’ve got my 90-minute WIN sprints, as I call my focused work sessions, on my calendar. WIN, the acronym for What’s Important Now. Some days I can have 3 of these 90-minute WIN sprints; other days, just one, depending on what else I’ve got planned. But carving out time to do focused work, and protecting that time, is crucial if you want to improve your focus at work, and I’m sure your manager or boss will understand your decision to do so. When they see the output you begin to create, then they themselves might want to start doing the same.
An important thing to remember is to take a break and recharge your mental batteries every time you finish a WIN sprint. Depending on your schedule, allow yourself at least 10-15 minutes to either do a quick meditation, catch some fresh air, hydrate, or whatever works for you to reenergize.
Go Completely Distraction-Free
Now, I know it might seem almost impossible to work distraction-free for 90 minutes or more during the day. But it’s doable and easier than you think.
All the different distractions I mentioned at the top are based on other people’s needs rather than your need to focus on doing great work.
Turn-off Your Notifications
If you want to focus, then the easiest thing you can do will be to turn off your phone and put it in a drawer while you’re doing your WIN sprint session. That way, it’s not going to be tempting to check it when the display lights up with notifications and messages. Also, turn off notifications on your computer because you don’t want anything else on the screen but the things you’re working on.
Setup An Automated Email Response
You don’t want to be distracted by incoming emails either. So either set up your email to only check for incoming emails every three hours or so or shutdown your email application while doing your WIN-sprint session.
You should create an automated email response letting people know that you check emails 3 times a day and let them know you will get back to them next time you check your emails. It’s a subtle way of taking back your time and letting people know you’re prioritizing doing focused work. That way, they’re not going to call and disturb you because you’re not replying immediately.
Workday Wind-Down Routine
One last thing you can do to improve your focus at work would be to set up a workday wind-down routine. This ties into the idea of not checking your emails on-the-go throughout the day, but instead being mindful about spending your time on other, and most of the time more important, things, not letting yourself get caught up in the rabbit hole emails sometimes can be.
Your workday wind-down routine should include responding to important emails and getting your tasks for the next day planned. That way, you’ll be able to hit the ground running starting your next workday with full focus on WINning your day.
Improve Your Focus At Work – Final Thoughts
I know this might seem like a huge overhaul and almost a lifestyle change if you implement what I’ve just shared with you. But believe me, if you are serious and want to improve your focus at work, then this can do the job. And if increased energy and well-being isn’t worth it in your book, then maybe the work you’ll be crushing will help take your career to the next level.
If you want help to improve your focus, then let’s work on it together and go ahead and schedule a free pre-mentor session down below.
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