These tips for staying focused at work are especially helpful if you’re distracted by problems at home. Not only do you owe it to your job and fellow employees to leave your problems at home, staying focused at work can give you a healthy “time out.” Sharpening your work focus may be just the distraction you need – and that’s what these tips are all about.
“Often he who does too much does too little.” ~ Italian Proverb.
One of the first tips for staying focused at work is to stop multitasking. It creates stress and anxiety, and doesn’t improve your performance or productivity. In this article, you’ll learn how “uni-tasking” works better. If you’re also going to school part-time, read How to Study When You Can’t Focus – Tips for College Students.
It can be difficult to “go with the flow” in the workplace, especially when it’s moving in multiple directions and the tides are constantly shifting. Do you find it hard to stay focused at the office when phones are ringing, other people are talking, several people are asking you to do things (often at the same time), client requests are coming in, priorities are changing, and the boss is overflowing with “ideas”?
How to Focus on Work When You’re Distracted by Home Problems
This is a guest article from Sydney Tyler Thomas.
There are costs associated with losing focus at work, and they include more than reduced productivity. Losing focus also leads to unnecessary stress, anxiety, and pressure — which can make your problems at home worse. Not being focused at work can also cause you to feel lost, overwhelmed, and unproductive.
Like a sailboat without a compass, losing focus can often leave you feeling uncentered and ungrounded, aimlessly going in whichever direction the wind blows. Use these tips to sharpen your focus.
1. Uni-task – stay focused on one work task at a time
Many of us were taught that multitasking at work or home is a virtue. Sometime it’s undoubtedly a necessity! However, people who are able to stay focused on the task at hand find that they are more productive and things go much smoother when they “complete the circle” (finish one thing before starting another). This isn’t always possible, but a healthy compromise is to break the task into smaller pieces that can be completed in the time allotted.
2. Keep a single “to do” or action item list
One of the most useful, and most wasteful, inventions of all time has got to be Post-It Notes. They’re great when they’re used for their intended purpose – to leave a quick note without writing on a document or labeling a stack of papers. They are NOT helpful when dozens of them clutter your workspace, each with a different to do item or thought to remember. It’s much more effective to keep a single to-do or action item list and if needed, another small notebook that you can carry around with you to record ideas as they come to mind.
If you need help decluttering — which can be a great distraction from your problems at home! – read Paper Clutter, Be Gone! 8 Home Office Tips for Decluttering.
3. Focus on work tasks that are small and manageable
There’s an old saying that the longest journey begins with a single step. That’s true when it comes to projects at work too. No matter how huge the task at hand may appear, there’s surely a way to break it up into smaller tasks. Doing so helps you be more organized, better prepared and less overwhelmed.
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4. Work on similar jobs at the same time
It’s counterproductive, and a total waste of time, to jump up to walk down the hall to the copier to make a single copy. Unless you need it right away, wait until you need to make several copies. If you give it some thought, you’ll find several similar examples of how you can combine tasks.
5. Limit how often you read and respond to e-mail
E-mail is great, but it’s a huge time-waster. If you have one of those annoying little pop-up windows that alerts you each time a new e-mail comes it, turn it off! If you’re like most people, it’s nearly impossible to resist the urge to peek. When you do check your e-mail, remember that not every email is worth reading or responding to and it’s not necessary to subscribe to (or continue to receive) every newsletter ever written. It’s hard, but try to delete, respond and/or archive each e-mail as you read it to avoid a junky e-mail box and more time spent re-reading later.
6. Take frequent breaks – but not to dwell on home problems
Your brain, your eyes and your back deserve a break, regularly. Plan to take at least one short break each hour that you’re working. Although it may seem as if that many breaks are wasting time, they’re not. You’ll feel much more refreshed, and productive, if you take care of yourself.
7. Clear off your desk at the end of each workday
This can be very hard to do, but it makes a huge difference in staying focused at work when you have problems at home. There’s nothing that provides a greater sense of accomplishment than ending the day with a clear desk and then starting the next day with the same.
8. Stay mindful of what’s truly important
A lot of things are “urgent”, particularly to your boss, coworkers, and even people at home. But it’s important to realize that not everything that’s urgent is “important.” What IS important is knowing the difference, prioritizing your tasks, and staying focused on the work that matters most. Maybe coping with your problems at home needs to take priority right now – maybe it’s not time to learn how to stay focused at work. If so, you might find Dysfunctional Families – 5 Tips for Solving Family Problems helpful
9. Become a creative problem-solver at work (and home!)
Not all work processes are set in stone. Just because something’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that that’s the most efficient or productive way to do it. Be on the look-out for ways to cut costs at work, save time, and reduce energy consumption (electricity and human energy). Finding creative solutions not only helps get your job done, but may give you some extra points with your boss.
10. Meditate/pray/take deep breaths throughout the day
When you have problems at home (or work!), nothing helps you maintain or regain focus like being still. It re-energizes and rejuvenates mind, body, and spirit. Take time out to breathe — in fact, take a deep breath right now! It can make all the difference in the world.
There may not be much you can do to eliminate problems at work or home, but these tips will help you manage stress more effectively. Over time, your problems may not change, but their ability to stress you out will.
For more tips on how to stay focused at work, read Delegating Tasks at Work – How to Know What to Delegate. Not doing it all is a great way to improve your focus!
If you can’t go home, read When You Can’t Go Home to Your Family – Genesis 44.
Written by Sydney Tyler Thomas, a writer and small business owner living in Virginia. She is author of The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft. You can also visit Sydney at her blog, New Calling.