With so many avenues to waste our time, such as engaging blogs, funny Youtube videos, Facebook posts, witty Twitter one-liners, eye-pleasing Instagram etc., it’s no wonder we have trouble keeping our attention and focus long enough to get a task done.
How many times have you killed time on social media all night and ended up dozing off at work?
The internet is fraught with a variety of temptations and distractions and it’s on us to take conscious measures to counteract them.
Here are some tips to block distractions and improve your ability to focus:
1. Take baby steps – one at a time
Ever got very excited about something and pursued it obsessively until you see no big results even after 10 days and you give up?
You will end up doing exactly that if you overdo it; the process of improving your attention span is going to take a considerable amount of time and hence, you need to take small steps towards it religiously.
Expecting instant results can be very demotivating and thereby counter-productive; you must walk in knowing that you need discipline and persistence to improve your attention span.
2. Monitor and take control of your time
The first basic step you need to take is to see WHERE most of your time gets consumed and what your major distractions are.
Check to see if you can find patterns, for example, are you easily distracted in the afternoon, or do Facebook notifications distract you, or do you check your email 20-30 times a day?
You must UNDERTAKE A TIME AUDIT and see how and where you can improve. Tools like Toggl, Rescuetime and Harvest can help you track how exactly you spend your time. Using these metrics you can derive some negative habit patterns and with right strategies, you can work on disrupting these patterns.
3. Do some electronic decluttering
The internet is a giant ball of distractions with ever-engaging social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and entertaining platforms like Youtube that do such a good job at making you forget time, it’s hardly a surprise that we all have such short attention spans.
So what’s the solution? Discipline. As old as the advice is, it’s the only reliable way to improve your focus at work. The good news though is you don’t have to rely on the sheer power of your will to accomplish this; we have technology that can help us control our distractions and tools to streamline and organize our work better.
For example, website blocker tools can help you block websites like Facebook and Youtube during your work hours.
Another trick is to switch off your smartphone notifications, especially for social media and email. Here are some tools that can help you handle your electronic life better:
Stayfocused – a chrome plugin that lets you allot a specific amount of time to spend on your favourite websites and once you cross that time, these sites become inaccessible.
LeechBlock – another effective tool to help you block websites
4. Make use of productivity techniques
Your attention span is like a muscle – you need persistence, time, and effort to build it up. Using productivity techniques which help you improve your focus is a good practice that can boost your ability to focus better.
At my startup Hiver, I actively encourage all my employees to use the Pomodoro technique – a focus-boosting work method based on the concept that we work better and are more focused when we work in small bursts of time. In Pomodoro, you work in 25-minute-chunks of time with 5-minute-breaks to stretch and relax.
Another technique called Getting Things Done believes that you shouldn’t have to worry about the future plans and results and instead focus on the now. The idea is to remove planned actions out of mind by recording them somewhere externally and focusing on the tasks that you ought to do right now.
5. Invest in a virtual assistant
Here’s the crux – delegate where you can.
For some tasks, it is essential that you handle them personally while for others not so much. Eliminate unnecessary and unwanted distractions by getting yourself a virtual assistant. It is affordable and effective.
You leave boring and energy sucking tasks like planning your day, fixing meetings, sending replies etc. to your virtual assistant and trust me, this will free up an incredible amount of time for you to act on other more urgent tasks.
This point is not just about getting a virtual assistant, the idea is to not overburden yourself if you think hiring a maid or a nanny can make your life easier, do it.
6. Meditate and Exercise religiously every day
A few minutes of meditation every day has shown to have very good long term results on your health, well-being and productivity.
It can, in fact, have a multiplier effect on your productivity, one study done by the University of California will attest to the power of meditation in improving your ability to focus better.
You don’t have to go to hour long meditation classes or spiritual centres to accomplish this, all you need to do is spend 15-20 minutes in silent contemplation every day to see results.
Many self-development experts by exercise and having a healthy body to become a better person overall. Many successful people say that 30 minutes of exercise in the morning can make them feel very active, ready-to-go, and focused.
So invest some time of your day in these self-care activities to improve your attention span, productivity, and overall well-being.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” – Alexander Graham Bell
Author – Niraj Ranjan Rout
Niraj is the founder of Hiver (hiverhq.com), an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.