Do you find it hard to focus on your work? Three keys to focus on your work are to plan ahead, avoid distractions and train your brain. Once you develop a routine you will be more productive and reach your goals.
A manager can have a lot on their plate which makes it hard to focus on your work. A steady stream of emails, phone calls, employees and tasks all demanding your attention. Will all this how do you focus on your work to reach your goals?
1. Plan Ahead to Better Focus on Your Work
The first key to staying focused at work is planning ahead. With any task or goal success is determined not by what you have to do, it is how you do it.
- Staying focused at work begins the night before at home. Before you go to bed email yourself at least three goals for tomorrow. Keep those goals in front of you as much as possible to remind you of what you need to focus on.
- Many studies show not getting enough sleep will impair your focus and concentration the next day. Even getting one hour less sleep can affect your productivity the next day.
- When you arrive at work review your goals for that day. Prioritize them and decide how much time you have to devote to them. Check your calendar and create blocks of time to focus on your work. For a manager free time doesn’t just happen, you have to make it happen.
2. Avoid Distractions
I can relate to a scene from the movie “The Social Network”  is being “wired in.” This is when you are completely focused and concentrating on the task at hand. You won’t get away with headphones, but you need to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
- When you sit down to focus on a goal prepare yourself first. Go to the bathroom, get a drink, make yourself comfortable, do anything that would cause you to break your concentration.
- Email is a big distraction and time killer. When you are focused on your work ignore your email. Set your instant messaging to busy. Avoid getting caught up in long conversations. If you can, find a quiet place to work.
- Avoid the illusion of multitasking. You can’t fully focus and concentrate on your goal while you do something else. Multitasking creates distractions that overload your brain causing it to “brownout.” This will diminish your brain’s ability to do the critical thinking needed to complete your goal or task.
“When you perform multiple tasks that each require some of the same channels of processing, conflicts will arise between the tasks, and you’re going to have to pick and choose which task you’re going to focus on and devote a channel of processing to it,”(2)
3. Develop a Routine
- To consistently focus on your work develop a routine. This will train your brain focus your cognitive abilities when you trigger the routine. Repeat step 1 each day until it becomes routine.
- Positive reinforcement will help you overcome procrastination and help your mind accept the routine of focusing on your work. Do this my setting milestones and reward yourself for reaching them. Take a break, walk around and chat with colleagues or go grab yourself a snack. It’s your reward so do what you want to do.
- The more you do it the better you will get. If you are having problems give yourself smaller chunks of time to work with, then increase them as your brain learns the routine. If you find your mind starting to wander take a break and come back to it. You want to this to be a pleasant task, not a burdening chore.
The key to developing a routine is repetition. You need to train your brain to enjoy working this way.
Do It: How to Focus on Your Work
- Plan ahead: Set your goals, get enough sleep and create time to better focus on your goals.
- Avoid distractions: Prepare your setting, ignore email and other distractions and don’t multitask.
- Develop a routine: Use positive reinforcement and train your brain to enjoy working this way.
 The Social Network. Columbia Pictures, 2009, DVD, Ben Mezrich The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
 Joe, Robinson. “The Truth About Multitasking: How Your Brain Processes Information.” Entrepreneur, November 20, 2012. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224943.
Photo credit: Conway, Neil. “Research.” April 16, 2011. Online image. Flickr. March 15, 2014. http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/5625707813/