No matter where you work, you’ve probably found that it can sometimes be hard to concentrate. Maybe it’s because a constant influx of emails keeps interrupting your workflow or because your office is open-concept and you can’t close your door on the sound of your coworkers chatting, humming or talking on the phone.
Whatever the case, here are 8 things you can do to make it easier to concentrate:
1. Get comfortable
It’s hard to concentrate if you’re not comfortable in your workspace. If you work on the computer at a desk, adjust your seat so you’re sitting with a straight back and your feet firmly on the floor. Next, adjust your monitor to make sure that your screen is at eye level and your hands are resting on your keyboard with your elbows bent at approximately a 90° angle.
If your workplace is too warm or too cool for your liking and you’re not able to control the overall temperature, dress appropriately. Try wearing layers if you’re sensitive to heat or cold, or if your office temperature tends to fluctuate throughout the day.
2. Put your phone away
This may be tough if you’re used to keeping your phone near you, but it can have a huge impact on your productivity. Your phone can be really distracting if it’s constantly alerting you of incoming messages. Put it on silent and move it out of sight, at least while you’re working on anything that requires a high level of concentration.
3. Tidy up
Having a messy workspace can be incredibly distracting, especially if you’re someone who likes to keep things orderly. Take a bit of time to straighten up your desk before settling in to work on a project so that your mind doesn’t wander to the teetering piles of papers and dirty dishes stacked around you.
Try to get into the habit of setting aside 5-10 minutes at the start or end of every workday to tidy up your workspace. In addition to improving your focus, it will also set a good example to your coworkers and show them that you make an effort to stay organized.
4. Set a schedule
When you get into work in the morning, plan out your day. Make a list of what you want to accomplish and decide what you’re going to do when – you’re more likely to force yourself to focus if you know that you only have X amount of time to work on each task. You should also schedule in breaks so that you don’t forget to give yourself a rest. Plus, having a scheduled break to look forward to might also make it easier to buckle down.
Planning out the day ahead should also make it easier for you to prepare to work on a task before you begin it. Assemble everything you know you’ll need so that you’re not scrambling to find important notes and documents while you’re in the middle of working, since that can disrupt your workflow.
5. Silence notifications
Set your email, social media and other notifications to silent while you’re working if you find yourself losing focus every time you get a new alert. If you get a lot of emails over the course of your day, you may want to close out of your email program for an hour or two so you can concentrate on the task at hand.
6. Switch it up
If you hit a wall at work, try switching tasks or try changing your approach to what you’re working on. For example, you could consult a co-worker if you’re stuck on something or brainstorm to see if you can take a different angle to solving a problem.
If your boss is okay with it, you can also try temporarily changing your work hours. Coming in early or staying late may give you the opportunity to take advantage of quieter times at the office, helping you to get down to business without others around to distract you.
7. Use headphones
Headphones, especially the ones that go over your ears, can be a lifesaver at work. If you find yourself getting distracted by your colleagues or other sources of noise that are outside your control, you might want to invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block out whatever is bothering you.
Otherwise, you can simply use your headphones to listen to soothing music. Something without lyrics is most likely to help you focus, so look for an instrumental playlist online that you can work well to.
8. Take a break
Don’t forget to take periodic breaks to give your eyes a break from your screen, stretch your legs and get a drink or water or a snack. Use an app to remind yourself to get up and stretch if you won’t remember to do it on your own or set an alarm to help you follow some kind of routine, like working for 55 minutes then taking a 5 minute break.
It’s important to make sure that you also eat well and stay hydrated, so be sure to have a solid breakfast and lunch and drink plenty of water throughout the day. It will give you the energy you need to power through your day and will stop you from getting distracted by hunger or thirst.
Although there are often factors outside of our control that can make it hard for us to focus at work, there are things we can do to make our work lives easier. Follow these simple steps to boost your productivity the next time you’re having difficulty concentrating and you’ll be a pro at avoiding distractions before you know it.