The Secret to Keeping Focused

by | Apr 5, 2021

One of the most confounding issues is how not to get distracted in your work. We produce our best work when ‘in the zone’, but getting and staying there is another matter. 

Creative thinking and solving difficult problems are a challenge when faced with constant interruptions in the workplace from phone calls and meetings to colleagues wanting help and supervisors delegating more tasks. 

I find that the toughest distractions to handle are often the ‘own goals’ of spending too much time with emails and online. 

It caught my interest when a computer science professor at Georgetown University, Cal Newport, recently published the book ‘A World Without Email’. He makes a compelling argument that email actually reduces productivity and makes us miserable.

The compulsion to keep checking emails disrupts your workflow. Apparently, we check emails about every six minutes. The behaviour divides our attention when we need to focus.

Working from home has revealed that less workplace interruption increases productivity. However, the email traffic continues and other distractions emerge. For example, the pathway from the desk to the refrigerator is getting well-worn for many of us – it seems that ‘pandemic pounds’ are a thing.

Like individuals, organisations are easily distracted and can end up in a constant state of hyperactivity, leaping from one issue to the next and scrambling to meet deadlines. 

The secret to dealing with personal and organisational distractions is unsurprising: we need to think before acting every day. It means starting out with an intent to do the right things in the right order. 

Planning out your day might mean you start a little slower, but you will finish faster and get better results. 

Break big tasks into chunks. Plan your week. Review your priorities first thing in the morning. Turn off your email when working on the most important stuff.

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