Jan 5, 2011

Is it difficult for you to focus at work? 16 Strategies to help you

The inability to focus could be one of your greatest weaknesses (someone recently commented on an Harvard Business Review blog that "most CEOs are incapable of focusing properly?!'')

If you suffer from low focus, or it is even more difficult after the holidays, (although you had adequate rest) try out the following strategies:

  1. Challenge yourself to finish tasks within certain time frames, and set specific start and stop times and track them (works great for me).
  2. Break tasks or projects into smaller pieces and monitor yourself, so you have to pay attention for shorter periods of time.
  3. Start small.
  4. Seek out a quiet place.
  5. Fit small interruptions (that would normally happen throughout the day) into blocks of time. By structuring this time into two or three spots during the day, you begin to create more focus, structure, and management of your time.
  6. Get an early start when the office is still quiet.
  7. Adjust your lunch hour (for when you are not at your most productive.)
  8. Take shorter, more frequent,breaks if this is the only way you can stand the task.
  9. Control personal interactions.
  10. Acknowledge and dismiss distractive thoughts.
  11. Play baroque background music. Neuroscientists found it helps you focus. Try J.S. Bach’s ‘’Air in D.’’ I love it. Or try Handel, Vivaldi…
  12. Reward yourself for success (works for me: e.g. I'd work from 2 till 3 p.m. on the effortful task without breaks, after promising to myself that at 3 p.m. I could go check the Website I am dying to visit.)
  13. Maintain a steady pace.
  14. Clean and declutter your desk, so papers or other objects will not distract you or remind you of other things you have to do.
  15. Chose a job or a role where you are using your strengths on a daily basis and you will find that focusing on things you love doing is so much easier.
  16. Determine the maximum length of time you can focus on anything and plan your most important work for that amount of time. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity.

This is updated list from my 56 pages e-book Productive Executive/Manager – Manage Interruptions at Work. If you have not downloaded it yet you can do so now by joining my mailing list.

If your New Year (like mine) started with great plans you will have to execute, meet deadlines, and much more, and I hope that this (and strategies from e-book) help.

Please share any other strategies you have tried and found working.

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