The average worker spends about 13 hours a week on emails and that’s not accounting for social media platforms that take up even more time.
This is bad in a society where most of us are increasingly becoming knowledge workers and are exposed to these kinds of distractions daily.
Workplace trends like open offices aren’t helping matters either and have been shown to actually decrease productivity. There are also tools like Slack which are supposed to be the answer to debilitating emails but only changed the platform the problem was on.
On average, employees at large companies are each sending more than 200 Slack messages per week and power users can send out more than 1,000 messages per day.
The ability to concentrate is important now more than ever, it’s a skill that can not only raises your value in your organization but can also improve your quality of life.
Focus is important, here are 4 ways to get more of it at work:
Number 1: Prioritize Your Tasks For The Day
How you start your day can determine what you accomplish by the end of it.
The thing about how most of us plan our day is that we tend to clump tasks together regardless of importance. We arrange them based on which we’d like to do first or just take care of each task as they arise.
But this is a very inefficient way to plan your activities for the day because all your tasks aren’t equally important.
And while we’ve all heard the popular advice to do the hardest tasks first, this fails to take into account that we might have several difficult tasks that demand our attention and that difficult doesn’t always mean important.
Number 2: Set Time-Limits
According to Parkinson’s law, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
This means that if you allocate 3 weeks for an activity it’ll likely take you 3 weeks to complete.
A large time frame leaves you with room to procrastinate and the luxury to worry about things that matter very little to your task.
If you have 4 months to plan an event, you can afford to care about things like seating arrangements and the fonts of your PowerPoint presentation.
If you had only a month, these things would matter less.
Parkinson’s law teaches us to constantly evaluate the work we do because there’s always room for improvement.
Is that task really going to take four weeks to complete? Or is four weeks just the time-frame you’ve always done it in.
Is there no room for improvement?
When you set time limits, you force yourself to get more creative, to eliminate the minutiae and focus on aspects of a task that provide the most value.
Number 3: Use Proactive Metrics
We’ve all been at that point where we’re staring down at a massive project and feel overwhelmed. The usual response is to procrastinate until the approaching deadline forces you to take the first step.
Project overwhelm happens to all us, thankfully there’s a way to solve this.
Internet entrepreneur Noah Kagan has a process for dealing with complicated tasks. He says that most of the confusion of large tasks comes as a result of people worrying about the final result, essentially obsessing over something that’s not in their control.
The solution lies in what he calls proactive metrics. The idea of proactive metrics is powerful and can change the way you work for the better.
Imagine if you had a goal to increase user signups at your company by 20% this quarter. That’s a pretty large goal that’s dependent on a lot of contributing factors, it’s the perfect scenario for overwhelm to set in and the right use case for proactive metrics.
With proactive metrics, you can break this large goal into smaller goals. You can’t control how many signups you get but there are factors that directly tie into sign ups that are in your control.
You can turn 20% more signups into:
Publish 2 blog posts a week
Host one webinar a week
Speak on two podcasts a month
Run a giveaway every two months
Now rather than the overwhelming task of increasing user signups you now have a set of simple tasks that you can focus on which will lead you to your final goal
Number 4: Start Doing Deep Work
The term deep work was coined by computer science professor Cal Newport in his book of the same name.
Deep work describes a way of working in which you focus completely on a demanding task and block out all forms of distractions for a specific period of time.
Its effectiveness is based on the fact that humans are bad at multitasking and that the quality and speed of work increases when we concentrate solely on a single task.
The benefits of going into deep work are backed by a lot of science, according to research from the University of California once you’ve been derailed from a task by an interruption, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track.
If you take 5 minutes out of your work to reply to a coworker, you’ve lost more than just 5 minutes as the cost of switching attention lasts long after the interruption has passed.
Compound this over an entire workday for each interruption and you can see how bad this can get. The solution to all of this is doing more deep work.
Focus is an extremely valuable skill in a world that increasingly places more importance on mental work. Becoming focused can help you stand out while boosting the quality of your work and life.
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