Attention span is one of the casualties of a highly competitive, tech-driven, and multi-tasking oriented office environment. A 2005 study by business research firm Basex found that office distractions consume up to 2.1 hours or 28 percent of the average work day. Over a decade later, the amount of distractions at work has not decreased.
Here are six practical ways to reduce distractions and increase concentration at work.
Silence your communication tools
Consider killing instant notifications from all communication programs. These may include text messages on your smartphone or WhatsApp, Skype, email, chat programs, and social media notifications.
Put your smartphone on silent mode while you are at your desk. Consider scheduling a particular time during the day when you can take calls, and record a voice-mail message to that effect. While you are working on your computer, close all the non-essential programs, and utilize only the systems you require for the immediate task at hand.
Minimize co-worker interruptions
Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your desk if you can. This will help deter colleagues and help them recognize you are occupied with work.
- Try to structure your work in a way that more complex tasks are performed during hours when there are fewer interruptions. Come early or stay late in exceptional circumstances when you have a major task to accomplish so there are less people around to distract you.
Ignore or get rid of the clock
If your clock is proving to be a distraction or a point of stress, just turn it off. If working without constant time reminders helps you feel liberated, hide the clock on your laptop/desktop, lock away your wrist watch and mobile phone, and remove any wall clocks around you. (If the wall clock is for other people you will have to figure out a way to ignore it or ask your supervisor if they can ask the team if the clock really needs to be there.)
At the same time, to ensure that you do not miss any important appointments or another time-specific occasion, create a discreet alarm on your mobile phone or computer.
Use concentration meditation
- Identify a quiet spot, it could even be your desk, for a focus technique called concentration meditation. You can practice this technique either sitting or standing. But standing is preferable for people who are seated for most of the day.
- Begin with brief sessions of two to three minutes. You could set a timer for this or use your smartphone. Shut your eyes and keep your eyelids relaxed. Seal your lips and put up a little smile. Now identify an object of concentration where you can direct your undivided attention.
- The most common choice for focus is your own breath. Calmly inhale and exhale through the nose (not mouth) while you maintain attention to your breath. One full cycle of inhaling and exhaling is one breath. You may complete 15 or 20 breaths in one short session.
- You may also choose other objects of concentration, such as an image, a light source, or a word. (Indian yoga practitioners use the word “Om” for concentration. They believe it is the sound of the universe.)
- Do not feel agitated if distracting thoughts break your concentration. Simply re-focus and return your singular attention to the object of concentration. To eliminate distracting thoughts, you just need to recognize them. Just being aware of the distracting thought will cause it to subside on its own.
Stay energized for better concentration
If you have not eaten well, it will hamper your ability to focus, and make you easily vulnerable to external noises and distractions. Do not stay hungry while you have a pile of work to finish on your desk. At the same time, try to eat healthy foods, and avoid high-sugar foods which are detrimental to your attention span. Stay sufficiently hydrated. Water is not only essential for your body, but according to researchers, it also improves your ability to concentrate.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine
Contrary to popular perception, caffeine does not augment your ability to concentrate. It can be an over-stimulant, which can cause you to become distracted more easily by the things going on around in the office. Although caffeine in your cup of coffee or your energy drink will provide you an instant energy trigger, the benefits are likely to be short-lived.