I’ve been stuck on the word “focus” for the past couple of weeks. Focus — or rather the lack of it — appears to be a growing problem in our work lives. At work, our attention has become infinitely divided; calls, e-mails, meetings, devices. We all need become acutely aware of the need for focus or I fear the quality of our work will slowly diminish.
The reasons to allow time for focus are many. However the core justification really rests deep within our brains.
While we possess the ability to switch between tasks — but we simply do not have the ability to attend to all of them effectively. (Research at Stanford has shown that heavy multitaskers have trouble mastering even the simplest of tasks.) So, I’d like to pose the question: How are you doing focus-wise? Are you taking control of the issue?
Here are a few practical suggestions to help you bring more focus into your work life. It all starts with one small step.
Strategies to consider:
- Tame those e-mails. Seriously, e-mails are going to be the death of us — as they insidiously rob us of focus each and every day. (Do you feel like you are falling down the rabbit hole?) Forward thinking organizations are beginning to ban e-mails during designated time periods or specific days, to allow employees the opportunity to focus on their work. First rule to tame this problem (courtesy of LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Wiener) — if you want fewer e-mails, send less of them!
- Segment meetings. Many meetings lack direction and become the antithesis of focus. One method to solve this, is to use a targeted agenda to thoughtfully segment the time spent in the meeting. For example, if you plan to meet for 60 minutes, segment time to allow for no more than 2-3 topics. Devote 20 minutes to each — enough time to review information, discuss and gain some closure. Identify a “time-keeper” to keep things on track and record topics to be addressed later.
- Control your calendar. Only you can take the steps to make your spent time count. Review your schedule for the past week and ask yourself the following question: What you can eliminate to make room to focus on the tasks that matter? Then offer that gift to yourself.
- Look around you. If your work environment doesn’t allow time (or a bona fide quiet space), to really focus — start making waves, While offices are designed for efficiency, open floor plans can become an enemy of focus (How about a few well placed walls?) Discuss options with your manager to provide an appropriate space to collect your thoughts.
- Set a routine that works for you. Be sure set the right scenario to allow for focus. Consider elements such as the time of day that you seem sharpest, and the physical elements most conducive for you to think deeply (Personally, I require music). Aim for a 30-minutes of focus each day, to start. Of course, remember to build in breaks — as this allows your thoughts to coalesce.
How do you build focus into your day? Share your strategies here.