This will not be a surprise, but I’m finding it hard to concentrate! Many distractions were eliminated when Covid-19 and quarantining became a thing. The schedule of commitments, events and things we’d wish we’d said no to— but were somehow still obligated to–suddenly stopped. So, shouldn’t it be easy to focus our attention on what’s most important? If you’re anything like me, it’s still a challenge.
One set of distractions was replaced with a different set. Now, instead of rushing out the door to get to work and school, I’m finding myself stopping to check that my teenager is out of bed and spending some time off of her iPad. Or, maybe what used to be a somewhat infrequent check in with extended family is now a more regular (and nice, might I add!) thing. Wait, I’ll be right back, need to respond to the text I just got from one of them.
A study called The Pulse of the American Worker, conducted by Prudential says that lack of focus ranks right up there with isolation as one of the biggest challenges of working remotely.
Even though 100% percent focus is a fairly unreasonable expectation, there are ways that we can get back on track when we find ourselves distracted, unfocused and unproductive.
Figure out what’s most important. With a seemingly never ending to-do list, take time regularly to look at it and figure out if everything needs to be there. What can be eliminated completely or perhaps backburnered (if that’s a word!)? Sometimes, when I’m finding it hard to see clearly and stay with one task until completion, I’ll assign myself 2-3 things for the day that need to get done. Yes, I’ll still find myself thinking about that call I need to make or an email I meant to send, but I try to push it aside and keep on with the top 2-3 of the day.
Optimize your conditions. Finding the conditions that are optimal for you to work can be a personal thing. Maybe you need to put your headphones on with motivating music filling your ears. Or, clear off your desk and move the to do list to another place and only concentrate on the thing at hand. Turn off your notifications on your phone and email. Go to another room with a clear space and center your mind on the task at hand. Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference in charging through something that otherwise had you stuck.
Consider what’s in your way. In order to focus more fully, redirect your attention to the distractions…temporarily. Are there are a few things that keep nagging at you? You know if you would just wrap them up, the storage space in your brain would free up immensely. Could one of those barriers to you getting things done be done by someone else? Or eliminated completely? By confronting what’s in your way and deciding what you want to do about it, you can remove the barrier instead of working around it.
Unplug. Go for a walk, get some fresh air or sit still for a bit in a comfortable chair. Get away from your phone, computer and television and listen to what your head is telling you. Perhaps the reason you can’t focus is that the noise, literally and figuratively, is so loud that your thoughts are stifled. I also like to grab a piece of paper and some fun markers and just start to get the thoughts on a real piece of paper. Something about writing versus typing really allows me to express what’s on my mind and think more creatively.
Stop and Start Again. When you really find yourself unable to push past the distractions–either around you or within your own head–allow yourself to stop. Stop, take a break from it, acknowledge that what you’re doing isn’t working and commit to start again later. When you start again, attempt to take a fresh look, decide what’s most important about what you’re doing and re-optimize your conditions. It’s amazing what a fresh outlook can reveal.
We all have the same amount of time in a day, it’s up to us to decide where to focus that time.