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How to Remain Focused in an Age of Constant Interruption

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Staying focused on your tasks, goals and mission is vital to your success. However, it is often a lot easier said than done – especially in today’s world with all its distractions and interruptions.

In a survey of 6,000 workers, more than 70 percent reported frequent interruptions in their day, wrote Leadership IQ founder Mark Murphy in 2016, and things have only progressed since. On average, office workers are interrupted or switch tasks every three minutes, wrote Brigid Schulte in a 2015 Washington Post article.

“We have gone from the Iron Age to the Industrial Age to the Information Age to the Age of Interruption. All we do now is interrupt each other or ourselves with instant messages, email, spam or cellphone rings. Who can think or write or innovate under such conditions?” Columnist Thomas Friedman writes.

These constant interruptions affect our memory, our attention span, our ability to process new information or to be creative. We are living in a time where remaining focused is key, and working on this is a must in our daily lives. We’ve compiled a list of some tips you can incorporate to help you boost your productivity and prevent distractions from damaging your progress.

Get organised

It may sound obvious, but this simple change can have a big impact, simply by setting your day up the night before. Prepare your lunch, plan your outfit and if you’re heading to work the next day plan your mode of transport. Alternatively, if you’re working from home as many of us currently are, ensure you check ahead on all of your meetings and calls the following day so you can plan your day and lunch-breaks accordingly. It will save you time and energy when you need it and give you a sense of control. Planning your day will make it easier to avoid being side-tracked by unimportant things.

Make a to-do list

Studies show that having a written plan of action can increase productivity. Make a list and rank tasks in order of importance. Tackle the most important or difficult task first while you are fresh and have the energy. Devoting specific hours to tasks can also be useful in helping you stay on track rather than multitasking. Put your list in your line of sight so you can keep it at the top of your mind if you find your attention straying.

Have a mini social media detox

According to Medium, the average person spends 2 hours 23 minutes per day on social media. You may not be able to disconnect from the internet completely during your working day. However, you could take a break from responding to your friend on Facebook Messenger or checking your Instagram feed every five minutes.

There are several apps that can block social media sites and help improve your focus and attention span. Examples include Freedom, AppBlock, FocusMe, and Offtime. You could also just put your phone on Airplane Mode for an hour or so to stop the temptation of mindless scrolling.

Find a quiet place and remove distractions

Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to get cracking on your project. Make sure your desk is clean and tidy, that you have a good chair and get rid of anything you think will distract you. It’s also a good idea to have a bottle of water and snacks to keep you going.

If you have your own office, shut your door for a few hours and hang up a Do Not Disturb sign. There’s also no harm in warning your colleagues in your office – or your family at home – not to interrupt you for a certain period-of-time. A good pair of headphones or earplugs are also useful if your office is noisy. A calm environment will help you find your flow and make great progress

Take regular breaks

It’s common to begin to feel fatigued, uninspired and drained when you’re staring at a screen all day. If you feel your energy fading, take short, regular breaks to regenerate and recharge.  Getting up from your desk, stretching, going for a walk to get some fresh air and grabbing a healthy snack will give you a boost. You’ll return to your office feeling sharper.

A small amount of coffee

Caffeine is a common go-to when you’re feeling groggy, however, it’s a short-term fix for aiding energy and focus.

A small amount will give you a boost if you are fatigued but drinking too much of it may make you feel anxious or nervous, therefore, decreasing your ability to stay focused.

Look after yourself

Exercising regularly and drinking lots of water will help you feel energised and be more productive. Yoga and meditation can also aid concentration and enhance focus.

It’s also hard to stay focused when you’re hungry. Eating healthy, protein-rich and fibrous foods will make you feel fuller for longer.  Foods like spinach and kale are rich in vitamin B folate and vitamin K, which studies show contribute to improved brain function and focus.

Finally, one of the main symptoms of not getting enough sleep is poor concentration. Make sure you’re getting a solid eight hours of shut eye a night!

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