5 ways to get your focus back
Disconnecting yourself each day from the incessant demands of the smartphone and the laptop can give you the focus you'll need for taking on challenging, complex tasks.
We live in a multitasking world. We secretly write emails while talking on the phone, we tweet while we watch TV, and we text while driving to and from work (yikes). We search Google instead of thinking hard about a problem, and we check our smartphones as though it's our job.
What's the result of all this world of busy?
We're scattered, forgetful, and less productive than we should be. We connect more on Facebook than we do in person. And we've lost the power of focusing on one specific thing at a time.
Here are 5 tips for recovering your single-minded focus:
1. Prune the mailbox
Email is such a mixed blessing. It informs, entertains and connects us, but it can also take on a kind of crazy life of its own. How many messages are in your email box right now? Taking time to respond, delete and unsubscribe can help keep you from falling into the vortex.
2. Really listen
When someone calls or comes into your office, take the time to really connect with them and hear them. This means not thinking about other things you should be doing, or jotting down notes while the person is talking. And isn't it weird when someone is clearly just waiting for you to finish talking so he can jump in with his story? That's the opposite of listening.
3. Stop. Breathe. Be.
A workplace full of busy multitaskers can be exciting, but it can also be stressful. Anxiety and stress are contagious, and they mess with your focus. The old trick of breathing before you react can improve the quality of your response, slow the madness and help everyone focus more clearly on whatever needs to get done.
4. Value thought
It's an amazing world, where everything we want to know is at our fingertips. We can get answers in real time. The danger is that we're distracted by shiny objects and we don't focus long enough to think things out. Alone or in small groups. Without reading emails. Without searching the web.
5. Turn off the phone
Do you remember when you got your first smartphone? Once you've figured out all the buttons or apps, you suddenly realize—you're officially connected to work 24/7. How often do you check your phone for messages instead of recharging your creative batteries? And how often does worry about an email you've just read interfere with actually being at home?
Everyone benefits when employees take time to focus on a specific task. As Tony Schwartz points out in Harvard Business Review, “the best way for an organization to fuel higher productivity and more innovative thinking is to strongly encourage finite periods of absorbed focus, as well as shorter periods of real renewal.
So resolve to get your single-minded focus back, even if it's just for a small amount of time each day. Of course, we'll still keep connecting to people on LinkedIn, posting instagrams, and checking email obsessively. But let's trade in splintered time for focused attention. And we'll see what creativity, ideas, solutions and strategies we are truly capable of achieving.