The pandemic has created many changes for people from all walks of life. One of those changes is that many jobs transitioned to a work from home layout. While the initial thought of being able to do work in your pajamas sounded great, the reality of work from home quickly set in. Staying productive while working from home was suddenly much harder than it initially appeared to be.
Many people who traditionally went to work utilizing their home as a place for rest, relaxation, entertainment, and recreation. The workplace was meant to be the no-funny business zone where work was the main priority and there are minimal distractions. With the transition to work from home, the two worlds collide and suddenly you are trying to accomplish work with distractions coming left and right.
Whether you are struggling with work from home or are simply looking to sharpen your concentration, this article can help you. Below is a guide for creating a concentration strategy that will help you focus more on the task at hand and become a pro at limiting distractions. By utilizing your time more wisely you will allow yourself more time to relax and enjoy life.
Observe your workflow
The first step to creating your own personalized concentration strategy is to change nothing and observe your day. By taking a step back and keeping tabs on how you work, you can gain many helpful insights into what distracts you and what motivates you.
When you are observing your workflow you should pay specific attention to times that you get distracted by something as well as times where you feel like you aren’t really doing anything. While days can vary and your level of busyness will change, having a general idea of what times of day you are busy and common distractors will be helpful.
A good way to think about concentration is that it is the means of working without distractions. For you to minimize distractions you need to understand the things, people, or environments that contribute to you losing your focus.
It can be hard to identify every time you are distracted and a good method you can utilize is to create a make-shift sign-out sheet for every time you need to leave your workstation. This can give you an idea of all the time that you spend away from your work and why.
How your time is utilized
Taking note of the parts of the day that are slow can be of use when creating a tailored concentration strategy. An example would be if you aren’t very busy in the morning but feel like you are cramming to get stuff done in the evening. Observing this pattern could help you to try and more equally disperse your workload so you can feel a little more at ease in the afternoon and stay concentrated throughout the day.
With a list of what distracts you in hand, you can begin taking actions to remove these distractions from your workflow. Limiting distractions is essentially about controlling your environment and making it conducive to concentration.
A prime example of this is music students practicing their instruments. In order for them to perform well, they typically need a quiet and distraction-free environment to concentrate on playing the right note. You wouldn’t expect even the most talented musician to perform their best show at a rowdy kids’ playground.
While it can be difficult to limit distractions, with practice you will build almost a sixth sense that can detect and avoid distraction. To stay in the zone and concentrated on the task at hand, distractions need to be at a minimum.
Create a workspace
One of the best ways you can help yourself to stay concentrated is to create a designated workspace. This is incredibly important while working from home as it will not aid your concentration, but it will also make it easier to disconnect from your work when the day is over.
Your designated workspace can be tailored to you and your specific needs. The only requirement of your workstation is that it is free of distractions that could divert your concentration. While your workspace doesn’t need to be spartan and bland, you should do your best to remove distractions like your phone. Setting up your workstation correctly will make it much easier to sit down and simply get to work.
Control your environment
Your environment is most likely the largest contributor to distractions. Cars honking, people talking, people trying to converse with you, and even the temperature of the room can distract you and divert your concentration to something else.
While you cannot control everything in your environment, you can limit your exposure to them. One of the best ways you can limit environmental distractions is to purchase a good set of earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. These devices act as a barrier between you and the noises of the outside world. They also act as a human “do not disturb” sign that lets people around you know that you are unavailable to talk.
Another way to control your environment is to find the optimal location for your workstation. If you work from home, you could set up shop wherever you please. With this in mind, you should select an area that is the quietest and utilized sparingly. Setting up your workstation near the kitchen for instance is only asking for you to get distracted by others making food and making noise.
Have a conversation with those around you
People can be the biggest and most time-consuming distractions. When people want to converse with you it requires you to stop concentrating on the task at hand and focus on what they are saying and the conversation. While it can be fun to converse casually with coworkers or family while working, it comes to the detriment of your concentration.
Having a conversation with these individuals can go a long way in allowing you to stay concentrated. A good compromise would be to set up a specific time that you will be available to chat. You could also make a rule that when your headphones are off you are available and when they are on you are not.
Time management for concentration
Utilizing the list you created from before can also be helpful in managing your time to be more conducive to staying concentrated. Concentration is something that cannot be sustained for eight hours straight and by managing your time appropriately, you can maximize the amount of time you can stay concentrated. Below are ways you can utilize time management in your personalized concentration strategy.
Work cycles are a great tool for maintaining concentration throughout the long workday. On a standard day, many people start to become fatigued and lose focus in the afternoon. While MitoQ can help support better energy levels, work cycles can help to retain focus through even the most grueling day.
Work cycles consist of three different periods. This includes the concentration period, the rest period, and the extended rest period. During the concentration periods, you are not allowed to have any distractions. This means your phone is placed out of reach and that you don’t stray from your task. Once the concentration period is over, you are allotted a 5-minute break to do whatever you would like. After the break, you go back into a distraction-free concentration period. After 4 cycles you get a longer 15-minute break.
A popular work cycle that is heavily utilized is the Pomodoro technique. The technique utilizes 25 minute concentration periods, 5 minute rest periods, and 15 minute extended rest periods. This technique is very popular because the concentration periods are at a perfect length where they enable you to get work done, but they also save you from feeling as fatigued later in the day. 25 minutes is also a fairly attainable amount of time to give your undivided concentration, especially when you know you will be given time to rest.
Harder tasks earlier
When you are tackling your to-do list for the day, it can be tempting to start with the easiest stuff first and to work yourself up to concentrate on more difficult tasks. You should try to get the more concentration-intensive tasks done earlier because concentration and productivity tend to falter later in the day. A recent survey has shown that 10 am to 12 pm is when productivity and concentration peak and that as the day continues, these tend to fall.
In summary, building your own concentration strategy is a highly personalized endeavor. By assessing your current workflow, you can determine areas that could be improved upon like limiting distractions and managing your time more effectively. Having this general framework can set you on a path to stay more concentrated while working and give you the ability to enjoy yourself more in your free time.
Reviewed by: Kai Man Yuen/ BSc., PGDipSci., MSc.