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6 Tricks I Use to Stay Focused at Work

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I’ll be the first to tell you that I have a hard time staying focused.  I think everyone is this way – there are just some people who don’t admit it.  We all take on too many projects.  I’m told I need to learn to say, “No I don’t have the time for that right now.” which would completely solve most problems.  Unfortunately, I haven’t conquered that skill yet – I’m still conquering the “stay focused” skill for now.

Between work and school, I feel as though I have developed a few good tips that help me stay focused and get the job done in a timely efficient manner.  I hope, by sharing these tips, maybe someone out there can implement just one new change to their daily routine to increase efficiency and actively try to stay focused.

  1. Small Goals – As with almost everything “goal” oriented, the first step is to create small attainable goals.  “Finish project #1” is not a small obtainable goal.  Separating Project #1 into smaller milestones will allow you to accomplish portions of a project which will quickly add up to total Project #1.  So rather than feel frustrated that you may not even be making a dent into the project/assignment/task, if you set out to finish a milestone you will have a much more rewarding feeling as opposed to the I’m-never-going-to-finish-I’ll-put-this-aside feeling.
  2. Hide Email – I remember when I was an intern my boss had recommended we hide the little Outlook pop-up that indicates a new email.  I thought she was crazy until I began paying attention to my behaviors when I received a new email.  Why is it that we will drop anything and everything the moment we get an email?  I declared that I like when people respond to me in a timely manner, so I’d like to give them the same respect.  In all actuality, 95% of what we receive via email isn’t urgent the-world-will-end-if-you-don’t-respond-right-now information.  If it really is time sensitive then perhaps you’d get a phone call as opposed to a potentially lost-in-translation email.  Ultimately – hide your email pop-up.  You’d be surprised how much focus you’ll maintain without indicators that you’ve received a new email.  Just don’t forget to set aside time to check the emails and respond accordingly.
  3. Indicate the best time for the “boring” work – Face it.  Not everyone’s job is 100% glitz and glamour.  Whether it’s paperwork, data entry, scanning, filing, etc., there is tedious work associated with every job.  Designate a specific time to accomplish this work before it piles up.  I prefer to do this right before lunch.  That way I have a specific time I know I will be leaving.  I play games with myself to see if I can finish everything in the time remaining before lunch.  For example, if I have an hour before lunch, I find myself working faster and more diligently to finish my work.  Before I know it I’m done with 10 minutes to spare and my work load a ton lighter.
  4. Don’t watch the clock – When I decided I was going to apply for the MBA program, I had to first take the GMAT.  One option the GMAT allows is to hide the clock.  This is for a specific reason!  Like I have mentioned before, I am anal on time.  I watch and analyze the clock too closely.  By hiding the clock for the GMAT you’ll focus more on the questions and less on the time it took to answer a question.  This is the same at work.  A watched pot never boils – so stop watching the clock and time with fly with accomplished work results.  There’s never a better feeling than glancing up at the clock and realizing it’s almost time to go home.
  5. Love Lists – I find it incredibly useful to create tasks for myself at the end of the day for the following day.  I’ll jot down on a post-it some things I really feel I need to complete by the end of the next day.  The key to this post-it note is to be REALISTIC, not optimistic.  The next morning, after arriving to work and settling in (early, of course) I have my day already pre-planned out for myself.  I don’t need that extra time to think about where I left off the previous day, and where I should start today.  As the day progresses I check the accomplishments off my list.  THIS REALLY WORKS – it shows progress and is a realistic set of obtainable goals. It’s hard to write a list at the end of the day when you’re ready to go home, but you’ll be thankful the next morning.
  6. Candy and Treats – Ok, so this is purely a personal-and-very-unhealthy trick I use, but I love keeping some sort of candy at my desk.  Toward the end of the day during the 2pm blues, I’ll whip out my candy for a pick-me-up.  It’s never anything too distracting (a handful of M&Ms, Sour Gummy Worms, etc) but it really helps keep me focused and gives me that needed boost of energy.  I don’t drink coffee, but I love tea so occasionally I’ll make a yummy cup of Tea + Honey as an afternoon treat as well.  Like I said, it’s a personal trick so I wouldn’t expect this to work for everyone 🙂

 

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10 responses »

  1. Great post, Ashley! I’m gonna have to try to hide email trick and see if it works for me! I tend to read every email the second it gets to my inbox and it drives me crazy sometimes.

    Reply
    • Irene – You’d be surprised how much time it saves! Just remember to periodically check your email – it’s easy to forget about it without the little pop-up notifications. Thanks for the comment, Irene!

      Reply
  2. I use the candy trick too! My favorite is hershey kisses, I love M&M’s but will eat the whole bag, and then I end up with a sugar crash and waistline problems. I find individually packaged candies solves this problem. I drink coffee in the morning, but switch to tea in the p.m. Right now I am enjoying pomegranate raspberry green tea by Stash, its sweet and has caffeine.

    Reply
    • Where you do buy that tea?! I have the hardest time finding tea with caffeine and I lovelove fruity tea. My current favorite tea though is Vanilla Almond – I’m not sure what the brand is but I get it from World Market.

      Reply
  3. these are good tips!

    Reply
  4. Great tips! Ignoring email is the HARDEST though!

    Reply
    • It really is hard! The thing I dislike most about ignoring email is the possibility of forgetting to respond to an email because you didn’t work the situation immediately.

      Reply
  5. After we talked about hiding e-mail, I tried this trick and it only last a 30 minutes. Some people get used to the fact I respond to their e-mails quickly, so if I don’t respond in a quick turnaround, some will decide to call me or IM me, even if may not be an urgent issue. It’s a tough one, but those 30 minutes were pretty productive. 🙂 Good Post Ashley!!

    Reply
    • Haha it is hard! I agree – people get used to having quick replies, but then it becomes expected when a response isn’t priority. It take significant time out of your day to stop what you’re doing – respond to an email – then get back in the groove of what you were doing. It’s amazing how productive we are without constantly emailing! Thank you for the comment Miss Lisa 🙂

      Reply

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