5 Ways To Focus And Increase Productivity

Given the greater access to education and the prominent role of technology in our lives, young people are constantly being told to ‘dream big’, ‘reach for the stars’, and ‘be anything you want to be’. The reality is that while these messages may be encouraging and somewhat inspiring, millenials can often feel frustrated by the lack of immediate progress being made in their career. We expect the world at once, and are not taught to be patient.

This lack of progress can be greatly discouraging, and can have a real detrimental effect on focus. It’s easy to give in to distractions when you don’t feel enthused by what you’re doing, and it doesn’t help that due to the presence of smartphones and instant media, our attention spans are getting shorter. In order to avoid distractions and procrastination, you need to make an active effort to stay on task.

Here are five simple ways to help you maintain focus on what you’re aiming to achieve and avoid the dreaded procrastination that you feel so tempted to engage in.

Limit Access To Your Mobile Phone

One of the most common forms of distraction is your mobile phone. That may not seem shocking to you, as you’re probably holding your phone in your hand right now. Mobile phones are a wonderful piece of technology, allowing us to connect with our friends, family, and colleagues whenever we need to. The downside is, of course, how they can hinder productivity.

Instead of switching your phone off, you can take two simple actions to mitigate the distractions it brings. Firstly, delete the social media apps from your phone. Having them ready and accessible is a recipe for procrastination — if you really need to access social media, you’ll be able to do so via a web browser, or simply by downloading the apps again. Secondly, take your phone off your desk so it is not within arm’s reach. Put it in your pocket, or in your desk drawer. If you can’t see it, you’ll think about it less.

Calculate How Much Procrastination Is Worth To You

If you are in full-time employment, procrastination is tantamount to time theft. If you are self-employed, procrastination will lead to loss of earnings. You can’t win! Try getting a good measure of how much your wasted time is worth by using this Procrastination Calculator from Nigel Frank. Spending 5 minutes an hour giving in to distractions may not seem like much, but over a week, a month, or a year that time really adds up, especially if you measure that time against your annual salary! This figure will be particularly horrifying if you are self-employed.

Learn How To Deal With Distracting Colleagues

While chatting to colleagues can be a welcome break from hard work, sometimes we find ourselves in an office with a particularly distracting person who loves nothing more than to inflict their lack of focus on others. You can’t hold a hand out in front of you and tell them to stop and there’s no polite way of telling someone to shut up, so you have to find ways of circumventing their distracting behavior.

A user on Reddit detailed an ingenious way of avoiding this type of colleague, by physically getting up and walking them back to their desk. This way you will still be engaging them without dismissing their conversation, only once they’ve finished making their point, you can politely acknowledge them before taking the opportunity to flee the scene. They’ll be sat back at their desk without knowing how they got there.

Use Parkinson’s Law

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you want something done, ask someone who is busy’? You may even relate to this, as producing efficient work when your back is against the wall is a common phenomenon — you’ve probably never been more productive than the day before an assignment deadline, for all it kills you.

Parkinson’s Law explains that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, meaning that the task at hand will take however long you give yourself to finish it. This article from Life Hack gives some great time management tips employing Parkinson’s Law, particularly the one relating to shortening your morning email check. You may find yourself doing more work in four hours than you previously did in eight.

Make The Most Of Your Breaks

There is a reason that employees are required to take compulsory breaks every couple of hours. The brain isn’t hardwired to focus on a single task for long hours and it will soon begin to shut down if you push too hard. Make the most of your breaks by completely removing yourself from your work station. Go outside, walk, eat, and do whatever it is that would otherwise be procrastination; do anything other than work to allow contrast.

Think of your brain like a sponge. It can only absorb so much information, and every so often it needs to be rung out by doing something relaxing or satisfying. By allowing yourself this all-important down time during your breaks, your brain is given a chance to reset back into work mode for when you return to your station.

Start using these 5 simple tips to see an immediate change in your work habits, and a more satisfying life away from work.


Chris Thompson is a technology and lifestyle writer with a keen interest in self-improvement. He enjoys music, yoga, dogs, and pizza, not necessarily all together.