There are so many distractions these days and this can make getting work done hard. The phone rings, a friend sends a text message, an email pops into your Inbox, or the office is open plan and colleagues are chatting next to you, distracting you.

The distractions are many and ubiquitous. So what can you do to focus and get work done? Here are 12 tips!

12 tips on focusing and getting work done

1. Check Emails at Specific Times Only & Turn Off Notifications

Emails can be extremely distracting I think you’ll agree.

Sometimes we use emails as an excuse to procrastinate or as a type of gratification as checking emails makes us feel as though we are doing something and we are in touch with the outside world.

By all means, check emails but why not choose specific designated times such as first thing in the morning and then an hour before the close of business?

This way, you will not disrupt your focus when you are working on a task that requires concentration.

2. Allocate Large Chunks of Time to Important Tasks

If you want to focus and enter a state of flow with your work, it is important to allocate large chunks of time to the most important and hard tasks.

Continuous interruptions are bad not only because of the time taken during the interruption itself but also because it usually takes time to get back into what we were doing before.

If you need to refocus and gather your thoughts again after each interruption, you will never work at your full potential.

3. Complete the Most Important Task First

It is so easy to choose and tackle the small, quicker, and easier tasks first at work.

There is often a sense that the more tasks we get done the better we are doing.

The problem with this though is that tasks that are more important end up continually getting pushed down the road.

After checking emails and doing 1 – 3 quick and easy-to-complete tasks, tackle one big task head-on!

If you finish before the day’s end, then you can easily then get some more small tasks done.

4. Take Regular Breaks

Work coffee break

This point might seem to run contrary to the idea of getting more work done.

Taking breaks though can be essential for aiding productivity levels as many studies have shown.

Rather than the amount of time we spend working on a task, it is as much about the quality and productivity levels we have whilst working and breaks can greatly aid these productivity levels.

Take breaks to avoid burnout and look after your mental well-being.

5. Learn How to Say ‘No’

Learning to say no

Learning how and when to say ‘no’ is also extremely important.

Even outside of your work, saying ‘no’ is, for many of us, the most difficult thing to do because we feel guilty or because we feel that we may miss out on something (FOMO) or let other people down.

In a work situation, we have to of course do what our superiors ask us to do, but there are many other work situations when we DO have a choice and can say no.

It is essential to always keep an eye on the big picture so that you focus on what helps you achieve your goals.

Do not feel guilty if you have to say ‘no’ more often to requests from colleagues that would otherwise be a real distraction for you and that are not essential.

Likewise, if you work from home, do not be afraid to say no sometimes to family or friends if the request does not support your goals or the direction you want to take.

6. Materials and Focus

Another handy technique is to gather all the materials together that you need for a task and move all irrelevant materials away.

If you gather all materials you need together, you will not waste time looking for them.

Similarly, everything you need will be easier to find if there is no clutter in the way, acting as a distraction.

You can extend this idea to making sure that your desk and work area is free of clutter and distractions!

A clear workspace helps you to keep a clear mind and, as above, to find everything you need faster.

7. Put Your Mobile Phone in a Drawer or Bag

Phone work distractions

You naturally will want to keep your phone within distance so that if it rings, you have the chance to answer it.

So many of us though also get so easily distracted by text messages and apps on our phones that we spend countless minutes (and sometimes hours) using our phones unnecessarily.

If having more focus and getting more work done is what you are looking to achieve, and if your personal phone is not central to your job, hide it away for a few hours. Stick it in a drawer for example!

8. Use Music to Get in the Groove

Provided you do not need to answer phones, then consider using relaxing music and headphones to put yourself into a relaxed state such that you get into a flow with your work.

Instrumental music can be especially good (try Ludovico Einaudi) and if you work alone consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Whatever music works best for you, get into the flow, relax, and be productive.

9. Avoid Social Media During the Work Day

Social media is one of the biggest distractions in terms of how we lose time and get distracted and unfocused.

There is of course nothing wrong at all with using social media but, unless it is part of your job, allocate a certain time for checking social media.

You might want to have 15 minutes at lunchtime to check your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram but also do not forget to try and use your breaks to move, as discussed in the next point.

10. Moving and Staying Healthy

When we feel healthy and relaxed, it is far easier to be more focused and productive.

One of the best things you can do is to make sure to move, i.e., stand up and go for a short walk during your breaks.

Even if walking up a few flights of stairs or walking around the block, moving is proven to greatly aid our health.

Moving even just a little bit more each day can have great health benefits and when you do get back to work you will feel more energized.

11. Batch Similar Tasks Together

Dealing with similar tasks one after the other can help as we may need similar resources for each, so we can double up or find everything we need more easily.

12. Have Clear Goals and Avoid Perfectionism

It is hard to be productive if you do not have clear goals and a vision of what you want and need to achieve.

Set clear goals for the day and week.

Furthermore, avoid trying to always be perfect in your work. Perfectionism can stop you from completing a task in time.

Do your very best but also accept that sometimes, to get tasks completed, we have to keep moving forward.

Training course materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono