Distracted? 5 Ways To Stay Focused

Are you finding it harder than ever to stay focused at work? Every day, people are bombarded with emails, gchats and other electronic disruptions and distractions from the task at hand.

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Indeed, according to a new study by LinkedIn of 6,580 professionals, only one out of ten workers said they actually accomplish each day what they set out to do -- and many cited electronic distractions.

Another recent survey, by the California-based staffing firm, The Creative Group, though, found that some 20th century distractions were to blame. Phone calls and people stopping by their desk came out on top among 500 advertising and marketing executives who responded to the Creative Group's questionnaire.

"The fact these were the top two things is actually kind of refreshing if you think about it. These are a lot more controllable than say all the e-mail notifications we get," says Greg Detter, a vice president at The Creative Group. But, he notes, "No one should remove these activities from their day. We just need to block time each day and quarantine them.

So how do you manage the constant interruptions and distractions so you actually get your work done? Here are five top suggestions from Detter and Tony Wong, a project manager for the technology services firm Neudesic and a frequent commentator on worker efficiency.

1. Identify the distraction. You can't address the problem until you acknowledge it. Whatever is your distraction of choice, you'll be much better to deal with it once you've called it out.

2. Prioritize. Which tasks need to get done immediately -- and which can wait until tomorrow? It sounds obvious, but if you focus on the most pressing, you'll be able to minimize the distractions.

3. Finish one task before starting another. All too often people are 70 percent done with 100 percent of their projects, rather than 100 percent done with 70 percent of projects, says Detter. What this means, of course, if you'll have nothing completed to show for your effort. Focus on getting one assignment done before starting the next.

4. Block out time for e-mails and phone messages. In most cases, personal interactions -- whether on the phone, or via email-- are the source of interruptions and distractions. So set aside a time when you'll be responding to emails and voicemails.

5. Take breaks. Whether it's a walk to get a cup of coffee or just to stretch your legs, most experts say you'll be more productive if you take a break every 60 or 90 minutes.

Looking for more insight into the problem? See the infographic below.

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Filed under: Social Media
Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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