The overabundance of technology in modern life has resulted in a largely distracted society, says Bruce Sandy, principal at Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting in Vancouver.
Our declining ability to focus has a major impact on productivity. When we’re trying to multitask, for example, our productivity is reduced by 40%, Sandy says. And each time we’re interrupted, it takes approximately 25 minutes to get back on track.
Our intelligence takes a hit, too, says Sandy: “Multitasking leads to a drop of 15 points in one’s IQ.”
Here are three tips to increase your focus at work:
1. Practice deep breathing
Take three to five “deep belly breaths” every time you make the transition from one activity to another, Sandy advises.
You can practice this exercise before calling a client, for example, or before entering a meeting.
“Breathing is an automatic response,” Sandy says. “But people forget to take deep breaths, which is the easiest way to stay grounded and focused.”
2. Limit distractions
Between our mobile devices, desktop computers and even landline telephones, we’re exposed to excessive amounts of technology, Sandy says. All of these minor interferences limit your ability to pay attention to one singular responsibility.
To make it easer to focus on one task at a time, turn off notifications on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
If you’re meeting with your clients, Sandy adds, try to create an environment in which your client’s needs are your only focus. Turn off all devices unless you’ll need to refer to them during the meeting.
3. Make a list of priorities
Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day, and tackle each one according to priority. Sandy recommends crossing each task off the list once it is completed.
This process creates a sense of accomplishment, Sandy says. Once an item is crossed off, you can free up mental space and direct more of your energy toward the next job.
If your to-do list becomes overwhelmingly long, try to delegate some of those other tasks, so you can focus on what’s most important.
4. Take regular breaks
Stop working every once in a while, so you can stretch, take a walk or enjoy a coffee break. Says Sandy: “This releases any extraneous stress so that you can return more focused.”