Working from home has become the new normal for many people, and there is no shortage of concentration killers. I admire parents of young children who are particularly challenged to divide their focus in the quest to balance work and family life. Social media’s essential roles, the ever-present smartphones and other digital devices only make it even more challenging to concentrate on the job at hand during work hours.
Social media — the number one concentration killer
It takes willpower to avoid social media while working. You may think a quick glance to check a status update can do no harm. However, every time you do that, you’ll have to backtrack when you turn your attention back to your job. Importantly, this can happen many times per hour, and you might have to spend extra hours working to stay up to date.
The only fix to kill the social media culprit is not to log in to social media accounts while working. If you can’t resist the temptation, use your breaks to come up to speed, but log out again after your break.
Overflowing email inbox can break your concentration for hours
Even work-related emails can cause time-consuming distractions from the current project that needs your full attention. Unless you expect an urgent email, set aside an hour or two to check and reply to emails. Essentially, this will allow both tasks your full attention, and both getting done without interruptions.
Caller ID can avoid cell phone concentration killers
The ringing of a cell phone is difficult to ignore, but every call you take disrupts your current task. Make full use of the caller ID facility. It will allow you to identify urgent calls and send the rest to voicemail. Another option is to put your cell phone on silent mode and check for missed calls and messages during breaks.
Multitasking and concentration don’t always go together
The art of multitasking is not as beneficial as it might seem. Instead of getting things done quicker, shifting your focus between different tasks could take longer than it would by paying full attention to each task in turn.
Distractions when doing boring tasks
In every job, there are those mundane, tedious tasks to do. Those are the times when it is most challenging to remain focused. However, maintaining concentration can get boring jobs done quickly. Promise yourself a reward like a 10-minute coffee break as soon as you’re done.
Errands and other nagging thoughts
This could be a particular concentration killer if you work from home. It’s almost impossible not to think about laundry, grocery shopping, what to make for dinner and remembering to defrost the meal’s frozen ingredients. This is where planning and making notes come in. Once you have written it down, you’ll be able to let them go.
Work overload cause stress
Stress can result from having too much to do in the time you have to do it. Stress makes it difficult to concentrate; it also causes headaches, tight shoulders and a racing heart. However, techniques like meditation can reduce stress and improve your concentration abilities. Look for a local meditation class or do it online.
Fatigue and concentration are enemies
Too little sleep will cause fatigue, and once you start yawning and feeling dozy, chances of concentrating on the task at hand are few. Along with getting enough sleep, another fix is to take note of the times when you are most alert. Then, schedule the tasks that need the most concentration for those times.
Your brain needs fuel to focus
Don’t skip meals. Research shows that hunger impairs concentration and short term memory. Breakfast is essential for providing your brain with fuel. You could get away with snacks instead of lunch if you avoid sweets and stick to high proteins like nuts and cheese. However, your ability to concentrate throughout the afternoon will improve if you allow yourself a change of scenery. Take a lunch break away from your work area, and you will be refreshed when you return.