- 76 % of employees who work from home have distractions in their environment
- Focus: directing attention to our most important priorities
- Concentration: the ability to dive into a task and stay with it until the job is done
The New Reality
When the world had to shelter in place, many companies, large and small, had to slash their workforce and send their remaining employees home to work remotely. With unemployment in the United States reaching almost 40 million, and growing every week, even those of us that are currently employed wonder how long we are safe from the furloughs and business closings we see in the news and on social media every day. Some of us have had to make searching for work our new full-time job.
The stress of a pandemic can affect everything from our sleep patterns to our mental health. In the middle of a crisis that we were all unprepared for, and have little control over, what can we do to take our power back and FOCUS on the things that are most important? Once we know what to focus on, how can we CONCETRATE amidst the distractions, anxiety, and 24-hour news cycle?
The Solutions: Back to the Basics
Focus tells us what to do or think about, and concentration is the ability to dive into that thing and stay with it to get the job done. Focus and concentration suffer in times of uncertainty, and these are definitely those times. The stress of working from home in this crisis creates anxiety that adds to the normal work-from-home distractions. The phone notifications, the emails coming in 24/7, the emergency online meetings, the ever-changing policies and procedures, the pivot to keep our businesses relevant, and the constant onslaught of news about death tolls and politics are all vying for our attention. Add to that having kids that are stuck indoors, concerns over aging parents or at-risk loved ones, and the stress of just getting groceries and it is no wonder that so many who work from home are having a hard time concentrating on actual work.
So how do we overcome the obstacles of this new reality?
First, we have to narrow our focus. Warren Buffet’s famous 2-list strategy teaches us to eliminate the inessential to focus on what is most important to us. Studies have repeatedly shown that multi-tasking is damaging to productivity. Buffet’s simple system allows the user to harness the power of focus to get the most important tasks done each day.
Which is easier to accomplish, a to-do list with 5 items or one with 25 items? The 2-list strategy has us create a shorter to-do list with the most important tasks and then tackle those first, while completely ignoring the other list so that our focus is not split. When we accomplish what is most important, we are more productive, feel better about ourselves, and more optimistic about the future.
Ok. Once we know what we should focus on, how do we concentrate on those tasks amidst the constant distractions of our modern world? We must actively work to improve our concentration by eliminating the negative and adding some healthy habits. There are many resources on how to create a distraction-free environment, but in all of those lists of tips and tricks we see good nutrition, meditation or mindfulness, and sleep are important factors in our mental fitness.
Best 5 tips for improving concentration:
- Eat well – make sure you get enough protein and avoid excess alcohol, sugar, and caffeine.
- Sleep well – a healthy bedtime routine is the best way to train your body and mind to fall asleep faster and feel more rested in the morning.
- Work in blocks of time – set timers if helpful, and only work on one task at a time (see your list of what’s most important). Take regular breaks to reduce stress and refresh your mind. Have a definite beginning and end to your workday so you can get back to your family or hobbies without distraction or guilt.
- Eliminate interruptions while working – turn off the tv, silence phone or email notifications, free your workspace of clutter, and reduce distracting noise (some people benefit from white noise such as ocean sounds or calming music).
- Meditation, socializing, regular exercise, and doing activities we enjoy are all good for our mental health, which reduces anxiety and increases our ability to concentrate when we need to be productive. Make time for these things by putting them on your schedule.
Taking Back Our Power
Anxiety thrives in a mind that feels out-of-control, and greatly diminishes our ability to concentrate. Likewise, consciously implementing actions that clarify focus and improve concentration gives us back a sense of power and reduces anxiety. While there is a lot happening in the world that we cannot control, we have the power to list our most important tasks, concentrate on them one a time, improve our nutrition, and eliminate unnecessary distractions. Focus allows us to be more productive while also reducing stress because we are accomplishing our most important tasks each day. When we accomplish what is most important, we feel more confident and experience peace.
Can we really work on improving focus and concentration in the middle of a crisis? Yes! And we really need to, now more than ever.