It may seem impossible to stay on track during workdays in a world filled with competing priorities and constant pings. If you've been having a tough time staying focused as well, worry not; you're not alone.
With that in mind, next time you feel stress creeping up while at work, try these five simple hacks that'll quickly allow you to take charge of your mind and develop laser-like focus.
1. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
We've all gone through this: you complete a series of tasks only to realize that most were, well, pointless. If you hate it when that happens, the Eisenhower Decision Matrix should help you ensure it never happens again.
Also referred to as an Urgent-Important Matrix, the Eisenhower Matrix helps you prioritize and decide on tasks by importance and urgency, sorting out the less important and urgent tasks you should either delegate or not work on altogether.
To use this system, you create four quadrants with different work strategies. The first quadrant is called the "Do First" quadrant, and it features a list of essential tasks you should start with. A great example could be reviewing a crucial document for your boss.
The third quadrant is called the "Delegate." It features urgent but less essential tasks you should delegate to others. An example of this could be suggesting a better person for a job handed to you.
The last but by no means least quadrant is the "Don't Do" Quadrant. It features things that are neither important nor urgent. As such, these shouldn't be done at all.
After creating your Eisenhower decision matrix, only focus on tasks in the first and second quadrant.
2. Manage Your Energy
Your ability to manage your energy is essential for maximum productivity. As you already know, we all have distinct internal rhythms (hence the existence of early birds and night owls.) To take advantage of your inner rhythm, start by figuring out when you're most effective and focused.
If it's early in the morning, make sure all major and urgent projects align with that timeframe.
3. Reward Yourself
If the day is well past the period you're most effective, use reward systems to help you stay focused on work. For instance, promise to get yourself a cup of your favorite coffee when you're done with the tasks at hand.
To stay focused the rest of the day, give your mind something to look forward to, such as taking a long, hot bath or watching an episode of your favorite podcast.
4. Write Down Distracting Thoughts
Even the most dedicated workers have to deal with distracting thoughts from time to time.
When these thoughts pop up, most individuals do one of two things. They either dismiss the idea and prevent getting distracted or chase it and head off on a new tangent.
If you're the second type, a better approach is to allow the thoughts, then quarantine them. For example, if you remember you’re yet to create a grocery shopping list, write down the idea on a notepad and explore it later.
Knowing you can get back to something in the future allows you to give closure to your thoughts without having to detract from your current focus.
5. Take Short Breaks
Sometimes, when none of the tips above can help you get your mind back on track, the best thing to do is take a break. After all, our brains aren't designed to retain attention for extended periods. Couple that with the fact you've been staring at the screen for hours on end, and you'll see why fatigue and lethargy could be creeping in.
The solution? According to the Journal Cognition, you should take short breaks after every 60 minutes of continuous work.