Distraction can destroy our workdays and productivity, and it has unfortunately become a daily habit for many of us. The stress of the pandemic and global events does not help, and neither does our increasing dependence on devices that are often specifically designed to pull our attention away. However, it’s possible to exercise your mind and retrain yourself into a habit of deep focus. Here are three practices you can try to get you started:

Build Awareness

This will take some practice, but try to notice what pulls you away from work. Is it your email? Your phone? The most common cue for distraction is the noise your mobile device or computer makes when you receive a new email or text message. If it is possible within your workday, schedule a time when you can silence notifications and concentrate on work. With notification cues reduced, you’ll be able to begin a practice of better focus.

Break Down Projects into Small Tasks

We usually procrastinate and purposely search for distraction when we’re overwhelmed, a common feeling when we tackle large projects that take weeks to complete. To help reduce that feeling of exhaustion, break your project down into small steps (and if you still feel an urge to procrastinate, break down those steps even smaller) and set yourself rewards. For example, you can give yourself a stretch break once you complete each task. Over time, you will build a focus resilience and be able to concentrate for longer, giving you the ability to create more valuable work.

Make Time for Reflection

Sometimes we enjoy getting distracted by easy tasks like checking our email. We can get through these tasks quickly, which gives us the satisfaction of having completed at least one item on our to-do list. But by the end of the day, we’ve often swept all our most important tasks—usually ones that require deep concentration—under the rug. One way we can break the habit of being busy is to schedule time for reflection. This may sound and feel like simply doing nothing, but reflection has been scientifically proven to help improve our memory, concentration, and critical thinking skills. Carving out time each week for reflection can help you consolidate everything you’ve achieved and prepare for the week ahead.

These strategies are effective in helping us focus better in a world that constantly demands our attention. For more information on productivity, check out our blog Productivity Tips for Working from Home.

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