You hear phones ringing, colleagues having a loud conversation and keyboards are making an excessive ammount of noise. Maintaining your focus can be hard, especially in a noisy, dynamic office environment. How to focus?
Getting into “the zone” feels great, time flies by and you get loads of work done. For most people this “state of flow” gives new energy. So, we want to get into a state of flow and focus, but how to do that? And, even more important, how to maintain focus for longer periods of time?
Staying focussed is hard, I struggled with it for a long time. But once your learn how to maintain and hold your focus, it becomes a sort of habit. It will become easier to really focus on the task at hand, blocking out surrounding noises of colleagues and ringing phones. This state of flow, the ultimate form of focus, will help you get more done in less time. And, just as important or perhaps even more important, when you achieve that state of flow you feel great. Maintaining your state of flow and focus will make you enjoy your work more.
The state of flow is triggered when you do things that are just beyond the level of what you can do. You need to push yourself to the limit, you give it all to get the daunting task done. The result is a tremendous feeling of achievement and accomplishment. Sounds good, right? So how to make sure you do the things that challenge you? And what to do when you are in “the zone” of flow and focus?
First of all, get rid of busy work. Try and eliminate it as much as possible, or if that is no option, try and delegate it to someone else. But the preferred option is to eliminate, because otherwise someone else will have to do your unwanted busy work.
Focussing on the things that motivate and challenge you are most likely the things that you like to do. Are these also the things you get paid to do? Then it is a win-win. Eliminate the trivial and focus on the things that motivate you.
Next up, how to make sure external factors cannot keep you from focussing.
Once you have selected the task, that motivates and challenges you, you should work on your surroundings. Are there any colleagues that might interrupt you? Are there any tasks you promised to do for someone? These colleagues are likely to interrupt you, while you are focussing and trying to get into that state of flow. So, let’s set clear rules of engagement.
It is okay to tell your colleagues that you are busy, and be upfront about it. Tell them how long you think that you are busy and tell them that, after you finish this, you will work on the promised task or project (only if you are able to do so, of course). It is best to be honest upfront, instead of saying “I did not yet have time to do X or Y for you” afterwards, this will just cause disappointment.
Setting clear rules to mitigate the chance of being interrupted results in a longer time for you to remain focussed. So once you get into your flow you are more likely to hold onto it for a longer period of time.
Next, create the perfect environment to get stuff done.
By now you colleagues know when they can ask questions and you have chosen a challenging task. Next, we will create the ultimate environment for you to get stuff done.
This depends on what you like. Do you like to work in a noisy, dynamic environment or do you prefer a silent, zen-like environment better? If you choose the latter, obviously try to move somewhere more quite. Think about an empty meeting room where you might be able to sit and work for an hour or so. If that is no option than you might want to try headphones which block noise.
Do you like to focus but you cannot change location and your office is very noisy? No worries. With a headphone on you can block external noise better. And, it also gives off a signal that you are busy. Win-win, right? If you like to work with music playing in the background, even better. Else you might want to plug in some earphones or put on some headphones, without really listening to music. The silence can be beneficial for helping you maintain focus.
With all the ingredients in place – the challenging task, clear communication with colleagues and an optimal environment – nothing stands in the way between you and a state of flow. How to focus? Well this is how.
So, what’s next? Well, try and do the above as soon as you can. Go get focussed. Once you get the hang of it, you will see that it becomes easier over time to maintain your focus.