The #1 Killer of Focus in the Workplace

There is no day more frustrating than when you have tons of work to get through, yet a complete lack of focus to get through it all. Workplace performance is intrinsically tied to focus, we all know that. So why can I be so difficult to getting focused and getting work done? The ability to focus is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to getting work done, no amount of technology, brains, nor brawn, can contribute what focus can to our productivity and performance.

So, what’s holding you back?

Distraction. The #1 focus killer.

In his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” Nicholas Carr explains “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”

In all honesty, I have no idea why people are hard-wired like this, but it’s the reality, and we can’t just shy away from it! We can deny it all we like, but from my own experiences, I know it is one of the main obstacles in the way of my productivity and performance every day I step into the office!

What I do know is that distraction is rife in the workplace, and in everyday life. With the uptake on digitalisation over the last 10-20 years, distraction has been multiplied tenfold, to the point where we are able to be pushed and pulled in various directions on different platforms, all at the same time. From email and instant messages to the internet and social media, distraction is always an option.

Distractions happen to the average worker every 11 minutes. I bet you have even picked up your phone multiple times whilst reading this!

The scariest thing about focus is that many studies have shown us that, on average, it takes between 20 to 25 minutes for us to regain our full focus after being distracted.

Did you do the maths?

This means that, on average, you will most likely be distracted a second time before you can even regain full focus again from the first distraction!

That is terrifying.

What do you do then?!

The real question isn’t how we get rid of workplace distractions, but how we manage them successfully! We need to first clarify that there are four types of distractions;

  1. Relevant
  2. Important
  3. Interesting
  4. Enjoyable

We could bulk this out and add more, but in general, these are the four main types you will experience in your day to day activities. To clarify further, a phone call from your child’s school may not be relevant nor enjoyable, but it could most certainly be important. The same examples apply for when that wee chime goes off letting you know you’ve got mail. Therefore, we must be careful to clearly identify and categorise distractions and not try to eliminate them completely. We must first take the task at hand, and ask ourselves, is this potential distraction relevant, important, interesting or enjoyable?

This is the balance you need to have, understanding that we all live in the real world, distractions are around every corner, there is no getting away from them, and the reality is that we shouldn’t try and get away from them all. Some distractions are important and relevant and need to be addressed, considered, and acknowledged. The key takeaway here is that you need to clearly anticipate, evaluate, and understand the distractions you face, and understand what category they fall into, and therefore the impact you allow them to have on your focus.

The ability to stay focused in the workplace, and to avoid distractions, is crucial to producing greater results and becoming increasingly productive with your time, efforts, and energy.