The average American worker wastes a little over 2 hours a day out of the eight he or she gets paid for*. This is unbelievably great news if you are an employee. Why? Because you can learn how to stay focused at work and instantly become about 12.5% more efficient and effective than the average “schmo” clipping his toe nails in the cubicle next to you. It may also be the change you need to make in order to keep your job.
That’s right. While Jim and Mary are playing “Donkey Kong” and “Words with Friends” you’ll have your nose to the grindstone pumping out the work, getting results….and getting noticed.
This will catapult your career faster than you can say “corner office”. And the news gets even better. Staying focused is a skill you can easily acquire and is really the fastest way I know to get a promotion there is. With so much at stake, let’s get started. Here are the 5 steps you can use to stay focused at work.
1. Timely Tasks
If you’re going to be very focused at work, it’s really important that you focus on the right things. Create a list of your top three goals for the year, month and week and run them by your immediate supervisor to make sure your focus is consistent with hers. Depending on your position at work, you probably won’t need to run your daily goals by your manager but you might. If that is the case, be ready to share your daily goals as well.
This step has the added benefit of helping you really stand out from your peers. It’s called “being proactive”. I guarantee nobody else is having this conversation with the big cheese. They’re too busy updating their status on Facebook.
In my entire 30 year career as a small business owner no staff member has ever shown this kind of initiative. I can promise you that if someone did approach me like this, it would absolutely make me stand up and notice. It would also make me much more sympathetic if they came asking for a raise. Take advantage of this and use it to your benefit.
2. Night Moves
Take out your list of annual, monthly and weekly goals before you retire for the evening. Then, devise a plan to do 3 things tomorrow that will help you achieve those longer term goals. Write down what those three things are and about how much time during the day you plan on working on those items.
Be reasonable. There will be interruptions (which we’ll discuss below) and fires to put out. Inevitably you’ll have to put your plan aside during the day. It’s unavoidable. That’s why you should schedule no more than 1 hour per item on your list. If your day opens up and you have more time, keep going. But no matter what, put at least 1 hour per day toward each of your items. This is a crucial step towards career advancement.
3. Mess Around
Your plan must include some down time to allow you to let blow off some steam. Every two hours, take 10 minutes and walk around. Get some fresh air. Just move yourself. Do anything you like except use the computer. This applies especially to those who use social media to find a new job. Bad form if you do this at work Pilgrim.
I don’t know about you but once I start with personal stuff on the computer I can’t tear myself away. For example, if I tell myself I just want to check my email for a minute – it can quickly become an hour or two. Don’t fall into this trap.
Your workplace is full of Ninjas who want to get you into trouble. I’ve already mentioned how the computer diffuses your focus. People can be just as distracting. And so can the phone. Whatever it takes to make a safe and quiet space to work, do it. Shut the door. Disconnect the phone.
A little trick I use is a $10 timer. Let’s say I want to work on a project for an hour and do nothing else. At that point I start my timer. Then as interruptions come in I glance at my timer. If the one hour hasn’t passed yet, I ignore the interruption no matter what. This has really worked well for me and helps me be super productive at work. Give it a try.
Your laser focus is going to be one of the most important work skills you can offer an employer. Because it is so important, I suggest you enlist the help of an accountability partner to make sure you stay on the path.
Of course there are many software packages to help you stay focused on work, but I like having a human being to hold me responsible. At the end of the day simply send an email to your AP and tell her if you achieved your goals or not. How much time did you waste? What are you going to do differently tomorrow? Be bold. Make a commitment. Shout it out to the world.
Simply by making a promise to someone else your ability to stay focused at work will go up by at least 40%. At least that’s been my experience.
It’s impossible to stay focused all the time so please don’t expect perfection. But if you are able to implement these 5 tips and slash your down time by just 50%, think of how much more productive and valuable you’ll be.
What other tips can you share to help us be more focused at work?