How to Focus at Work

Tips to Help you Focus & Get More Done in the Office

Most people begin their days by checking email and reading the newspaper. To me, this is counter-intuitive. I like to use the mornings for my most challenging tasks--the ones that require the greatest amount of focus--and reserve the afternoons for busy work. Either way, learning to focus at work when necessary is an important skills, and these tips will help.
  • 01 of 07

    Stop yourself from procrastinating before you even begin.

    How to focus at work
    Why decluttering is a waste of time. Death to the Stock Photo

     It's easy to get distracted and then begin procrastinating. But if you observe when you begin, it's easier to stop yourself from procrastinating

  • 02 of 07

    Keep your To Do list action-oriented.

    Gary S. Chapman / Getty Images. Gary S. Chapman / Getty Images

    A perfectly organized to-do list may never happen, but an action-oriented to-do list is easy to organize. Instead of saying "finish TPS report" try "draft/proofread/send out TPS report." This way your mind focuses on the action, not the TPS report in general.

    Another advantage to action-oriented To Do lists is that writing them (or typing them) in this fashion forces you to think of where you will accomplish these tasks. Is this a call you can make from your desk? An errand you...MORE need to run? Something to raise in a meeting? Do you need quiet time to concentrate on writing or planning? Placing an action word in from of the task will help you focus on where, when and how it will get done.

  • 03 of 07

    Use checklists.

    Clipboard by The Macbeth Collection
    Clipboard by The Macbeth Collection. Photo / The Macbeth Collection

    When I start a new project, the first thing I do is create a checklist. This does three things:

    1. A checklist lays things out for my co-workers and collaborators so they know exactly what I’m doing. It’s a great way to communicate and work with others without being overly fussy or in-your-face.
    2. Using a checklist means nothing will be missed. Because it forces you to complete the task and then take a moment to check it off, even experienced surgeons and pilots use checklists, just to be safe. That...MORE second step, the checkoff, is so crucial, and I find checking something off to be very satisfying.
    3. Creating a checklist forces me to think through a project before I’ve started, and using it during a project helps me to tailor and refine the process mid-project. If something seems redundant or unnecessary, it can be removed.
  • 04 of 07

    Tackle your "big think" tasks in the morning.

    Cabo Basket Rectangular by Design Ideas - Large
    Cabo Basket Rectangular by Design Ideas. Photo / Design Ideas

    The morning is the best time of day to do your big thinking, because our willpower is at it's highest point. We are most likely to stay focused on challenging tasks first thing in the morning, so plan to do your most important, challenging work in the morning, leaving the afternoon for research, meetings, catch-up and planning. Incorporate your energy levels into your daily routine to be more productive. 

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Don't send emails until you're ready to focus on the response.

    James Baigrie / Getty Images

    I find a lot of people read and respond to emails as soon as they get into work. I scan email first thing but I don’t read or respond until later in the day. Why? Once I send an email, I’m waiting for its response, no matter how mundane the topic, which leads me to checking my emails more throughout the day. Instead, I wait until after 3 p.m. to send email, check Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    Caveats are urgent emails, emails you need to send at specific times per your job, or anything from your boss...MORE that needs to be responded to immediately.

  • 06 of 07

    Or, commit to only checking your email a few times a day.

    Productive woman talking on iPhone while using computer

     Sometimes this isn't practical, but I work with plenty of people who only check their emails 2-3 times a day. This stops you from constantly interrupting yourself every time you see or hear a new email come in. Try it for one day and see how it goes. Schedule time to check it at say, 10am, 1pm and 3pm. 

  • 07 of 07

    Schedule Facebook time.

    Facebook. Photo / Facebook

    If you’re going to post something on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, I suggest you do this after 3 p.m. This way your friends and family will have time to respond, and you will have only wasted 2 hours of your day checking responses and feedback, not the entire day, if you post something in the a.m.

    You could say "I'm not going to go on Facebook," and that would definitely increase your focus at work, but if you're not ready to go cold turkey, scheduling 30 minutes a day, or...MORE putting it off as long as possible, is a good solution to the Facebook time-suck.