“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it to the core of their working life, will thrive.”
Focus is a key resource that we have available to enable us to live fulfilling and successful lives and it is needed more now than ever in the dynamic world in which we live.
Researchers tell us it is essential for peak performance, connection and wellbeing and yet the average knowledge worker focuses on one task for a maximum of 11 minutes each day with their attention moving between tasks on average every 20 seconds (Gallup and WHO).
The world we live is constantly trying to get our attention whether it be the media, our emails, our colleagues or the notifications on our devices all making it hard to focus on one thing at a time. On average people check their email 36 times per hour, have 56 interruptions per day resulting in only 2.3 hours of productive work each day (Gallup, American Institute of Stress and WHO).
The evidence is clear and yet we continue to work and live distracted. Our ability to focus is costing us on so many levels and each and every one of us has the ability to make change in our own lives. Here’s some simple ideas to consider for increasing focus in your own life.
1. Get crystal clear on your priorities for the next day
Before the end of your working day, get clear on what your top 3 priorities are for the next day. Make sure you know what success will look like for these items and that you have everything you need to be able to compete them. This will give you a quick start the next day and the clarity to stay focused when less important things compete for your attention.
2. Work with your biology not against it
Most of us are at our peak focus and energy levels before 11 am. This is the time when our mind is clearest, and we are most likely to have our best ideas and do our best work. Rather than starting your day answering emails or returning phone calls, ruthlessly protect the first 90 minutes of your day so that you tackle your hardest and most important work. Not only will you feel good having done it, but this feeling will feed into the rest of your day.
3. Take control of your email
On average, knowledge workers receive at least 200 messages a day and spend about two-and-a-half hours reading and replying to emails (Forbes). Not only is this a huge amount of time but it is often time that is not directed at your most important tasks. Consider creating email free blocks of times when your email is off and you can work without interruption. Not only does this stop the temptation to answer emails but it alters the expectations of others and enables a new culture to emerge.
4. Measure in output not input
Many of us are constantly on, working longer hours and trying to cram more into our days. We think that this will enable us to get more done, yet research shows us that at some point, working longer becomes counter-productive and we receive significant diminishing returns. Stop focusing on time invested but think more about output. This way we focus on bringing our most focused and rested self to the task at hand and build in active recovery time every day rather than staying longer to extract that little bit more.
Research shows us that 33% of working adults report sleeping six or fewer hours per night. Many of us think we can get away with 5-6 hours of sleep a night and still perform at our best. Yet the research conclusively shows us that we need at least 7 hours a night no matter who we are. Think about how it feels when we have slept well and tackle a challenging day versus after a poor night of sleep. The results are incomparable. Develop a sleep routine with consistent bedtimes and wake up times no matter the day of the week or week of the year and take steps to become technology free in the lead up to bedtime.
Each and every one of these ideas are simple and yet take commitment and effort but think what could be possible if you made the change?
Five Ways to More Focus — Corporate Health, Workplace Wellness & Wellbeing is written by Amanda McMillan for www.wellineux.com