5 Things You Didn’t Realize Are Sabotaging Your Focus

Stressed woman looking out the window

The digital age didn’t exactly come with a warning label for its high dose of distraction, but thankfully there are ways to combat our diversion-heavy daily lifestyles. The first step, of course, is identifying what exactly is keeping you from focusing so that you can know how to combat the triggers and bad habits. First step: focus on this article long enough to get through the whole thing.

Not making a daily plan.

Schlepping to the office, throwing your coat onto your second assistant’s desk, and diving headfirst into work isn’t quite the power move Miranda Priestley would have you believe it is. Take some time at the beginning of your day to scan the calendar and jot (or type) down a plan of attack. Checking your progress throughout the day will help you stay on top of what needs to get done and when, without constantly panic-scanning your memory for that thing that you KNOW you have to do but just can’t remember.

Staying “always on.”

Keeping a constantly-running stream of communication open (i.e. endless Slack notifications or obsessively checking your inbox) is the best way to repeatedly pull yourself away from the task at hand. Even at home, checking your phone every time it vibrates can keep you from getting things done and clipping through your to-do list, or even just enjoying a little time spent away from the never-ending information influx. The answer to the always-on dilemma? Designate specific times throughout the workday to clear out communication channels, and keep your phone on silent (or even better, resting with a candle) when you’re at home.

Open floor plans.

If you work in a modern, forward-thinking office space that has done away with those pesky walls to encourage collaboration and accountability, we’re happy for you and your increased sunlight exposure. But your productivity levels probably feel differently after the 18th time you hear that colleague sigh aggressively from behind the divider. There are ways to combat the distraction-heavy environment of the open office, though. A solid set of soundproof headphones are key to creating a personal bubble. Even if you’re one of those workers who can’t write an email while rap lyrics run between your ears, there are options like classical music or even white noise tracks to blur out the outside world instead. Some offices are even testing out ‘do not disturb’ signs to help colleagues set healthy boundaries.

Not taking a break.

Maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but working through your lunch hour isn’t actually helping you be more productive. Your brain needs time to decompress and regroup, and will actually be better served by taking a stroll through the park than eating a sad desk lunch in front of your computer. Taking a quick break, even just to doodle, stretch, or listen to some music, helps you shift mental gears in between projects and re-energizes you before diving into more work. 

Too much caffeine.

We know, we start our days off with a morning shot of caffeinated liquid too, but that coffee may not be jumpstarting your brain wires as much as you think. Caffeine is a stimulant and will definitely wake you up, but doesn’t actually contain anything on a chemical level to help you focus. It’s definitely helpful when combined with other natural ingredients, but maybe swap that third cup of the day out for a quick yoga routine instead.