Have you ever heard the term ‘context switching’? Even if you haven’t you probably do it all the time. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a piece of work and then you hear your email alert sound? It probably isn’t anything urgent and you know you could wait until you’ve finished what you’re doing. Yet somehow, you find yourself clicking onto your email to see what’s there. Does that sound familiar?
You might be surprised to know that even a few seconds looking away from the task in hand could really cost you in terms of time. Studies have shown that when you’re interrupted in the middle of something it will take you 25 minutes to regain your focus. That could mean that it takes you longer to get the task done. It could also mean that you miss something important or that your work is of a lower quality than it would otherwise have been. Only you will know how critical that could be.
Of course, there’s no way of getting rid of interruptions completely. The important thing is to plan your time and learn to avoid distracting yourself.
Managing your time
I know that it’s hard to concentrate intently for long periods. Your mind will naturally wander, particularly if you’re working on something complex.
There are two things that you can do to help you avoid this. Firstly, work out how long you can maintain focus before your mind starts to drift. Fans of the Pomodoro technique set a timer that allows them 25 minutes to work on a task then they take a 5 minute break. You might find that you can concentrate for a little longer but the technique gives a good starting point.
Secondly, break larger tasks down into smaller components. For me, this often depends on what a client has asked me to do. When I write client blog posts some want me to do all the research for them. Others give me background information so I can go straight into writing the blog. I’ll always split researching, writing then proofreading and editing into separate tasks. It’s helped my time management but also means that if I’ve made a mistake I’m more likely to spot it!
Working like this will help you to focus because you’ve given yourself a limited amount of time to get the job done. So far, I confess that I haven’t used a timer but I often use incentives to keep myself on track. Finishing within my deadline means there’ll be time for a cup of tea. I find that I’m not tempted to stray onto social media or check my email.
It also means that you can build up to completing one large task by accomplishing smaller ones. It makes the bigger projects seem less daunting when you realise they’re made up of smaller, achievable, component parts.
Build in something boring
Let’s face it, most of us have a mixture of interesting and mundane jobs to do. Building the boring tasks into your schedule could improve your concentration as it gives your brain a break.
I hope you’ve found this useful – if you have any productivity tips to share please drop me a comment below!
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For more information about the Pomodoro technique visit their website: <http://pomodorotechnique.com/