The modern day workspace practically begs us to procrastinate on our professional responsibilities. From the Internet to iPhones to everything in between, it’s no wonder that we’re always checking on something “just for a minute.” I, for one, am totally guilty of becoming distracted throughout the work day. Because I work on the computer for most of the day, most of my choice distractions come in the form of web browsing (Pinterest, anyone?).
I also think that the standard advice about closing Internet tabs or setting a time limit for mindless browsing is a bit short-sighted. Yes, people with a tremendous amount of discipline could probably follow such protocol, but for the majority, knowing we’re forbidden from doing something usually only serves to strengthen our desire to act out. Thankfully, there are ways to be productive without completely depriving yourself of a little down time.
1. Choose a random object to keep you on task.
If you struggle to focus on a project for an extended period of time, consider placing an uncharacteristic object on your desk. This could be some knitting needles, a candle, or any manner of trinkets that you will stand out to you when you’re seated at your desk. Make sure it is always in your line of sight, and let whatever object you choose serve as a reminder to stay on task.
2. Music matters.
If you enjoy listening to music at your desk, consider that the type of music you listen to matters just as much as the fact that you’re listening. Often, I find that listening to classical or jazz actually encourages distractions because it’s soft and methodical (i.e., easy to tune out and lead my thoughts astray). Instead, choose to listen to something that will keep you on your toes and motivate you to finish that report. This will differ from person to person–I enjoy listening to upbeat alternative music while working, even though I much prefer blues or folk at other times.
3. Stock up on snacks.
There’s nothing worse than hitting a 3 pm slump, or feeling your hollow belly for most of the morning. But beyond basic hunger needs, not eating will cause lethargy, and that will in turn make it harder to focus on your work. The type of snacks you have matters, too: homemade energy balls with dried fruit and nuts are a great option, as are high protein snacks like roasted chickpeas. Conversely, remember not to eat too much, which will induce a sleepy state and you’ll probably end up scanning Instagram for wayyy too long (guilty). And most importantly: don’t skip breakfast!
4. Take a lunch break.
I’m the first to admit that I often work through lunch, opting to eat my lunch in front of my computer as opposed to sitting outside. If you live in a place with difficult winters like I do, going outside isn’t an option for about five months of the year. Still, try to eat in the lunch room or in a coffee shop a few times a week. It’s a simple change, but you will feel revitalized and ready to cruise through the afternoon if you implement it.
5. Stay organized.
As with most productivity-related issues, keeping an organized working space can certainly enhance your work performance. As soon as you’ve had your lunch, bring your empty containers to the kitchen or place them in your purse. Try not to let papers or books pile up or strewn haphazardly around your workspace. I guarantee that a clean environment will motivate you to stay on task!
How do you stay focused through your tasks? What’s your ideal distraction free work space?
Also by Molly: A Day in the Life of a Peaceful Dumpling Editor
Photo: Kevin Morris via Flickr