Have you noticed this time of year that you have to refocus on work over and over to make it through the day? The sun is shining, the wildflowers are blooming—and you’d rather be someone, ANYWHERE besides your desk.
But here we are, and stuff still needs to get done. So how do we refocus on work? We found a few tips—some common sense, others off-the-wall—that you might want to try.
Don’t Ignore Your Health
First-thing’s-first: Don’t overlook a medical reason you’re unable to refocus on work when you get distracted. Symptoms like headaches, brain fog, and forgetfulness can be signs of potentially serious health problems that should be addressed right away. Losing focus and an inability to refocus on work can also indicate ADHD, hormone or thyroid problems, anxiety, depression or any number of underlying causes of poor concentration. The rest of these tactics won’t work if there’s a health reason at the core of your lack of focus.
David Allen, author of the popular book Getting Things Done, says that when you’re feeling overwhelmed about how much needs to be done, focus is essentially thrown out the window. The cure? “Feelings of being overwhelmed, stress and anxiety are caused by mental overload. There is a limit to how much ‘unresolved stuff’ the mind can hold,” Allen writes. He offers a five-phase approach in which you can collect, process, organize, do and review what needs to be done. Motivation expert Dean Bokhari offers a summary of the book and approach here.
Tomato Tom-AH-to Time Management
Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? We hadn’t, either. But it’s likely you’re familiar with the concept. “Pomodoro” is Italian for “tomato.” We know that doesn’t clear up the mystery, but this should: The technique is named for the common tomato-shaped timer. It’s the original practice of setting a timer for, say, 25 minutes (during which time you focus intently), followed by a short break. Monster.com explains it here.
The average worker experiences 77 distractions a week, which is one distraction every 31 minutes. Separate research claims it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on work after each distraction. That means most of us enjoy less than 8 minutes of productivity before the next distraction. Maddening, isn’t it? Some of the biggest distractions include chatty coworkers (both in person and on collaboration channels), office noise, personal device and internet usage, meetings, and email. It’s important to understand what distraction triggers you experience and take steps to reduce them. Turn off notifications on your phone, mute unnecessary email alerts, and close irrelevant tabs on your computer. Consider using productivity tools like website blockers or noise-canceling headphones to create a distraction-free zone.
If you haven’t experienced burnout at any point in the past three years, you’re in denial. By 2021, Nearly three in five employees reported negative impacts of burnout, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). About 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019. These are all very real reasons you may not be able to refocus on work. Check out our past tips on relieving burnout and setting boundaries at work.
In the end, sometimes a workplace culture just isn’t conducive to productivity. If you’ve tried it all and still find it hard to refocus on work, you may not be the problem. It may be time to find a job that better fits your work style.