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Improving Your (And Your Team’s!) Concentration at Work

Stay focused on the computer through the day

We’ve all been there before. You’re at work, but your mind’s not. You can’t seem to focus on the work in front of you, no matter how hard you try. Your thoughts just keep drifting to other things, whether that’s a personal matter, the show you watched last night, your plans for the weekend or the latest bit of juicy gossip you heard about one of your colleagues.

And if you work from home, it’s even harder to remain on task. One second, the kids need help with homework, the next second the dog is begging to go outside. The television, the neighbours’ noise, the construction down the street — it all adds to your lack of concentration.

So, how can you improve your concentration and stay focused on your work, for better results and decreased stress (because, let’s face it, all that inability to focus is definitely not helping your stress levels)? It turns out, it’s easier to improve your concentration than you likely think.

What Exactly is Concentration?

Concentration is so much more than just the ability to focus on one task at a time. While concentration is considered the ability to direct your attention to a single object or task, there are actually varying levels of concentration. The highest level of concentration is sometimes referred to as the “flow state,” wherein you’re totally absorbed by what you’re doing, you can’t be distracted, your mind is working at impressive speeds and your senses are working overtime. Sometimes, this flow state is referred to as being “in the zone.”

Does a flow state sound like exactly what you’d like to experience as you sit down to work on your next big project?

Concentrating at work is not always easy, but here are some tips

Well, you can. You can harness the power of concentration in order to direct all of your mental effort toward the task at hand, so you can improve both your work life and career. Harnessing your concentration and making it work for you, not against you, can help you to learn new skills, achieve your goals and overall increase your performance — whether you’re at work or even pursuing a leisurely hobby or other enjoyable activity.

The Ramifications of Poor Concentration

While enhanced concentration comes with big benefits, the costs of poor concentration are mammoth. In fact, according to one survey, distracted employees could cost businesses upward of $650 billion per year, as nearly three-fourths of all employees report they feel distracted at work, with nearly a fifth of employees saying that they feel constantly distracted at work.

What do these distractions look like in terms of time lost? The same article linked above noted that, “the average worker checks their email 36 times an hour and takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling a new email. Many employees attend at least 60 meetings per month, through which 91% of employees say they daydreamed. And it takes most workers two hours per day to recover from interruptions from co-workers.”

That’s a lot of time lost!

Is Poor Concentration Plaguing Your Organisation?

It can be hard to go forwards in project with poor concentration

Chances are likely that at least some of your team members are suffering from a lack of concentration. Easy ways to tell if your workplace has an overall culture of distraction, though, include:

  • A multitude of unfinished projects

  • Projects taking an exorbitant amount of time to finish

  • A lack of decision-making and the same workplace issues arising again and again

  • A consistent number of mistakes occurring over and over again

How Can You Help Your Team Improve Their Concentration?

Thankfully, improving your concentration is something that can be done. You’re not stuck with the same poor level of concentration that you have now. Concentration is much like a muscle, so the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. However, just like exercising any part of your body, exercising your mind to improve your concentration (and thereby your productivity) takes time and a lot of effort.

Here are a few ways you can help your team improve their concentration, while also improving your own.

Create space from distractions within your office.

Putting physical distance between yourself and your distractions can go a long way toward increasing focus and concentration.

If your team is currently working in-office and in-person, try creating spaces within the office for distractions to live. These might be spaces for dining during the workday, as well as spaces for socialising and fun. Make employees’ work spaces all about work, focus and getting down to business, rather than a free-for-all space where anything could happen.

An area dedicated to relax and have fun in the office helps to have a break and come back fresh to projects afterwards

If your team is currently working out of the office and at home, encourage team members to put distractions away. For example, if your team relies primarily on tools like Slack or email to communicate, they might try putting their cell phones in another room of their house.

Set deadlines and put an end to multitasking.

While some colleagues might brag about their ability to multitask, studies have shown that multitasking is actually a really bad thing. Stanford University suggests that multitasking not only reduces your efficiency and productivity, but it also actively lowers your IQ. In fact, the decline in IQ for study participants who were monitored as they multitasked was comparable to the IQ diminishment that you might expect if you were working after staying up all night or if you were trying to work while smoking marijuana. Some participants were found to have IQs similar to that of an 8-year-old child when trying to multitask.

So, how can you rule out multitasking, especially in a work culture that seems to demand constant attention in every direction?

One idea is to take advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect, or the principle that unfinished tasks impact your focus more so than tasks that haven’t been started yet. In other words, for peak focus and concentration, it’s important to actually finish a task completely before moving on to the next one.

You can encourage your team to finish all tasks completely by setting clear expectations for productivity and workflow. Tools like Asana can help team members to prioritize tasks and then actually stay on task, completing each day’s assignments in a strict order and completely before moving on to the next.

Set aside your great ideas until later.

When you work with a team of creative problem-solvers and enthusiastic go-getters, it can be all too common that your entire team will become side-tracked the moment that someone has a great idea. In order to keep this from happening and keep everyone on task, create an idea “parking lot” in your office, where everyone can deposit their great ideas until a later time (such as during a specific, idea-oriented meeting).

This parking lot can be simply a collaborative cloud-stored document that the entire team has access to, or even a place in a meeting room where team members can physically write their ideas down on a whiteboard or sticky notes, for further contemplation at a later time.

Avoid getting side tracked by presenting new ideas at the right time

Encourage your team to live in the present.

Mindfulness and living in the present is so important for concentration and productivity, but also mental health. However, being mindful and living in the present is hardly an easy task. Luckily, tools like Flow can help your team hone their mindfulness skills.

Flow’s meditation programme allows users to meditate with eyes open, in as little as four minutes, following meditation practices that are geared toward specific mental health needs in the moment. As users enjoy the immersive virtual sights and sounds of Icelandic nature, as well as music from Icelandic artists, they enjoy the opportunity to slow down, breathe and be present.

Encourage your team to follow their instincts.

But living in the present and being mindful of your thoughts, feelings and mental health in the moment isn’t that helpful if you aren’t able to then respond to your thoughts, feelings and abundance of, or lack of, focus. Encourage your team members to follow their instincts and do what’s best for them.

If they’re in the zone and fully feeling their flow, encourage them to stay focused and on task. If they’re in a brain fog and just can’t concentrate, encourage them to take the time needed to disconnect, address distractions and then come back to work when they’re in a better headspace. Sometimes, all it takes to rid oneself of distractions is to just acknowledge them and give them what they need — whether it’s a quick snack, a walk around the block or a brainstorming session.

Choosing where and when you tackle a task can help boosting your concentration

Keep Your Team Feeling Their Best at Work

A team that feels mentally prepared for a productive day at work is a team that succeeds. Help prepare your team for a productive work day by not only encouraging them to rest up and be ready (which you can learn about in this article), but also equipping them with the tools and environment they need for positive mental health in the workplace. See how Flow can help, here.


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