We live in a noisy world.
Notifications appear on our phones, computers, tablets, and watches. We are constantly bombarded with items demanding our immediate attention, and millennials may be the most distracted generation in the workplace:
- The average millennial sends and receives over 100 text messages per day
- The majority of Facebook users visit the site multiple times per day
- The average person spends two hours per day on social media sites, equal to five years and four months in a lifetime
These frequent interruptions don’t happen exclusively outside of work. A “40-hour workweek” is often closer to 50 hours, not counting a commute or time spent working from home on nights and weekends.
These distractions quickly add up. Checking Facebook in small increments may not seem costly at first. Over time, however, the lost focus and productivity are tremendous. If millennials want to make an impact and get ahead in their work, they must intentionally create more focus in their day.
Focus is intentional, not accidental. No one stumbles into being focused, particularly with the notifications and messages pinging all around us. Instead, focus takes deliberate decisions.
Here are five ways millennials can create more focus in their day:
- Turn off your notifications. Your smartphone, watch, tablet and computer likely have notifications enabled. Every app and most websites use notifications, so you’re reminded to engage with their product. But these are the primary culprits of distraction and lost focus. Turn off the apps that are not critical for daily use. For extended times of deep focus, turn your devices to airplane mode or Do Not Disturb.
- Keep a running list of everything you need to do. The brain functions best when it has the capacity to think, not when it reminds you to get an oil change or call Charlie in accounting. Create a list on paper or on your phone where every task lives. Add things to it when they come to mind, then review it when you’re able to get those things done.
- Batch your tasks. When you cook a meal, you likely do everything at once. This is called “task batching,” or grouping similar tasks together. This setup enables you to maximize your focus on tasks that share some commonality. For example, you can process all of your emails at once a few times a day instead of a few emails all day long.
- Build your schedule around your best thinking. Productivity experts suggest getting your biggest tasks done first thing in the morning, but this advice is incomplete. Don’t forget about the predetermined blocks in your schedule, such as weekly meetings or daily check-ins. Your best work doesn’t happen after a meeting, so account for that in your planning.
- Work in 90-minute bursts, then rest. We are familiar with 90-minute sleep cycles, but we also have 90-minute work cycles. Our bodies can’t focus for more than about 90 minutes at a time. At that point, take a break. Do something restful and relaxing for a few minutes. Allow your body to recharge, then start another 90-minute cycle.
Focus is a muscle developed and strengthened over time. There is no “quick fix,” but these steps put you on the path to better work and bigger goals.
Writer: Wes Gay