A great work atmosphere and environment is one of the best ways to motivate people. The upside is that co-workers become a more cohesive team, able to brainstorm and work faster together. The downside is that when such a fun atmosphere exists, it may be awfully tempting to get sucked into a lengthy conversation rather than on what needs to be done.
However, there are times when you absolutely must focus in order to finish your work — regardless of beeping messages or talkative team members. That’s why we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council the following:
WIth constant incoming messages and chatty team members, what is the best way to achieve uninterrupted focus during those moments when you absolutely must work on critical tasks?
Here’s what they suggest you try:
1. Be Upfront With Your Team
Snoozing notifications on Slack and setting yourself as “Busy / Do Not Disturb” on Skype can help stop notifications while you’re “in the zone.” All communication tools should have an easy way to pause or stop notifications. When it comes to your human colleagues, you have no choice but to be honest with them. I used to tell my colleagues to steer clear if they see me with my headphones on!
2. Close Your Tabs
Sometimes, we need to turn off email, Slack, excess tabs, etc. to work on a single task. The more you can control your notifications and not allow them to constantly take you off of important issues at hand, the better off you’ll be. My advice is to do this at least once per day, sometimes more if needed.
– Brandon Pindulic, OpGen Media
3. Work Offline
Sometimes the best way to get work done is to turn off the Wi-Fi and use it only when you have to send or submit your work. Previous generations worked without Internet without issues, and even as an Internet entrepreneur, you can still work a lot and probably do it more efficiently without Internet. There are almost no work distractions that are worth declining your work performance.
4. Make Time to Get Organized
We are busy doing, doing, doing and we forget to make time to plan. You need to clear off enough time to get the little things off your plate and set priorities. I am a big fan of the “Getting Things Done” method. In short, if you can do it in two minutes, just do it now. If not, just delegate the task into your calendar. You won’t always have the same amount of energy so don’t be hard on yourself.
5. Use Technology to Your Advantage
With Apple’s new “Do Not Disturb” mode for both Mac and iOS, you can be online and distraction-free so that you can really focus on the task at hand and if you’re tempted to go check a page that you’re not supposed to, the apps will remind you. Rescue Time is another great one for this, it doesn’t just work for web pages but also apps.
6. Prioritize Your Tasks
Every morning I create a to-do list on Trello for development and Asana for my other tasks that I strongly stick to. Unless another urgent matter arises, I strictly follow my list. I set aside a specific time for checking or replying to emails, use google voice for business communication and my personal phone for friends and family. I believe the key is staying organized to complete critical tasks.
7. Isolate Yourself
The modern technological world makes it hard to escape constant notifications. To get things done you have to set aside time to either physically disappear or technologically disappear. I suggest getting far away from others. I have a second quiet office space. Airplane mode on you mobile device is a good second for those who can’t get away physically.
8. Choose the Best Time and Stick With It
Knowing your most productive hours, whether it’s late at night or early in the morning, and focusing on important tasks will move things forward. But you can’t work late every night, so discipline is required. Muting notifications, closing the door and creating a heads-down environment creates more focus. Telling staff when and when not to interrupt you will set productive boundaries.
9. Focus on One Thing at a Time
Our office is low-key to begin with, so when it comes time to accomplish some critical work, all I need to do is make sure to focus on that one task and one task only. This is key to me getting my work done in a timely manner as there are worlds of distractions now. It is such simple advice, but focusing on the most important task and nothing else will improve your productivity significantly.
10. Work From Home
Home can have their own distractions of laundry or cleaning. If you don’t feel the need to do those, then working from home to focus is great. People won’t show up at your desk to chit-chat. You can control the atmosphere of noise and scents (ideally peppermint). Put your computer and phone on “Do Not Disturb” then get in the zone. You also gain time back from not having to commute.
11. Use a Time Tracker
A time tracker is an effective way to help you focus because they will block certain sites during a specific time or simply remind you that you’re supposed to be doing a certain task. This extra level of accountability will make it easier for you to stay focused on the task at hand.
12. Wake Up Early
What I’ve done to eliminate most of the distractions and background noise when I work on important tasks is to start as early in the day as possible. Getting your most important work done in the wee hours of the morning provides the same benefits of working late a night, but with none of the drowsiness or irritability. Plus, it’s nice to watch the sunrise every morning!
13. Work At Night
I find that the best time to focus on important creative work is when everyone else is sleeping. This is a time when it is conveniently inappropriate for anyone to call, email or message you. When everyone in the house goes to sleep, I make myself a cup of coffee and go into work mode. This works for me because I’m a night owl. I hear people also work early in the mornings as well.
14. Block Off Time on Your Calendar
If your organization has a shared calendar, you can block time on your calendar for undisturbed “quiet” time to get your work done without distractions. People will notice that you are busy because your calendar is blocked off and won’t interrupt your flow.
15. Visualize Yourself Working
Visualizing yourself working is a great way to get you motivated and into the groove. Just picture yourself completing the task you’ve been procrastinating on and how happy you will feel when it’s over. Then, go do it!
– John Turner, SeedProd LLC