Do you find yourself hopelessly distracted at work? Between the emails, phone calls, and projects competing for your attention, you may feel like you never get anything done. Multitasking is a time honored skill in the workplace, but it can slow your productivity to a crawl. Fortunately, there are ways to increase your focus and double your productivity by removing distractions and adopting a conscious mindset.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, multitasking ” makes us more prone to making mistakes, more likely to miss important information and cues, and less likely to retain information in working memory, which impairs problem-solving and creativity.”They suggest you try the “ABC” method to help you focus:
Awareness: Recognize your options. What’s most important and what’s background noise?
Breathe: Take a moment to consider the options you have. What can you rearrange in order to make the most urgent tasks a priority?
Choose: Proactively make a decision about what task to complete next and stick to it.
These three steps don’t take much time, but require you to be aware of your situation and make conscious decisions instead of reacting to every distraction.
Other suggestions to improve focus and productivity include getting up and taking a walk before you start a new task, taking regular breaks to give your mind a rest, and make yourself turn off all distractions for a specific amount of time. Close your email and turn off your phone for an hour to really focus on the task at hand.
While you may be proud of your ability to multitask, it can hamper your productivity. By taking steps to shift your mindset and eliminate distractions, you’ll do better quality work in a shorter amount of time.
Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.
This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!
Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively
When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath/change your body posture
When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?
Focus on right now
Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.
Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.
Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)
Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.
Stop feeling guilty
Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.
Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!