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Stay Focused At Work With These 10 Tips

Stay Focused At Work With These 10 Tips

Staying focused at work is a constant challenge. If it’s not a coworker wanting to chat, your phone beeping at you, or a hundred emails filling up your inbox, it’s your own mind’s tendency to wander. Here are ten tips to help you deal with distractions and stay focused on your work.

1. Be honest.

Revolutionary, I know.

But maybe you should try it, as long as you can remember that being honest doesn’t mean being rude. It means simply telling people the truth, in a courteous way. For example, try being honest when the chatty coworker stops by and says, “Got a minute?” Or when you get a text from your drama-loving friend. Or when your mom sends an email wanting your help “real quick!” with booking a hotel for her next visit. To all these requests, you need to speak the truth: “I can’t right now. I’m working.”

Feel free to follow up with an alternative:

  • Try asking so-and-so.
  • Check with me after work.
  • I’ll do this at my next break.
  • Remind me on the weekend.
  • Let’s talk about it next time I see you.

2. Put a mind map right in front of you.

Not any mind map. One that shows a visual progression of you staying focused at work and how that leads to your goals.

What are your goals at work?

To be the mediocre employee who does a half-hearted job? I think not.

Even if this job isn’t your dream job, doing your best at it will open up more opportunities for you, gain you more skills, and lead you to better places. So map it out and then put that map where you can see it and remind yourself that, yes, staying focused really does matter.

3. Make a bet.

Surely some of your co-workers or friends also struggle with staying focused and being productive.

It’s time to make it matter where it hurts: in the wallet.

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Make a friendly bet over who can accomplish more in the day or week. Of course, you don’t even have to bet money. You can bet on who has to clean out the office fridge or be the designated driver next weekend.

4. Wear headphones.

Even if you don’t listen to anything, putting headphones on signals to other people that you are not available.

So bring a pair of those giant headphones, put them on, and get to work. Take them off during breaks or when you’re free for a chat. If you can do your work while listening to music or podcasts, do it. It will help you ignore the ambient noise and background conversations which can so easily break your concentration.

5. Use a timer.

Go to the nearest dollar store and get a cheap kitchen timer. Sure, I know; you could use the one on your phone or computer. But the point is to stay focused, and opening up another app or tab is just going to give you an opportunity to check Facebook real quick, or answer that text, or look up that one thing…

You know where that goes.

Instead, buy a timer that does one thing and one thing only: times you as you work. Put it in front of you at your workspace, set it for 15 minutes, and ask yourself to focus on your work until the timer goes off.

When the timer goes off, you can either take a 2-minute breather, or you can keep plugging away.

Every day, increase your “focus time” by a couple of minutes until you work your way up to focusing for 45 or 50 minutes at a time. Be sure to take a 5-minute break after your longer focus time so your brain can recharge and be ready to go again.

6. Be stupid-simple about what you’re doing.

Here’s where most of us get hung up on focusing at work: we ask ourselves to do some big, hairy, enormous task. Our brains freak out and want to run away, which we do by playing Candy Crush or answering pointless emails.

Your brain needs specific tasks to accomplish, not big, huge, vague, intimidating mountains to climb.

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Start telling yourself what you’re doing in the simplest of terms. Dumb it down until you feel a little silly about it.

  • “I’m going choose one color for this design scheme.”
  • “I’m going to write two sentences of this blog post.”
  • “I’m going to file one paper.”

What this does is give your brain a specific, understandable, and easy starting point.

And once you get started, you can keep going.

7. Use the 5-10-40 rule.

Okay, this isn’t really a rule. It’s just a thing I made up that works.

Feel free to steal and use.

Here’s how it works.

You need that timer. Remember, the one you bought? Right. Set it for five minutes. Now spend five minutes figuring out what it is you need to focus on next.

Next, set the timer for 10 minutes, and spend 10 minutes figuring out exactly what needs to be done in that area you need to focus on. Make a list, brainstorm, create a mind map, check your research or project emails, do whatever you need to and create a guideline of the specific (stupid-simple) tasks that need to be accomplished and in what order.

Next, set your timer for 40 minutes and start working your way through those actions, one at a time. If you only get one accomplished in 40 minutes, that’s okay. Scratch it off, take a five-minute break, and then come back and tackle the next one.

8. Write a single sentence about your day.

For this to work, it’s best to do it at the beginning of the day.

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That’s right. You’re not writing a progress report or a log of your work day. You’re simply taking a couple of minutes, at the beginning of the day, to write a single sentence.

And that single sentence should say exactly what your day will have looked like if you stay focused.

  • “Today I wrote 3,000 words and researched two new articles.”
  • “Today I finished that report and turned it in.”
  • “Today I created a great design mock-up for my biggest client.”
  • “Today I landed two new customers.”

What does your day look like, how much do you accomplish, when you stay focused?

Remind yourself of that possibility at the beginning of the day, and you’re much more likely to do it.

9. Keep a progress meter.

You know those poster board signs with the badly drawn graphics people use when they’re fundraising for some worthy cause?

Make one of those.

It doesn’t have to be on poster board, of course. You can use a Post-It. An index card. The back of your hand. The sketchpad on your phone or tablet. A document in your computer.

Whatever.

Break down your current big project into steps. Then draw that representation of a ladder or gauge or arrow, mark different spots for each step, and fill it in as you accomplish those steps.

There’s something really powerful about seeing your progress toward a goal in a simple, visual way.

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10. Use the index card method.

Sometimes we have so much to do that we simply get too overwhelmed to start.

To help yourself focus on a few important tasks, get an index card. Look at your long, long list and your calendar, and choose three things. The most important three things, the highest priority out of all the stuff you really need to do.

Write them down on your index card.

Now flip the card over, and on that side, write down at least one of the following:

  • a reward of some kind (gourmet coffee, chat with a friend)
  • a work task you really like to do
  • a task which you really feel good about accomplishing, but which isn’t one of the top priorities

Your top three tasks are your focus for the day.

If you do them, you get to flip the card over and get/do whatever is on the other side. (So be sure it’s something you like.)

Here’s the final trick to making this method awesome: save your index cards. That’s right. Don’t throw them away.

Stick them in a drawer, and when you’re feeling distracted or discouraged, pull them out and look at all those scratched-off items. You did that. You. You focused on a few important things, accomplished them, and reaped the rewards.

And you can do it again.

Featured photo credit: hang_in_there via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

Businesses rely on talent to generate and sell value. Without skilled people to create its products, manage its operations and execute its strategies, a business would inevitably fizzle out of the game and leave better-staffed competitors to take the field.

This is the reason why ambitious companies go great lengths to attract top talent,[1] shelling out millions of dollars in the process and bending traditional work policies just to bring highly skilled but demanding candidates into the fold.

Clearly, the contours of business are changing. But so are the demographics of work.

Millennials have become the dominant generation in the job market in terms of population, and some have already transitioned into leadership roles. Most millennials consider opportunity to learn and grow more important than overall compensation.[2]

Companies also today expect employees to come equipped with razor sharp business acumen.[3] Unfortunately, there is an alarming discrepancy between the actual skills businesses need and those currently possessed by job candidates.

To stay in the game, employers need to continually upgrade their training and skills development strategies to cover the entire employee lifecycle.

What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

Learning management systems are software-based solutions for authoring, presenting, consuming, storing, and tracking educational content and training materials. These systems aim to centralize all instructional content (e.g., lessons, training modules, instructional videos, presentation slides, worksheets, online quizzes, ebooks, takeaway notes, etc.) in one place.

LMS enable instructors to design and deliver learning experiences to students, with the added capability of evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials and grading the learning progress of students.

On the other side of the equation, learners use LMS to develop skills and acquire new knowledge virtually anytime and anywhere via the different channels and content formats made possible by digital technology.

Over the years, a wide range of features and technologies have been integrated into learning management systems to help enhance the experience of training designers, instructors, and learners. These include cloud and mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsive design, scheduling, gamification, data analytics, and interoperability with other applications.

5 Best All-Purpose Learning Management Systems

There are dozens of LMS vendors catering to the general market or to specific segments such as K-12 learning, higher education, and corporate training.

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With so many options available, selecting the right LMS solution for your needs can be complicated and costly, especially when you end up adopting a platform that doesn’t exactly match your goals or requirements.

Short of conducting a comprehensive audit of your needs and finalizing a learning roadmap, the safest bet would be to adopt full-featured but affordable LMS solutions.

Based on user reviews, here are the 5 best LMS to help people gain knowledge, build skills, and achieve mastery:

1. Canvas Network

Launched by Instructure as an open source software in 2011, Canvas is an end-to-end cloud-based service originally engineered for the education sector.

Widely adopted for K-12 and Higher Ed learning, Canvas can be repurposed for anything that involves an instructor, a subject matter, and a student.

Used around the world by people of all ages and organizations of all types, Canvas arguably has the largest learning and support community in its class. It works on desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.

To get a glimpse of the platform’s fresh interfaces, you can visit the Canvas Network, a learning community that provides educational and instructional materials created by colleges, universities, corporate businesses, independent course developers, and other knowledge-sharing entities around the world.

Hosting hundreds of interesting topics from data science to horticulture, the learning network also serves as evidence to the scope, capabilities, and popularity of the Canvas LMS platform.

Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, which enhances the platform’s reliability, speed, scalability, and overall online performance.

Additionally, platform adopters enjoy a low-risk environment since cloud-based solutions require no hard stops for version updates, upgrades, or system migrations.

The Canvas website does not show a price matrix but says the service adopts a simple formula for computing fees: a one-time implementation fee and an annual subscription fee based on total number of users. It also promises free basic services for teachers who want to use the platform.

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In addition to Canvas, Instructure also offers Bridge (an LMS designed for corporate environments), Arc (a video platform for online learning), and Gauge (an assessment management system).

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Canvas Network:

2. Google Classroom

This free service from Google aims to improve the teaching and learning process using cloud technology, web apps, workflow simplification, and seamless communication between students and instructors.

Using Classroom, educators can easily create and schedule classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and grade quizzes all in one place. By streamlining processes, Classroom helps teachers save time and organize classes more effectively. Both students and teachers can also work using any device anytime and anywhere.

Classroom works perfectly with other Google tools, having been launched initially as part of Google’s G Suite for Education. This LMS solution taps Google Drive for content storage and distribution, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for the creation and sharing of instructional materials. Meanwhile it integrates Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail for communication.

With G Suite, other communication channels such as chat messaging, video conferencing, and a dedicated website are enabled.

Easy to set up and manage, Google Classroom is free to use. One of my very first courses was actually hosted on Google Classroom.

Going beyond the classroom environment, Google offers G Suite Enterprise for Education for large institutions. This suite provides enhanced search and analytics capabilities as well as advanced tools for enterprise communications.

3. Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

If budget and capability equally top your list of LMS adoption criteria, then Moodle might just fit the bill. Which is to say there’s none (i.e., bill).

Moodle is a free and open-source learning solution for distance education, workplace training, flipped classrooms, and other pedagogical environments.

It is also a full-featured LMS supported by a robust community and a thriving developer ecosystem. Not surprisingly, Moodle is used in more than 15 million courses by more than 130 million users in 230+ countries.

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Among other things, Moodle enables administrators and educators to create a dynamic and dedicated website to host organic, easily accessible, and highly customizable courses that can be experienced on desktops and mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

Moodle provides a personalized and intuitive dashboard as well as a host of collaboration tools for content designers, teachers, and learners. A universal calendar, an efficient file management system, an automatic notification system, multimedia integration, and a progress tracking tool all come with the package.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Moodle:

4. Absorb

This platform recently bagged PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best LMS.

Co-designed and built by former course authors, Absorb takes learning experience to the next level. This turnkey LMS solution is responsive, full-featured, and highly customizable for maximum impact.

Course developers can orchestrate a wide range of experiences depending on audience or learning situation. In addition to surveys, polls, and e-commerce integration, Absorb supports formal online learning and certifications standards such as AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can.

The user interface can also be modified to match the learner’s location, group, or department, allowing for a different look and feel for customers, channel partners, management trainees, and newly hired employees.

Absorb supports all personal computing devices from desktops to mobile phones. There are also native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android.

The only possible drawback to the platform’s powerful feature set is its pricing. The service reportedly implements a flat, one-time setup fee depending on your business and training requirements. According to the site, any plan comes with a dedicated success team for your account.

Although small companies are welcome to try, midsize to enterprise-scale organizations are probably the best segment to readily adopt this LMS solution.

Take a look at some examples of Absorb in this video:

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5. Watershed Collaborative

Created by a group of educators, this nonprofit rethinks the priorities of an LMS, asserting that too many systems miss the most essential elements of what makes learning stick. They promise a better user experience – emphasizing Learning before Management and System.

Watershed aims to support an inquiry-based learning experience through an integrated mix of online and in-person learning strategies and interactions designed expressly for teams – including collaboration, reflection, and dialogue.

While Watershed was founded initially to serve the K-12 education market, the company has since expanded its scope to cater to all types of teachers and learners with its video-rich, state-of-the-art platform.

If you’re a mission-driven educator, content creator, institution, or business, this LMS may be the one for you.

Watershed specializes in assisting you with the instructional design of courses and provides content production services to ensure top-quality video assets with lasting value. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners.

Pricing varies based on products and services, but revenues support the nonprofit’s ability to make its platform and courses available at little or no cost for high-need educators and educational settings.

Honorable Mentions

There are dozens of LMS vendors in this growing market and the brands included in foregoing list are by no means the only viable options for companies or learning institutions looking to upgrade their learning infrastructure.

Many other excellent services are worth checking out. These include:

  1. Docebo is an LMS designed for hyper-engaging students, employees, customers, and other learners. The system helps organizations identify and resolve competency gaps with strategic learning interventions.
  2. Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, training, and performance management solution offered as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). This service enables learners to create personalized playlists of instructional content.
  3. Lessonly is an LMS solution that makes it easier to recall and reinforce whatever skills or knowledge you have learned through quizzes, coaching, and constant practice.
  4. Skillsoft is an online training and corporate learning platform developed by a two-decade old and billion-dollar company with the same name.
  5. D2L BrightSpace is a learning management system that has all the basics for delivering excellent, rich-media experiences for classroom or workplace training.

Conclusion

There are many ways to learn but some are more effective and meaningful than others. Whether you are a teacher looking to enhance classroom learning or an HR manager creating a long-term talent development plan for employees, the key to impactful learning is to understand and bridge the needs of learners, the goals of your institution, and the actual capabilities of the learning tools you are considering.

Note that using multiple LMS platforms is possible although not recommended. On the other hand, adopting other learning solutions beyond LMS (such as podcasts, mentoring, and onsite in-person workshops) may significantly improve learning outcomes. Always go for products and plugins that seamlessly integrate into your core LMS tool.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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