Where do you focus your energy when everything is a priority at work and at home?
Is your To-Do list growing by the minute?
Do you have a list of things to accomplish for work and a separate list of things that need to be done at home?
Are you having a hard time staying focused at home thinking about the things you need to finish for work, and find your mind wandering while you’re at work, thinking about the things you left undone at home?
How can you narrow your focus during the day, and how do you ensure that your priorities are being handled in a timely manner?
Understanding the Problem
In today’s tech-driven world, ability to focus is at an all-time low. Canadians spend an average of four and a half hours (261 minutes per day) using digital media and that number is only going up over time.
People are inundated with distractions that can show up from all angles at any moment. Constant connectivity is touted as a benefit of modern society but is a detriment to staying focused. Instant access to email, work files and more reduces a person’s ability to focus and recharge during much needed downtime, diving attention between the task at hand and the intrusive notification of “what else must be done”.
As a result, even when a person is at home, they are never really disconnected from their tasks at work.
Trying to focus at work can be equally as challenging. Studies have shown that employees can spend up to 55% of their day in meetings.
With that amount of time taken away from the work day, it is no surprise that more than half the respondents in a recent survey report spending nearly seven hours a week working at home outside of their office hours.
Employees who are overloaded with work and home responsibilities report that they regularly lose sleep, have increased stress levels and are largely dissatisfied with their productivity. As a result, they have higher absentee rates due to sick days, which leads to increased stress, which continues the cycle indefinitely.
Unhealthy and stressed employees make more mistakes, are more likely to be unhappy at work and cost their employer more money in the long run.
How to Focus
If you’re trying to help your employees improve your focus at both work and home, here are some suggestions that may help:
Remove distractions. You’re surrounded by distractions both at home and at work. The biggest culprit? Your smart phone. Turn off the phone and place it out of reach while you’re trying to focus. Shut your office door or turn off the tv and determine what you need to get accomplished.
Close your email and resist the temptation to “check it really quick” to see if anything important is waiting for you. Your brain gets a rush of warm feelings when you see something new, such as an email alerting you to a sale at your favourite store, a message from your friends or an announcement about an upcoming event. Use checking your email as a reward for finishing the task you’re working on.
Organize your tasks. Having a To-Do list is helpful. Having it broken down into chunks of time is essential. Prioritize the most difficult tasks and fill in the rest of the day with easier, less intense tasks.
Focus on what is in front of you. As difficult as it may be, force yourself to be engaged with the tasks at hand. When you’re at work, that is your priority. Put your time and attention into completing your job so that you can disconnect from it when you get home. When you’re at home, be fully engaged there. Turn off your email, resist the urge to swing by the office and give your brain a much-needed break.
In the long run, creating boundaries between your work and home life will allow you to be more focused and productive in both areas.
You’ll notice an upswing in your attention span at work after you’ve been recharged and refreshed with time away. When you can focus on work during the day, you’ll be better equipped to give attention to the things you need to complete at home. Is it easy? Not at all. But you’ll thank yourself for the effort when you’re happier, healthier and more relaxed.
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea™. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.