How to stay productive and focused at work
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From overly chatty colleagues to those unexpected ‘critical’ tasks the boss hands you just when you’re finally making progress on that big project, the realities of a busy office environment mean potential distractions are everywhere. You can either let these derail and frustrate you, or you can start taking proactive steps to own your time. Here are a few suggestions to get you started! 

Take your to-do list to the next level 

It’s pretty hard to stay focused when you’re not exactly sure what you need to be focusing on. This is why the trusty to-do list is such a staple of getting organized both at home and at work. But when you’re juggling a lot of tasks, a simple handwritten list might not be enough. 

By all means start with a list of all the things you would like to get accomplished, but then take it up a notch. Some people find it helpful to sort tasks into distinct categories, such as ‘must do today’, ‘nice to do today’ or ‘low priority’. Alternatively, you could assign each item a numerical priority from 1 to 5 – whatever works for you. 

Once you have the list ordered by priority, you can see clearly what you need to start on first. Now add in a realistic amount of time you expect the task to take, and block off appropriate stretches throughout the day for each item on your calendar or on your phone’s time planner. (More on that coming up soon!) Seeing your day laid out strategically will instantly make your workload feel a whole lot more manageable. 

And when you do complete a task, make sure to take a little joy and satisfaction in marking it complete, and give yourself a mental pat on the back! Your final task of the day? Do tomorrow’s to-do list and calendar so you can leave the office knowing you’ve got a plan for tomorrow, and you’re free to relax!  

Make smarter use of your smartphone 

An increasing number of companies take advantage of mobile phone rental services, which means their staff usually has access to the newest models (with all the latest time management software) on a regular basis. But even a very basic smartphone becomes a powerful productivity tool if you use it right.

From apps like Time Planner that can show in pie chart form how much time you’re actually spending (or perhaps wasting?) on certain tasks, to apps which play white noise to help you maintain focus, your phone can help you become a productivity powerhouse.  

Avoid distractions

If you’re really battling to keep your focus in a noisy office environment, then the very first thing to do is speak to your manager about it. As with any workplace negotiation, it’s always best to have some suggestions ready. These might include asking for your desk to be moved to a slightly quieter area, or simply whether it’s okay for you to wear noise-cancelling headphones when you’re busy with a task that requires all your concentration.

If space is tight, you might even ask that you be allowed to work from home on days you have a big project to finish off. If you can demonstrate that you’ll still be easy to reach, and perhaps highlight some of the benefits to your employer (such as reduced overheads), they’re more likely to say yes. If they’re on the fence, try to negotiate a trial period so they can see firsthand that you’ll be more productive this way. 

Sort out your sleep schedule once and for all   

We all know how it goes. Friday finally rolls around after a stressful week, and you can’t wait to let off a little steam – and then enjoy a lie-in on Saturday and Sunday morning. Come Monday, however, your internal clock is all out of whack. You’re probably going to hit the snooze button a few times too many and face a mad rush to make it to the office on time. As the week goes on, your body slowly adjusts to rising early again… at least until Friday comes round again, that is! 

Breaking this cycle is dead simple, but it’s not easy. All you need to do is get up at the same time every day. Yes, even over the weekend. With a set time to wake up, you quickly learn exactly how much sleep you need, and fall into a regular pattern with no nasty shocks for your internal clock.

It might not be the most exciting or enjoyable change you’ll ever make – at least at first – but if you’re constantly tired at work, you’re always going to find it difficult to reach your productivity potential.