Losing focus: why it happens and how to stop it from happening

12 August 2016
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Vectors used are designed by Freepik
Vectors used are designed by Freepik

Going through stacks of paperworks. Sorting through e-mails. Responding to clients and business partners. Interacting with colleagues. Attending scheduled meetings. Taking slow sips of tea or coffee. It’s easy to get lost in these tasks which we incorporate in our everyday work routine. When one has too much on his plate, they tend to lose focus and that’s normal.

It can’t be helped that at some point during the day, your mind wanders off and you can’t seem to get any work done. This, in turn, delays work. And before you know it, all your tasks have piled up and have eventually caused you stress.

(RELATED: Tips to Combat Work-related Stress)

Human vs. Goldfish

The reality is that nobody can concentrate 100% of the time. A person’s brain can only handle so much. Focusing on a task requires us to retain our attention for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately for us, our attention span is getting shorter. Back in 2000, the average attention span of a human being is 12 seconds. After fifteen years, we’ve dropped to almost 4 seconds with 8.25 seconds recorded. This recent data on our attention span is said to be slightly shorter than a goldfish as a study conducted by Microsoft showed.

As our attention span is getting shorter, situations at work are also affected. In 2014, 89% of respondents from Salary.com’s annual Wasting Time at Work Survey admitted to wasting time at work. Work flow is interrupted roughly every three minutes according to the findings of one Wall Street Journal’s article.

There haven’t been any specifics on what age group seems to be more distracted, but it has been identified that millennial workers have differently structured cognitive abilities, making old strategies of building talent less effective to the generation.

(RELATED: Certification course on Talent Management to bring better strategies to face talent shortage)

Technology: number one source of distraction

Almost all results of studies on workplace distractions pinpoint to technology-driven mediums as the cause for this phenomenon. Smartphones, social media, and e-mailing are amongst the 10 productivity killers according to CareerBuilder. Not all distractions are to be credited to technology though. Workers indicated meetings and noisy co-workers as distractions which ranked in the survey as well.

Companies have taken measures to resolve the growing issue. The most common solution to this was blocking certain internet sites that cause distraction such as Facebook and Twitter. Other examples of the steps they’ve taken are prohibiting use of cellular phones during work hours, monitoring internet usage, and limiting meetings.

Train your brain

Even though our attention span is said to be decreasing over time, we are still capable of doing something about it. There are plenty of ways in which we can train our brains into focusing better. It’s just a matter of accomplishing tasks in a certain way for you to have good work pace without disruptions.

For one, you can jumpstart good focus by eating breakfast. Breakfast isn’t called the most important meal of the day for nothing. Studies have proven that having a sufficient amount of carbohydrates in the morning can help boost memory and concentration.

Another tip would be to also avoid multitasking. Stanford conducted an experiment and found out that low multitaskers have better memory and are better at organizing information. They excelled in terms of performance and this is because avid multitaskers could not concentrate on doing one task alone. Instead of multitasking, practice set-shifting. This is the ability to shift concentration between tasks. In set-shifting, your concentration is wholly consumed by the new task alone, which gives you more concentration power.

Having a clean working space helps too. Sometimes the clutter in your mind comes from the clutter that you see. Place on your desk things that you only need to help you stay in the zone.

Propagate the change

When it comes to staying focused at work, being in an influential position in the company changes the dynamics. You are tasked to manage other people, which means their level of concentration at work is also your concern.

There are many reasons why employees lose focus. For one, they lack proper guidance. They may also have an unclear idea of what is expected of them. It is also important to look at the little details such as if they look tired, bored, or hungry because these may lead them to be easily distracted.

To keep this from happening, set goals individually so that they have something to look forward to finishing. Setting deadlines for every task would also push them to work and prioritize workflow. Monotonous work could also drain their productivity, so creating a positive and lively environment to motivate them would help. Recognizing and rewarding employees for a job well done can also help boosts work morale. Most importantly, seniors must lead by example to build trust and show employees that you’re all working to better.

The workplace is becoming increasingly distracting for everyone to do their jobs in peace. Being aware of the problem is the first step, taking action is the next.

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