It can be hard to stay focused in a busy office. There’s always something going on–meetings, conversations, or donuts to eat in the kitchen. Not to mention your coworkers coming up to you to ask about your job. The nerve people have! Fortunately, you don’t actually have to be available to your coworkers all the time. There are proven ways to keep yourself on task while keeping others away from you at the same time.
You’re not wrong if you think you might be spending a bit too much time on non work related tasks. A study found 89% of employees admit to wasting time at work, and of those, 2% waste 5 hours a day. There's a chance there’s a guy hanging around your office getting paid to pretend to work.
Before we discuss how to keep yourself on task, you might be wondering what people are doing all day if they aren’t working. The study also uncovered that:
A married employee was looking at a dating web site and then denied it while it was still up on his computer screen
An employee was caring for her pet bird that she smuggled into work
An employee was shaving her legs in the women’s restroom
An employee was laying under boxes to scare people
Employees were having a wrestling match
A sleeping employee claimed he was praying
An employee was changing clothes in a cubicle
An employee was printing off a book from the Internet
An employee was warming her bare feet under the bathroom hand dryer
So, in an effort to protect you from yourself and those around you, here are some ways to stay focused.
1) Put On Headphones
Headphones tell the world, I am too busy for other people’s noise. Become visibly annoyed if anyone requests you remove them. Bonus points if you play them loudly enough that it sounds like your own personal desk concert.
2) Grow Plants
Try creating a forest around you made of various plants, or perhaps grow a hedge. You won’t be able to look out, and no one will be able to look in. Is she or he in the office today? Everyone will wonder, no one will know.
3) Practice Quiet Hours
If you can’t beat ‘em, set strict rules they must follow. Enforce quiet time for a few hours a day to give everyone the chance to listen to Jerry’s heavy breathing. No chips or crunchy snacks allowed. Be very fanatical about it so people know you’re serious.
4) Change Your Environment
Outside influences like air temperature, air quality, smells and colors can affect your focus. Take it upon yourself to make office updates. Purchase air filters, light Pine scented candles (the scent is proven to increase alertness!), and paint the walls around you a productive shade of blue.
In an effort to not cut into your work time, make your renovations at night when everyone else has gone home for the day. What a surprise when they show up in the morning! Don’t worry, your company will surely foot the bill.
5) Use Privacy Accessories
Pick up a computer privacy hoodie. This guarantees no will try to talk to you – not now, not ever!
6) Write a To-Do List
And then throw it out the window! Clients and coworkers will ask you to complete other high priority tasks that they need RIGHT THIS MINUTE PLEASE. This is okay. The point is, for a few moments while writing out your list you will feel in charge of your life.
7) Keep Your Desk Organized
Keep your desk clean and your mind uncluttered. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to clean your desk just so and to put things back where they belong. Inspect each item’s placement carefully. If they are moved the next morning, you know Susan has been messing with your things and she had better stop calling you paranoid.
8) Drink Coffee
Drinking coffee helps you concentrate and keeps you alert. Just be sure not to drink it within the first two hours of waking up, as this is when your body's natural adrenaline keeps you awake and coffee can interrupt this cycle. Also avoid drinking it before any big meetings or on an empty stomach – you don’t want to be running to the bathroom all meeting, or coming across as a jittery or anxious. Never drink coffee after 1pm, it can keep you from falling asleep at night and cause a vicious cycle of becoming exponentially more tired with every day that passes!