At times, life gets busy and time can move by very quickly. As a functional and program manager, issues with the product or personnel pop up constantly. After resolving issues and occasionally looking at my email, I’ll look up at the clock and realize that half of the workday is over. It’s a great feeling to know that the day is almost over and soon, I’ll get to go home, shower, eat and relax.
One of my favorite ways to relax is to read or listen to a good book. While searching for something new on Audible, I found a book in the Editor’s Choice Audiobooks section, The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner.
This book discusses the importance of taking small steps that build up to larger actions. One of the overarching ideas in this book is the importance of focus. If we focused on everything we had to do all at once, it would become overwhelming and we’d feel defeated before we ever began.
Sometimes work can be overwhelming and can be hard to focus on one task at a time. Then, how can you focus on one task at work without getting overwhelmed?
Start small. Set aside 10 minutes of undisturbed time to complete the task. Depending on your situation, find a quiet space or reduce distractions. Turn off all notifications and disappear to another part of your building (or another building) where you can still be productive.
For example, I have an “open door policy” where anyone can come into my office and ask a question at any time. On occasions, I NEED to close my door to reduce distractions and get work done. Many times, I’ll start a task only to get interrupted less than 5 minutes later.
As a manager and team member, you want to be helpful and available. To do this effectively however, you can’t spend mental energy worrying about everything on your to do list. Isolate yourself for small periods of time throughout the day to knock out a few items from your list.
Don’t beat yourself up. Let’s face it; it’s hard to completely focus on anything for 10 minutes, let alone 10 seconds. To develop the skill of focus, you have to practice and turn it into a habit.
Recently, I’ve started practicing meditation in a group setting facilitated by a Buddhist monk. When you’re starting to meditate, you’re taught to practice patience with yourself. In meditation, you’re taught to focus on your breathing. During this time, your mind will wonder and think about everything except for the task at hand.
During these 10 minutes, your mind will stray to thoughts of the report that’s due a month from now, a presentation you’ll have to deliver to your team next week, or a notification from Facebook or LinkedIn.
Often times, we get frustrated at ourselves for not taking advantage of the time we have to complete our work.
Instead of getting upset:
- Recognize that you have strayed from your work.
- Take a few deep breaths.
- Get back to work.
If you want to learn how to practice meditation, join a local meetup (sometimes a small donation is required) or look online for “meditation for beginners”. This will help you get focused in your career and personal life.
How do you maintain your focus at work? What are some of the largest distractions and how can you minimize or eliminate them?
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