How to Avoid Distractions at Work

When we talk about concentration, we refer to a cognitive process associated with reasoning and total mindful attention. In this context, we realize how important it is to leave aside all the distracting thoughts or memories that have nothing to do with the task at hand.  In order to achieve a state of focused concentration, all our basic needs must be satisfied (food, hydration, socialization and healthy sleep routine).

When we work remotely and there is nothing else we need to pay attention to (no children or partner around, no delivery at our door, the bed in a different room), it shouldn’t be so hard to concentrate. However, it may get more complicated if we don’t set some boundaries between our working area and, for example, the place where we have lunch.

People with a family, who need to carry out household chores, among other things, have more trouble maintaining concentration, since they’re constantly multitasking. This leads to exhaustion and lack of undivided attention, hence they get more distracted.

Distracting Factors

One of the main distracting factors is that different tasks call for different states of thought, and they all need to be kept in an “active” mode. For example, cooking activates practical thinking, whereas writing an email triggers creative thinking. If we try to do both at the same time, we may actually fulfil both tasks, but one of them won’t get the best results, since our brain has double the amount of work to do.

Another distracting factor is the space around us. If we don’t create a separate setting for every activity, concentration is at risk. Decoration is also worth mentioning: having a space we like, with our work materials at hand and good working conditions impacts on our motivation and, consequently, on our concentration and productivity.

Furthermore, unhealthy eating habits (disorganized timetables and poor quality food) can cause exhaustion and lethargy, which may lead to lack of concentration.

Other factors, such as poor sleep routines, lack of active pauses and lack of socialization may indirectly affect our ability to stay focused.

I Got Distracted and Lost My Focus: How Do I Get It Back?

Once you realize you’ve lost focus, the only way to start the process of regaining attention is to stop what you’re doing. Yes, you need to stop for 10 to 15 minutes in order to let your brain restart and focus again.

 Another technique that might help is not to focus on focusing. Avoid thinking “I need to focus”, avoid giving yourself orders, because that cognitive process should be effortless: if we force it, it won’t work.

The best way to feel interested in the task we’re about to perform is to organize ourselves, play some nice music or make some coffee or tea. Then start again, without any high expectations as to our levels of concentration.

9 Tips to Avoid Distractions at Work

  1. Find the perfect spot at home for your work tasks, far from the dinner table, or the bed. If you don’t have another place to work, part of your table might become a little office, but use that space for just that sole purpose.

  2. Follow ergonomic advice on light, posture and work elements.

  3. It’s worth keeping a daily planner to organize different tasks and avoid distractions, and you may even include tasks which aren’t related to work.

  4. Try setting alarms for active pauses, keeping in mind that the maximum concentration time for our brain is 90 minutes. Try not to exceed that limit focusing only on one activity.

  5. Use one or two minutes in that pause to drink some water, because hydration is vital for concentration.

  6. Keep a balanced diet which works just for you, according to your personal tastes and needs.

  7. Sleep between 7 and 8 hours minimum.

  8. Try to work within agreed hours: it’s good to know when to stop.

  9. Let’s not forget we’re social beings. Make time to call a friend or a relative and see how they’re doing. Even though it may seem it’s got nothing to do with work, it will help us relax and refocus.

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