You’re reviewing your notes before a call when you feel your phone vibrate. There’s no harm in taking a quick break to check it, right?
Every time you get distracted, it takes roughly 23 minutes for your brain to re-focus — which means spending two seconds to read your notifications is actually a major drain on your productivity.
If only knowing the danger of distractions was the same as avoiding them. To achieve killer focus, try using these five strategies.
1) Remember the “Why”
Let’s be honest, work will always involve a lot of necessary but boring tasks. And when a task doesn’t excite or interest you, it’s easy to let your mind wander. Bring it back by reminding yourself why you’re doing that task in the first place.
Suppose you’re emailing a prospect to confirm your upcoming call. Your primary motivation is to make sure they don’t forget the appointment — but if you look at the bigger picture, securing the meeting gives you the opportunity to learn more about their challenges and drive the sales process forward, which in turn brings you one step closer to the close.
To go one step further, winning this deal will help you meet quota. Maybe it’s even the one that’ll put you in the lead on your team.
Once you connect “emailing the prospect” to “becoming top-performing rep,” the task becomes far more engaging and meaningful.
So next time your motivation dwindles, pump it up by think of what you’re really accomplishing with your current task.
2) Identify Your Productivity-Killers
Are there any tasks that reliably throw off your focus? For example, maybe researching prospects on Facebook always turns into looking at your newsfeed … which always turns into reading articles on Barstool.
Identify your productivity-killers by working as you normally do. Every time you end up down a rabbit hole, write down what distracted you and what you were originally working on.
After two or three days, review your list for the tasks that show up again and again.
Once you’ve found a few culprits, organize your schedule so that you’re not doing that task for an extended period of time. For instance, if researching buyers consistently leads to distraction, do it in three short chunks over the course of the day, rather than one long session. It’s far easier to resist distractions when you know you’ll be switching to a new task soon. In addition, being conscious of what distracts you will make it easier to recognize when you’re about to get sidetracked.
3) Take Focus-Boosting Breaks
My former coworker, who’d been a sniper in the U.S. Army before joining sales, taught me this technique.
Every two hours, take a SLLS break: Stop, Look, Listen, and Smell. Simply pause what you’re doing, look around, take in the sounds, and observe the smells.
“The purpose of this is to take a timeout and refocus,” he explains. “This allows you to stop reacting to the external stimuli, be mindful of your environment, and focus on what really matters.”
He says his prioritization skills and ability to focus got noticeably better once he started using the SLLS trick at his day job.
To make sure you don’t forget, set an alarm to go off every two hours.
4) Use a “Work” Browser
Want to instantly improve your focus? Choose two separate Internet browsers: One for work, and one for home.
Set up the work browser with your company email address, logins, and extensions, bookmarks, and tools you use for your job.Add your personal email address, social media accounts, and fun/non-professional extensions and bookmarks to the other browser.
When you’re working, use the work browser. When you’re not working, use the home browser. This split will subconsciously help you concentrate, since you’ll immediately go into “work mode” when you open the window.
Plus, you can take things one step further by permanently banning access to your most distracting sites on your work browser.
5) Look at Your Future Self
Hal Hershfield, assistant professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, found that people are likelier to save money, make ethical choices, and lose weight when they look at pictures of themselves as old people.
It makes sense. When you’ve got the future on your mind, you’re more willing to delay gratification.
To apply this, use an app to “ageify” one of your photos. (In20Years and Face My Age are both free options.) Next time you’re struggling to stay on-task, pull up the image.You’ll get an instant boost of willpower.
These five techniques should make a huge difference on your powers of concentration. But if you’re still losing focus, try identifying your specific distractions and coming up with a game plan to beat them.