How to Stay Focused at Work— And the Tools You’ll Need to Do It

We’ve all been there: we sit down to start working and get distracted. Sometimes it’s from being overwhelmed with the number of tasks that need to get done, other times it’s from ad-hoc requests from colleagues (or your kids at home). Whatever the reason may be, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to increase productivity when working from anywhere.

Clare Kumar is a Toronto-based productivity expert, executive coach and professional speaker who specializes in helping people improve their focus, prioritize their time, and generally get things done. Here, Kumar shares her top tips for getting organized and staying focused.

Organize your files

“By feeling organized, we're removing distractions and time-wasting, which cause a lot of stress,” says Kumar. She recommends having a place where you can physically organize your files, like a filing cabinet or a grab-and-go portable file organizer.

Get ergonomic

Physical comfort and ergonomics are crucial to optimizing any work environment. “If you're comfortable, you can maximize your productivity. But if you’re not, you might be diminishing your productivity and leading to injury,” says Kumar.

Stay focused with an ergonomic desk set-up that will help you avoid back pain, neck and eye strain. Start with a supportive desk chair, monitor stand and keyboard. Not sure how to set up the correct arrangement? Check out our 5 Steps To A Healthier Workspace infographic to guide you.

Find your best practices

Without a steadfast nine-to-five routine, some of us flounder when it comes to workday structure. Kumar’s recommendation? Dig in to understand and build your personal productivity foundation. “Once you know what works for you, you’ll have a system to help keep you performing in a sustainable fashion,” she explains. If you feel like you need additional support, a productivity coach can help.

Beat the clock

If you struggle with procrastination, Kumar recommends giving unanticipated tasks time limits by using a clock or digital timer to count down your minutes to freedom. By incorporating gamification, you can increase your energy levels and create a competition with yourself. For example, if it took you 16 minutes to complete this same task last time, try to do it in 15.

Plan for what’s important

Creating commitments to yourself might feel strange at first, but Kumar says that scheduling this time is critical for productivity and balance. If lunchtime yoga gets you energized for the afternoon, book it in. Try this at a glance by using a wall calendar or portable daily planner.

Create a Focus Five

Write a daily priority list. “I call it your Focus Five,” says Kumar, who jots hers onto index cards, which she finds more “calming and satisfying” than digital apps. You could also use a list pad like this magnetic one from Poppin that can either sit on your desk or attach to a whiteboard.

Get outside

Consider trading your next social call or Zoom for a walk-and-talk instead. Pop on your wireless headphones and head to the park. Connecting in a soothing, natural environment can help you return to work with improved cognitive function, says Kumar.

Go old school

Every modern Work From Anywhere space needs a couple of old school tools.

First, paper: “I've transitioned to do even more creative work digitally than I did before, but there are times when I want to sit with a notebook,” says Kumar. “When you're slowing down and writing, your brain is actually processing differently than when you're typing.” (Don’t forget to protect your privacy by shredding your old paperwork with a home office shredder).

Second, get yourself a clock: “The analog clock shows a physical change in time, whereas digital displays a different number and not the passing of time,” says Kumar.

Download some productivity optimizers

Lastly, don’t overlook digital tools that can help you get the most from your workday and collaborations. Three of Kumar’s faves are:

  • for voice recording and transcription

  • Canva for presentations and workbooks

  • Boomerang, a Gmail add-on that allows you to send messages later. “It’s a smart boundary-supporting tool,” says Kumar.

By Staples Canada

August 25, 2021