The Art of Focusing
We live in a society that bombards us with distractions. As I write this I am listening to my Cake playlist on Grooveshark, updating my Facebook status, and watching season one of the Showtime hit series, The Tudors. In fact, I believe the reason that the reign of Henry VIII is so entertaining to watch is because he had fewer things distracting him from lust, violence, corruption, and all of the soap opera-y aspects of a proper ruler. If Henry VIII had Internet access back in the 16th century, I imagine that the series would go a little bit more like this:
“Anne! Anne, dear! Come look at this Youtube video I’ve just found! Look! It’s a cuddly panda and her newborn baby… and now watch the baby sneeze! Oh, goodness, look at Momma Bear’s face! She is just stunned! Oh, yes, how wonderful!”
“That’s very cute, Henry, but have you received word about the annul–”
“Oh my, this is just delightful! Replay!”
Unfortunately, if your job is as monotonous and tiring as mine, distractions can really affect job performance.
If you want to prove to your superiors that you are a hard worker with lots of ambition, follow these steps to improve your focus.
1. Clear the clutter.
Many young school teachers make the mistake of covering their walls with colorful posters and dangling cutesy flower cut-outs from the ceiling. Adding some visual interest to a room does get rid of that claustrophobic prison feeling, but going overboard will make it easier for your mind to wander. For example, a picture of your boyfriend will remind you of the mall where the picture was taken, which will make you curious to know when Nordstrom is having their semi-annual sale, which will lead you to your online bank account, and so on. When it comes to cubicle decor, a photo or two is fine, but don’t get crazy. Your cubicle doesn’t have to be as ornate as Henry VIII’s castle.
2. Tame the toolbar.
I have always had trouble with this one. My bookmarks toolbar is maxed out with time-waster websites. I’ve got cat lover blogs, dog lover blogs, baking blogs, celebrity gossip blogs, and, of course, the official Tetris website staring at me from the top of my browser. They call to me sweetly, “Click me! We are the answer to your boredom!” And they are the answer to my boredom… but they also prolong the amount of time I spend on a boring task. My suggestion: Get rid of these bookmarks and erase your history. You don’t even need to block the websites. The process of typing in URLs will become tedious and irritating. Eventually you’ll give in to the work that is calling you, less sweetly, “JUST FINISH ME ALREADY!”
3. Adjust your audio.
It’s tempting to plug in your headphones and jam out to latest hit song while you’re working on your TPS reports. Certainly, they make dull and tiresome tasks more bearable.
What I’ve noticed, however, is that loud music with lots of lyrics makes it nearly impossible to focus. Especially when the latest hit song is “Friday” by Rebecca Black. I suggest instrumental music, such as the Pure Moods collection. If Enya really isn’t your scene, just buy some ear plugs. The constant buzzing of fluorescent lights is enough to make anyone go mad. Sometimes silence is all you need to get your mind on track.
4. Live with lists.
I have never been an organized person. In fact, my college roommate nearly always figured out my class schedule because it was far to daunting a task for me. But I’ve learned that making lists is a simple method to make sense of my disorganized thoughts. Best part? It doesn’t take more than five minutes for me to do. When you arrive at work, think about the assignments you need to get done for the day. Figure out which are the most important and which are the most time consuming. Then spend a few minutes scheduling the assignments based on those factors. Always cross off what you’ve completed. Why? It feels good! It’s also fun to sing “Another One Bites the Dust” when you cross numbers off.
5. Brief breaks.
My brain is a lot like my Macbook Pro. It overheats if it does the same thing for more than an hour. Even if the task is simple, like locating B-roll shots of the female anglerfish, at a certain point my brain will glitch and I begin searching for “kitties on roomba vacuum”.
It helps to take a moment to stand up and stretch every hour. Munch on a Kit Kat. Talk to your stoner buddy down the hall. Talking to a coworker can reboot your brain. Just don’t spend too much time chatting or you’ll lose track of what you were doing in the first place.
6. Can the caffeine.
Sure, caffeine is a sacred substance in the workplace. But in moderation. When you reach the caffeine threshold you will realize that those eight cups of coffee are only intensifying the distractions around you. You will jump every time you hear a stapler snap. When your boss approaches you, you will feel extra paranoid that he may have discovered you ate his chewy bar.
“Hey Kevin, did you get that mem–”
“IT WAS JUST LYING THERE! I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS YOURS!”
My suggestion: Just drink water. It’s cheap. It wakes you up. Most people don’t drink enough anyway.
7. Work out. (Sorry, I ran out of alliteration.)
Look, I know how you feel. You work too much to work out. When I first started working two jobs I completely eliminated any strenuous physical activity from my routine. I was used to daily jogs and Wii Fit exercises. When I stopped those activities I noticed how tired I was all the time. I realized that exercising affects more than just my appearance. If you can find just a thirty-minute time slot each day to get your body moving, your energy and mood at work will benefit. If you’re not used to a routine, you might feel pretty exhausted after workouts, so take it slowly. Eventually you will crave cardio more than caffeine.
Are these steps foolproof? Of course not. But they help me… when I follow them. I wish I could write a better conclusion but Catherine of Aragon just found out that King Henry wants a divorce. DRAMA!