We’ve all done it. We have an important task or phone call to complete but get a notification or text. We intend to quickly check our Facebook or Instagram account and get back to work but an hour later we’ve accomplished nothing but a personality quiz and an online debate about the usefulness of Q-tips. It’s easy to be distracted by our phones, computers, televisions, family, friends, coworkers—just about anything.
Is Distraction the New Norm?
Three out of four people in the workforce report feeling distracted while at work. A whopping 16 percent say they’re almost always distracted, with Millennials and Gen Z being the most distracted. Some of the problem comes from the places we work with most companies lacking private or quiet work areas for employees. Some come from employees themselves who are guilty of sending constant IMs, using company time to surf social media, or visiting other desks in search of a quick chat. 80 percent of workers cited coworkers and office noise as most distracting; and 60 percent said that an overabundance of meetings were an interruption to their concentration. That’s all before you take into consideration smartphone distractions, relationship distractions, and family struggles that keep us from focusing on the tasks at hand.
Distractions Come at a Cost
All of this distraction can affect a company’s bottom line. A study at UC Irvine reports that when people are distracted, they try to work faster to compensate for the missed time, causing more errors in their work, which costs their workplace money. It also causes more stress and frustration on the employee. This negative effect on our emotions takes a toll on our health. Stress is one of the leading causes of disease and obesity in our nation. Udemy for Business reports that 34 percent of employees dislike their jobs because of the distractions in the workplace, but most report they don’t discuss the problem with their supervisors despite the fact that productivity in the workplace goes up 75 percent when distractions are reduced. Employees report that motivation increases by 57 percent and 49 percent of employees are happier at work when distractions are minimized as much as possible.
Our Top Four Tips to Improve Clarity and Focus
There are a few simple tips you can begin try to experience clarity and focus to your life:
- Exercise. Harvard’s Health Blog says that exercise can improve mental clarity directly and indirectly. First, exercise reduces insulin resistance and inflammation in the body. It also stimulates growth factor. Growth factors are chemicals in the brain that help brain cells maintain good health and promotes the growth of blood vessels in the brain. Exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress. Stress and lack of sleep are proven to contribute to brain fog, our inability to focus, and we fall prey more easily to distractions around us.
- Practice mindful meditation. Studies show that the brain experiences positive changes in awareness and attention after meditation. A consistent meditation practice also promotes the growth of more gray matter in the hippocampus area of the brain which is responsible for memory and recall. Literally, the practice of mindful meditation increases your ability to focus on tasks and remember information. Need a little help getting started? BrainTap is proven to increase overall clarity and focus in just 20 minutes a day. For more information on beginning a mindful meditation practice, read our How-To Guide for Practicing Mindfulness.
- Stop multitasking. Many people believe multitasking increases our productivity, so we try to get many things done all at once—and usually none of them get done well. To improve focus, be deliberate about what tasks you’re completing and stop pressuring yourself to multitask. Organize your schedule so you have time to complete each task that needs to be completed in its own time.
- Pick your timing. Most of us have a specific time of day that we perform at our best and it’s not the same for everyone. To improve your focus on important tasks, figure out what your peak personal time is and do the bulk of your work during that time. For example, if you’re a morning person, schedule yourself uninterrupted work time in the morning to focus on critical tasks and catch up on the more menial tasks later in the day when you don’t need full attention to complete them.
We can have clarity and focus if we take a few simple steps to change our lives. Aside from implementing the steps above, increased training in our workplaces to block out distractions and promote focus will help increase productivity and the emotional well-being of employees; because at the end of the day, focused and productive individuals live happier and healthier lives.