The biggest challenge you face at work probably has nothing to do with project deadlines or annoying co-workers. In fact, your biggest problem is “hiding” in plain sight: being distracted by your computer or smartphone. Studies have shown that on average, people only get 11 minutes of focus before a distraction pops up, and that people who are interrupted by tech score 20% lower on standard cognition tests.
The internet and social media are some of the worst challenges you’ll face, so here are 13 productivity hacks to keep focused and beat “Facebook syndrome” (aka distraction):
Only use one computer monitor. It’s true that some people can handle more than one monitor. However, Professor David E. Meyer at University of Michigan says the more inclined you are to constantly check each screen, the more likely you are to get distracted, so it’d be better for your focus to just use one monitor.
Use Remember the Milk (or some other to do list application). One thing a smartphone can help you with is keeping a to-do list to organize your tasks. There are several great apps you can use for this productivity hack; Remember the Milk is a popular choice, and some people use Evernote because it can be accessed from any device you installed it on.
Create a routine. Psychologists have known for years that routines help children develop self-discipline, so it only makes sense that adults with productivity issues would need a schedule like this, too. Routines will help keep you grounded and be more aware of when you’re not doing something useful.
Don’t keep too many browser tabs open. Many times you’ll open new tabs to read articles or sites (or social media), but never finish using them. Instead, learn to complete everything you need to do within a tab and close it before opening a new one.
Use noise-reducing earphones when you work. This productivity hack acknowledges that sometimes the technology that’s distracting you isn’t your own. If you’re highly sensitive to the clicking of other keyboards or getting distracted by your co-worker’s watching of YouTube videos, make sure to wear earphones that help block out these sounds.
Use the Pomodoro Technique and Chrome app. If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, it’s a time management method and great productivity hack where you work for 25 minutes before taking a short (3-5 minute break). To help you get started, use the Google Chrome browser and install the Chromodoro app, which helps time your work chunks.
Stop checking your email first thing in the morning. It may seem like you need to start there, but all checking email does is burden you with distractions. Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning (appropriate, no?), suggests picking any task, big or small, that you’ll finish for an hour before you open your inbox. This helps you feel more accomplished and get through emails more quickly.
Research online, work offline. Sometimes all you need to do to stay focused is disconnect from the internet. For this productivity hack, try researching online what you need for your project before you shut all your browsers down and do the work offline.
Monitor what you’re doing. Do you even know when or why you’re getting distracted? Then start keeping track. Picking up a notebook and jotting down everything you’re doing during the day, especially the times you get distracted, will help you figure out if you’re distracted randomly or if it’s after you’ve been working too long or too hard, for example.
Master chat productivity. Chat is one of the worst distractions for your focus, so learn to deal with chat and IM appropriately. Make good use of your status and invisibility options when you really need people to leave you alone, and only allow people on your contact list to send you a message (chances are people who aren’t just want to chat about something menial).
Start your day by focusing on the most important task. Getting the biggest, most daunting task behind you first thing in the morning is a great productivity hack that will prevent you from putting the task off because you’re too scared or think you’ll have time to do it later (yeah, right).
Block out communication and reading time because they are both important. If you know you’re going to have to interact with co-workers or do some reading to get your work done properly, make sure to put each of these into time chunks that you strictly follow (then again, if you do most of what’s suggested here, that shouldn’t be a problem).
Take breaks between tasks. Like the Pomodoro Technique advocates, take breaks between larger chunks of work time to make sure your brain is refreshed and ready to tackle the next project.
When you implement these productivity hacks, you won’t have to deal with Facebook syndrome for long. You’ll get a lot more done in better time, so you can feel free to watch that occasional cat video without feeling guilty.
How have you beaten Facebook syndrome lately? Let us know in the comments below!
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