Tips for Staying Focused
QUESTION: Do you have any tips for concentration or productivity in the office? I’m more than a year into my first full-time position in marketing, and I’m either experiencing burnout or a newfound case of ADD. My company is small, and sometimes I get to the office and am alone for several hours of the day. I seem to get sucked into checking blogs, wanting to sleep, texting friends, thinking about coffee breaks, etc. I put off my work, thinking that I’ll tackle it later that night, but when I get home, I am so exhausted that I barely move from the couch.
When I do have a deadline, I am able to meet it, but it’s not because I work ahead – more like I rush until the end. The work my company does is very meaningful, but I just stopped caring recently and don’t know what to do. I want to be successful, productive and energized but it seems my mind and body are fighting against me. How do you stay motivated?
ANSWER: A lack of focus can be due to one of two things: overstimulation or understimulation. Neither is desirable, but both are fixable. To get a handle on it, figure out which one is more likely.
- Overstimulated: You are stressed, frazzled, overloaded, and experiencing burnout. There is too much pressure, you are involved with too many projects, and feel very busy in many areas of your life.
- Understimulated: You are bored and don’t feel challenged. You are stuck doing repetitive tasks, your goals are not motivating, or you have lost interest in your work.
As you describe it, it sounds like understimulation. The best way I have found to combat that is to get involved in more projects, take on more responsibility, set more challenging goals, and fill up your schedule with activities that move you toward them.
If you can do this at your company—great! Talk to your manager about the company’s strategy, business needs, and what you can do to support their mission. Sometimes this is not possible. In that case, get involved with professional organizations in your industry, volunteer your talents in your community, or direct your focus toward new or existing personal hobbies.
Feelings of apathy are common, usually temporary, and most easily addressed when you catch them early, as it sounds you have done. Adding more busyness into your life will help you feel more productive. Make sure there is at least one important action item on your to-do list each day, and make it a priority to start your day by completing that task. As your schedule fills up with meaningful activities, you’ll find more and more things that are interesting and worth pursuing. This shift in energy will get you back on track—at work and in general.
This was my answer to the November reader question on the Intuit QuickBase Blog. To see three other expert perspectives on the topic, please view the original post at 360 Answers: When You Can’t Stay Focused at Work.