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How To Stay Focused at Work and Avoid Distractions

Man with his hands on his temples as he is trying to focus with a laptop in front of him.
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Let’s cut to the chase — have you ever spent a chunk of your working hours viewing adorable cat videos and getting sucked into the internet rabbit hole? You’re not alone there. In fact, one of the challenges that busy professionals face is staying focused at work.

Learning how to keep your laser-like focus at work may not be as fun as chilling out in cyberspace, but it can help boost your productivity and improve your employment prospects. So, are you ready to stay focused and finish your tasks with a bang? Here are our top productivity tips for professionals, whether you’re working from home or getting back to the office.

Get Comfortable

A young and bearded man wearing a plaid shirt at the office while typing on his Mac.
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It’s hard to stay focused when your neck and back are killing you. Crafting an ergonomic workstation isn’t just important for comfort, but for your health. There are several schools of thought on how to make your station as ergonomic as possible: an adjustable standing desk, chair with lumbar support, yoga ball, treadmill, etc. If you have the means, you might adopt all of the above and employ them at different times throughout the day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended positions.

Set a Time Limit

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Setting out to work eight solid hours is a fool’s goal. Working for just one hour, however, is much more doable. If you don’t trust yourself to stay on task, you might download FocusBooster, an application that challenges you to stay on task for just 25 minutes out of 30. Stay focused for 25 minutes, then reward yourself with a video of Chewbacca reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Break Work Into Increments

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If breaking your workday into time increments isn’t effective, try breaking it into project-oriented increments. While it might seem daunting to fill out 19 TPS reports or whatever, it’s definitely not daunting to fill out just one. It’s much easier to stay focused when the finish line is in view, so you might as well bring the finish line a little closer. After finishing the project, give yourself a well-deserved break and start the process over again.

Hide Your Bookmarks Bar

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Keeping a visible row of bookmarks on your browser makes it very difficult to stay on task. All you have to do is click a box, and boom, you’re cruising up the on-ramp of the Internet Superhighway. A good roadblock is to simply turn off your bookmarks bar by hitting Crtl+Shift+B (if you use Google Chrome). Hiding the bookmarks bar in Firefox is a little trickier, but doable. With your bookmarks gone, you’ll need to actually type your favorite time-wasting websites into the address bar, giving you more time to think through your choices. You might also delete your browsing history, so the URL doesn’t automatically fill in when you type it. (You should probably do that anyway. You know, for reasons.)

Listen to Instrumental Music

A man wearing glasses and headphones while browsing on his desktop.
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The average workplace can be a chaotic place. Working from home can be even more chaotic. Instead of boiling with anger at your coworkers’ or roommates’ shenanigans while trying to focus on an email, consider popping on some comfortable headphones and crafting your own personal soundscape. I would recommend sticking with instrumental music, however, as lyrics can corrode your focus. Plus, you don’t want to unwittingly include crass phrases in that email.

Get Your Snack On

A bearded man preparing guacamole and toast on his wooden kitchen table.
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Forget coworkers and silly videos — hunger can be the most distracting thing of all. To combat the beast within, keep an array of (preferably healthy) snacks within reach, and don’t skip mealtimes. Pro-tip: Opt for snacks that don’t get your fingers dirty, as that could create a rough situation for your keyboard.

Take a Walk

A smiling man wearing a beanie and jacket as he takes a stroll around the street.
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No matter where you work, you’re likely to get stir crazy. Instead of chaining yourself to your desk until you finish, which doesn’t really work, take a few minutes to get up and get out. A bit of fresh air will help clear your mind so you can think up better ways to approach your project. Also, it’s good to get up and walk around every once in a while; sitting for too long can seriously impact your health.

Use Productivity Apps

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In an effort to help people maintain focus, folks have developed all sorts of online productivity services. The productivity apps and add-ons that will help you the most depend on your particular productivity demons. Timeneye pays attention to exactly what you spend time on, and can supposedly shame you into staying on task. Self-Control makes it easy to block out the sites that absorb the most time.

Get Your Eyes Checked

An enthusiastic man wearing glasses while viewing his laptop perched on a riser.
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Ironically, optometrists are some of the most overlooked medical professionals out there. If you’re having difficulty focusing at work, or you get a headache after working for a few hours, it could be because your vision isn’t as clear as it could be. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to man up and visit an optometrist. A pair of reading glasses can keep your eyes in good shape and help you focus on the job. Unfortunately, you might not be able to get to an eye doctor ASAP. However, you can order blue-light-blocking glasses online to protect your eyes.

Discovering how to stay focused at work is a constant, frustrating enterprise. Though each of the above suggestions can be helpful on their own, odds are they will break down at one time or another. The best way to maintain focus is to employ all the suggestions simultaneously while discovering a few of your own. Thanks for reading. Now, get back to work!

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Nate Swanner
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
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