by Dan Ketchum
We know it causes our stress levels to spike and your boss to breathe down our necks, so why do we procrastinate at work? Everyone’s brain works differently, but constant access to an Internet full of cat videos and baby Yoda memes is a big part of it. According to data from the Information Overload Research Group, “knowledge workers” spend roughly a quarter of their time “dealing with the incessant stream of data.” That’s your email, your Twitter feed, the ASMR Reddit you moderate — all the stuff that’s distractingly in reach.
Those distractions snowball into procrastination, and that procrastination isn’t just bad for productivity; it may affect your mental health, too. Distractions at work have the advantage in terms of sheer numbers, so take a multipronged approach to getting focused and staying there — think of this as your focus toolbox.
Why we lose focus
Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report puts focus and procrastination in context. The workplace education organization finds that 36 percent of Millennials and Gen Z workers spend two or more hours each work day looking at their phone for personal activities.
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum notes that every single time you wake up your phone to check Twitter, it takes an average of 23 minutes to regain your focus.
Anxiety and procrastination go hand in hand, too. Some people who are anxious don’t procrastinate, some procrastinate as a coping technique, and others who procrastinate develop anxiety over incomplete tasks as they pile up.
In Udemy’s report, 41 percent of respondents say that workplace distraction stresses them out, while 46 percent say it makes them feel unmotivated. So how do we fix it?
Make micro schedules
Speaking to Business Insider, research psychologist and PhD Larry Rosen says that his number one tip for combating a lack of focus is to retrain your brain to respond to a set schedule rather than to spontaneous cues.
Okay, but what does that mean? Basically, set a timer for a minute or two; that period is when you’re allowed to check your email or use social media.
Now set the timer for 15 minutes, and dedicate that 15 minutes to uninterrupted work — no phone, no email, no idle chat. Start small, ramping up from 15 minutes to 20 or 30 as you go.
Be sure to flip that phone over and silence it, too. Over time, Rosen believes you’ll strengthen your ability to work distraction-free for longer periods by reducing the anxiety you might feel when you’re not responding to your phone’s unending stream of notifications. Ironically, some apps can be your friend here — apps like FocusList and OFFTIME often help this structuring process along.
Sort your tasks
Google “how to overcome procrastination” and you’ll see that there’s no one right answer, no one-size-fits-all solution. Similarly, all the tasks your day brings call for a more catered, specific approach rather than a headfirst dive.
Speaking to Front in 2019, HelpDocs consumer education lead Matt Bradford-Aunger says, “It’s important to make the differentiation between shallow and deep work when we’re talking about distractions.”
Before you start your day, try to realistically break your to-do list down into “deep work” tasks — those that require singular, undistracted focus — and “shallow work” tasks, or those you can do in the midst of light chat or listening to a podcast. The latter can often be batched together, freeing up more time in the long run.
Tackle the day with FOCL
We know that plants help people feel happier at work, but what about a plant-based supplement? Alongside hemp extract, FOCL Day packs a serious punch of nootropics, or cognitive enhancers. These include Lion’s Mane to lessen mental fog, Bacopa Monnieri to bolster your focus, L-theanine for faster information processing, vitamin B6 for quick thinking and Rhodiola Rosea to help you resist distractions.
FOCL isn’t a magic solution, but you may find it’ll give you the boost you need to work your way through those deep and shallow tasks and have energy left over to hit the gym or head out to drinks with friends. If you’re stumped on how to stay focused at work, sometimes modern problems call for ancient ingredients. Add this one to that focus toolbox.
Don’t let a mountain of tasks intimidate you, pushing you back down the path of procrastination. Start small, dip into your focus toolbox and reclaim your headscape one step at a time.
Dan has been a freelance writer and small business owner since 2009. In the healthcare realm, he’s fortunate enough to have collaborated with the likes of Civilized Life, Cetaphil, LIVESTRONG, VitaGenne, DermStore, JillianMichaels.com and more as a writer, with work appearing in publications such as USA Today, The Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, among others.