Well here we are, entering the 3rd month of 2018 already. Christmas and holidays are a distant memory and we are finally able to focus. So why did it take so long? The breaks we have and the more laid-back vibe over Christmas and New Year are great for the mind, body and soul. We all need a change of perspective and simply to recharge.
But even though these breaks are good for us, and can even make us want to go back to work, how come when we do finally return we find it so hard to focus? Here we will explore the key contributors, and what we can do to improve.
We know what we need to do, we are adults – grown-ups after all – and (hopefully) doing what we love each day as our chosen career path. But as soon as we attach connotations of ‘work’ to it, something we are forced to focus on, it loses its shiny lustre and we lose our ability to concentrate.
We distract ourselves and procrastinate, we use phones, food, internet, even the things we hate like that pesky pile of dishes – anything to stop us from ‘focusing’ on what we need to do to achieve our goals.
Perhaps as soon as we label something as ‘work’ or a ‘responsibility’ suddenly it is no longer what we choose to do, what we want to do for pleasure. It is something we ‘must’ do, like a chore, and that’s no fun, right?
I believe there are two key factors at play here: mindset and environment.
It makes sense that our ability to focus, or lack thereof, comes down to a matter of mindset – willpower and choice. There are plenty of things we can do to create habits to increase our ability to focus such as creating a welcoming and comfortable space in which to do our work, scheduling strict short timeframes for working uninterrupted, turning your phone or email off for a period, just to name a few.
This mindset thing is a given. We all have the ability to improve our habits so we can work in a way that benefits us as individuals. But what about the external factor we may not have as much influence over – our environment?
In a TED talk I saw recently by Jason Fried about why work doesn’t happen at work, he made a great point – when asking people where they go to ‘get stuff done’, to focus basically, the answer is usually something such as the porch, the café around the corner, the spare room, and so on.
We don’t ever hear anyone say ‘I really need to get some work done – I’m going to go into the office’. Which is completely ridiculous when you think about it! We have created these spaces for exactly that purpose, but it is one of the least productive environments.
That’s because they are full of distractions. Not only the distractions I mentioned earlier, but those major distractions we find in all workplaces, like meetings and managers. These two things can be the most constant and the greatest disruptions to our working days. They are also part of the very ‘traditional’ way of working, created back when the traditional working office was.
But today we are realising we don’t have to work in the traditional way anymore. Physical work environments are changing, organisational structures are changing, a lot of this brought about by technology and the flexibility and fluidity that it provides, and with it of course a new way of thinking.
So surely opportunity is ripe to take the next step. Change the physical workplace and change the ‘workplace’ mindset.
How? Well, that is up to you and your business, and how best it can adapt.
Take our team for example, we don’t have a shared office. We are individuals with different ways of working that suit us. We each have our own sweet spot with our preferred environment, days, times patterns or randomness. We each have very different lives, and yet we are able to successfully work as a team, doing what we are collectively passionate about, and reaching all of our targets.
Although it would be great if we could spend more time together, when I think of us all being in the same work environment, at the same time, on the same days – the typical office or work set up – I honestly cannot imagine us having the same creativity and productivity that we currently do. We would all be stifled, many different humans with many different ways that we like to focus, but stuffed into a one size fits all solution. You see my point now?
So what can we do to improve our focus?
Organisations can start to think outside the box; to consider ways to harness and accommodate different individual needs and sweet spots. Appreciate that doing things differently can mean greater creativity and productivity, we just need to let go, or at least loosen our grip, on the notion that the traditional work environment is the best and only way to get individuals to focus.
As individuals we can start to make and break new habits, create targets and goals, even tiny ones, that will help us focus. Set a timer, turn your phone or email off for a period, create a clear schedule and deadlines.
It starts with a shift in mindset.
Here at Being More Human we help clients to achieve their potential by utilising the potential of their humans. We help you think differently. Perhaps a shift in mindset will help your team? Give us a call to see how we can help make your workplace a more ‘human’ place to function (and focus)!
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the release of our first Being More Human book this year by Michelle Crawford which is all about mindset.