Check out these eight steps to help you prioritize and clear your mind.
1. Stop multitasking
Instead of trying to do a million things at once, take a step back and tackle one task at a time. And while your inclination might be to start your day with busy work — like checking emails — and then move onto to the harder things, you should try to get your brain moving by challenging yourself with with a bigger, more creative endeavor first thing.
2. Block out your days
A good way to hold yourself accountable when it comes to quieting the noise all around you is to specifically block out time in your day — maybe it’s 30 minutes or an hour — to spend on a given project. Color code your calendar or set a timer to make sure you are accomplishing the goal at hand.
3. Get your blood pumping
You can’t focus if your are stuck inside and staring at a screen all day long. Turn off your computer and phone, and go for a walk for 20 minutes. The fresh air and the movement will clear your head. Also make sure that you are drinking enough water and getting enough rest.
4. Help your technology help you
A platform like RescueTime, a software that runs while you work and shows you how you are spending your day, could help you understand why something is taking longer to complete than it should. Options like Cold Turkey, Freedom and Self Control block out the internet entirely to keep you off your Twitter feed when you should be meeting deadlines.
Get a recommendation for a yoga or meditation class, or even make it an office outing so everyone get some time to quiet their minds. Or look online for a plethora of apps and platforms whose stock and trade is mindfulness, like Meditation Made Simple, Calm and Headspace. For slightly more of a monetary investment, you could look into wearable tech like Thync, a device that produces electrical pulses to help your brain decrease stress.
6. Change up what’s in your headphones
While background noise might help block out a loud office or construction outside your window, you need to be careful that what you are listening to isn’t distracting you more. Music with lyrics can sap your focus from the task in front of you, so consider trying classical or electronic music instead. Or use a playlist that is familiar to you, so you aren’t tempted to turn all your attention to the new sound.
7. Streamline your communication
If you find that all of your focus gets trained on getting your inbox down to zero, think about how you can get yourself out from under a relentless deluge of email. Ask yourself and your colleagues to think about whether this conversation would be most effective through email, on the phone or in person. Taking five minutes to walk over to someone else’s workspace will save you the time and energy invested into a redundant email chain and clarify how you want to attack a problem more quickly.
8. Find an environment with the right kind of noise.
To be the most effective, you need to strike a delicate balance between too much noise and total silence. According to David Burkus, an associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University, “some level of office banter in the background might actually benefit our ability to do creative tasks, provided we don’t get drawn into the conversation,” Burkus wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “Instead of total silence, the ideal work environment for creative work has a little bit of background noise. That’s why you might focus really well in a noisy coffee shop, but barely be able to concentrate in a noisy office.”