Tips for concentrating in a busy workplace

It can be difficult to focus at work when the phone keeps ringing, you’re constantly getting new e-mails and colleagues keep dropping by for a chat.

How do you actually get stuff done if you can’t get any peace and quiet?

There are no ready-made concentration tips that work for everyone, but some of these ideas may help.

Rest up

“If you have a bad night, you will also have a bad day,” says German author and coach Jochen Mai.

As well as making sure you get enough sleep, you should also take regular breaks while you work.

“You can only concentrate for about 90 minutes (at a time) in any case,” the expert notes.

After about four hours, you will need a longer break, preferably outdoors and with a brief walk.

Turn off e-mail notifications

E-mail messages can be like a “constant drip”, says German career coach Ute Boelke.

Every one of them pulls you out of focus, so the best thing to do is to turn off notifications of new messages when you’re trying to focus on something else.

You can also try setting clear times when you plan to deal with incoming e-mail, Boelke recommends.

“You do not need to reply to every e-mail at once,” she notes.

Turn off your phone

Just like a steady flow of incoming e-mail messages, a constantly ringing phone can prevent you from focusing on your work.

“If you don’t work in the emergency services, you can probably use an answering machine,” Boelke says.

Make to-do lists

On a Friday, or early on a Monday, make a list of all pending work, in priority order.

“At the top of the list should be anything you tend to procrastinate in order to avoid, as well as tasks that will require a higher level of concentration,” says Anette Wahl-Wachendorf, vice president of the German Union of Company Doctors.

Mai sees things differently, however: if you need motivation in order to be able to work well, he says, you would do better not to start the week with the tasks you enjoy the least.

Avoid office chatter

“Of course you should be friendly and value other people,” says Wahl-Wachendorf.

“But always having a sympathetic ear and constantly allowing people to interrupt your work is not going to work.”

You should not feel guilty about postponing questions or chats when you are working.

If you need to focus on a particular task, you can signal that by shutting your door if you have your own office or by using headphones when you share common space, Mai says.

Control your hours

If you have the option to organise your work flexibly, you should take it, Wahl-Wachendorf says.

Going to work earlier or leaving later can be a good way to get things done in a quieter environment.

However, Boelke cautions that this approach might be less beneficial in some jobs, especially those that rely on contact with colleagues or customers.

Eat and drink well

It might sound obvious, but you should not underestimate the importance of eating and drinking enough.

That doesn’t mean you need to down a litre of water every 90 minutes – it is better to have a sip or two every few minutes.

“If you dehydrate, your ability to concentrate will drop,” Mai explains. – dpa


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