It's often hard at work to be mindful--the state of fully focusing your awareness on the present moment--when faced with distractions like the constant ping of emails and texts and the fact that we constantly push our brains to the point of fatigue.
Gloria Mark, Ph.D., who studies digital distraction, has found that the average person only has about 11 minutes of consistent focus before he or she gets interrupted. And once you are distracted, it can take up to 25 minutes before your mind can again refocus on work.
When we are not fully mindful at work, we lose precious time, productivity, and eventually revenue. One survey estimated that businesses lose more than $10 million a year--or more than $10,000 per employee--thanks to regular workplace distractions.
How can you increase mindfulness at work? The key is to block common distractions and better manage your time so you don't overwork your brain.
Here are five strategies that will help:
1. Plan Your Day
Without a daily schedule, it is easy to get distracted by unknown events. If you are more aware of what you want to accomplish and keep it handy, you have a constant reminder that your attention is needed elsewhere. Some people draft a simple to-do list each morning, email their task list to themselves, or add their tasks to their calendar and block time to ensure it gets accomplished.
2. Divide Your Day in Half
Your energy and discipline can be different for each person throughout the day. I have found that my energy is often the highest in the morning, so I reserve that time for larger tasks that require more siloed mental effort, and I schedule conference calls and meetings for the afternoon.
3. Work in 90-minute Segments
After 90 minutes of uninterrupted work step away and take a break. Researchers studied elite performers, like athletes, actors, musicians, and even chess players, and found that their best performances occurred in sessions that lasted no more than 90 minutes. Therefore, ensure you keep that in mind as you schedule your own work or schedule
4. Block the Internet
When you need to devote your full attention to something, close your web browser (Google offers extensions called StayFocus and Block Site that can block chosen Chrome websites for specific periods of time) so you can't check social media or emails. I do this on a regular basis and have realized that it's just fine not to be accessible to everyone and everything all of the time. Trust me, the world can wait a while.
5. Put Up a "Do Not Disturb Sign"
Turn your phone or computer status to "away" or "busy" or close your office door and hang a "do not disturb" sign.
You can't expect to always be engaged in your work at all times. But to be more productive, and ultimately more successful, your brain needs protection from daily office distractions and midnight oil burning work days. Thinking about how you work better can go a long way to helping you think better.