Maintaining Focus

focusOne only need to turn the television on or receive an email or text on your PDA to become distracted.  In today’s world, the distractions inside and outside of the workplace can be too numerous to list — heated office gossip, political rhetoric, or the latest hacking scandal compete with ‘do you have a minute’ interruptions, sudden emergencies, and last minute revisions. The obvious question becomes, how can you maintain focus and productivity for employees in a world that at times can have distractions at every turn?

It can be easy for what was once a casual conversation over coffee before the morning meeting to turn into heated discussion that can carry on throughout the work day or leave an after taste that lasts for the rest of the week. Productivity dips, egos may be bruised, and professional relationships can suffer.  How can you maintain and foster a healthy workplace for your employees in today’s world of a two second focus?

I suggest sticking to the basics.  Just because the world may feel like it is spinning off of its axis doesn’t mean you, your colleagues, or your employees have to respond to every little thing that competes for your attention.

Here are my tips:

  • Rally People Around Organization Goals. It is easy to have the annual goal setting meeting, but it is essential to check-in and measure against those goals throughout the year.  This is a time to remind people of their roles and responsibilities and how they support the larger vision for the department and ultimately the company. It can also be a good time to assess and get input about what is working and what is not.
  • Develop and Build Your Team. Periodically step outside of the traditional work day and do something different and fun that allows people to connect in a more personal way.  People can experience a different side of their leaders and team members when work is not the focus. Create new engagement pathways that allow folks to possibly shake-off or work through any negativity or awkwardness from work related situations. Connect the dots to back on the job application so people understand that it’s not just entertainment on company time, it is another way to develop an effective team.
  • Encourage Breaks. Give everyone a chance to clear minds and recharge. Not only are you making an investment in the wellbeing of others, you are communicating that you value and respect others. There are several studies that indicate that employees who feel valued or more willing to invest and put effort in their work. Pay attention to the clues that stress or focus on one thing for too long is taking a toll.

Don’t confuse ‘focus’ with ‘mindfulness.’ Mindfulness is about meditation – the ability to achieve a mental state of complete tranquility. It’s a great stress buster and it would be terrific if every workplace provided opportunities to teach and engage in the practice of meditation. Focus is the ability to fix your attention on an object or idea for a long period of time. In today’s over-stimulated environment, it’s a skill that can be taught and encouraged.

It is estimated that on average, we have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day — That equates to one thought per second.  And that does not include the external distractions.  On average you spend 40+hours each week with your co-workers in one week, which can translate to approximately 1,520 hours per year.  Fostering a healthy workplace is not just essential – it is a must to ensure productivity and engagement and maintain focus.

I’m hoping you were able to read this entire blog post in one sitting without any interruption. If not, perhaps we should talk!

 

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