The biggest challenge of most high-performers is to focus on their work 100% without getting interrupted in their state of flow all the time by their surrounding or their own thoughts. Overcoming distractions is key to do work we can be proud of, as it will help us get it done in less time and with less frustration. The following productivity hacks are meant to guide you to achieve just that.

Multitasking is the enemy of great work

As employees are drowning in information overload, multitasking became a buzzword and for long it was believed to be a virtue of the best performing members of a team. However, studies have shown that the human brain can only pay attention to one mental task at a time and when we think we do more we are actually just switching our attention rapidly from one task to another.

Everything that interrupts you lessens the strength of your attention and you waste valuable time picking up the threads from where you had left off. Multitasking is the biggest lie of the 21st century and you should eliminate it from your dictionary right away.

Pavlov’s dog and your smartphone

Every time your phone beeps as a new email appears in your inbox your body gets a hit of dopamine and you will feel an irresistible temptation to check what it is. Most of the time you won’t even realize that you interrupted your work because you are so used to reaching for our phone as soon as you receive some news. After you get back to your work-flow it might take minutes to find your focus again and you risk forgetting a valuable idea which was just about to unfold in your mind before you got that message.

In order to prevent this you should put your phone into silence mode and close the tab of your inbox until the task you are working on is complete. We usually don’t even reply to these emails and messages after we read them but they urge us to worry about something unrelated to what we are focusing on. So stop the beeping – nobody gets hurt if you don’t respond to these messages for an hour.

Optimize your level of stimulation

Depending on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert and how alert you are to your surrounding in general, you should rethink the way your working environment is built up. The number of people around you and their temperament, the pace and volume of music that plays, the outside noise and passing lights –these are just some of the things your brain perceives passively around you.

Some people prefer to work in sheer silence while others need some background noise that motivates them to focus on their task even more. Maintaining your attention is a skill you can improve but while you practice you can simply optimize your environment in order to get the best results.

The art of simplicity

Minimalism is not just a style of interior design. It is a new trend in shared and individual working spaces alike where people prefer to eliminate everything from around them that is not strongly related to the very thing they are working on. Family photographs, awards, pile of books and notes all go to the drawer and all that stays on the desk is the device used for working and a notebook with a pen at the very most.

It is incredible how your nearest environment can influence how your mind works. Believe it or not, it will feel extremely liberating to remove all those unnecessary things from your desk and discover the power of simplicity.

Being in the present

No matter how much we change our environment and adjust to the people around us, our thoughts might still wander while we attempt to focus on a mental task. When these moments occur, you can use this simple technique to bring your attention back to the present moment. Find something right next to you that you can examine with your eyes. It may be the pattern of the wooden table or the wrinkles on your own hand. Just observe it until you get back to your awareness of the present moment and then get back to your work.

It might seem odd at first but it will help you focus on the now through your senses instead of time-travelling in your head to past memories and daydreams.