Business Productivity: Concentrating On Your Work


1. Modify your office set up.
Is your office set up for maximum productivity or maximum distraction? Turn away from the door. Block your view with a plant or a computer monitor, so that as people walk by, you are not tempted to look up. If you do, you’ll catch the eye of someone wandering by, and they will strike up a conversation.
You can ask for office changes. If you have glass on one side of your office wall, you can ask for blinds to be installed, so you can close them when trying to concentrate. If your cubicle walls are too low or half walls, you can request higher partitions.

If you happen to work right outside of the elevators or in a high-traffic area, people might think that you are the receptionist and always be asking you for directions and information. Perhaps you can request a change in location. When someone leaves one office, you can say, “Hey, how about that office over there?”
Take it upon yourself to figure out how to set up your office for maximum focus.

2. Maximize your productivity.
Make some different choices when scheduling your day, so you can take advantage of the best opportunities to focus.

Block your high-energy periods from your calendar. If you are a morning person and you do your best work from 8:00 until 10:00, block that time off your calendar so people don’t schedule meetings at that time. During that time, do work that requires a high level of concentration, such as number crunching or reading important documents.

Remove your email alerts. In Outlook, go under Tools, Options, Email options, Advanced email options, and uncheck all the boxes under “When new items arrive in my inbox.” Without all those beeps and envelopes in the systems tray and desktop alerts, you might be able to focus.
Even better, turn off all the technology if you are trying to focus. Shut your Outlook down completely so that you are not tempted to look in your Inbox. Turn your Blackberry or cell phone off. Put your Instant Messaging on Do Not Disturb. Forward your phone. Actually create a little bubble around yourself, a window of opportunity for focused time to work.

Then avoid your known distractions or “occupational hobbies,” things that you really enjoy doing while you are at work. Maybe you like to check your blog postings. You like to post on your Facebook page or check LinkedIn. Or you surf the Internet. Whatever your biggest time wasters, close that browser so that you are not tempted to do those things.

Try setting a timer. If you really want to focus, set a timer like a kitchen timer from home that actually makes noise. Set it for 20 minutes and tell yourself, “I’m not going to do another thing except this task until that timer goes off.”

3. Don’t obey your brain.
Your brain may be constantly reminding you to do things that are very low priority. When you think of something you need to do, you might think, “Ooh, don’t forget to call Jennifer for the meeting next week,” and then you obey your mind, call Jennifer, and stop working on a more important project.

Instead, have a place where you can capture random thoughts as they come up. You can use a Day-Timer, a notebook, or Outlook Tasks. When you think of something to do, don’t actually do it. Instead, record it in your capture tool and go right back to what you were working on.

When you finish the first task, you’ll have a list of the other items you thought about. Now you can re-assess priorities and accomplish them in order of importance, rather than the order they popped into your brain.

I hope these three strategies will help you concentrate and be more focused.

To find out more about The Productivity Pro®, Inc. or have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, please visit at
Make it a productive day! ™

© 2010 Laura Stack. All Rights Reserved.