Cell phones, colleagues, construction; no, I’m not running down my list of favorite things that begin with the letter, “c” (that would clearly start with cocktails and end with cuban sandwiches — let’s be real). However, these are just a few obstacles that I and many other copywriters and creatives have to face on a daily basis while attempting to commit their thoughts to the digital page.
It’s not always easy — heck, it’s often very, very difficult; anything worth doing usually is. But there are methods to prevent even the most attention-deficit workers from losing their mental bookmark to common distractions. Speaking from experience, here are five tips to try at your office when you need laser-like focus but have more of a shotgun-blast mind.
Tips on Staying — Ooh, look at that pretty bird — Focused
- The Sound of Silence: Nope; turn that Simon and Garfunkel off. I’ve found that, so often, we get used to the constant drone of something in the background. Whether it’s the sounds of an old Parks and Recreation episode you put on while making dinner or the chatter of coworkers as they close a deal across the hallway, we very rarely give ourselves a second of silence in the day. It may be uncomfortable at first, but trust me — it’s worth a shot if you’re finding yourself unable to concentrate on a big project. Pop into a quiet spot in the office or put in some noise-cancelling headphones, turn your cell phone off and get some of that sweet, golden silence.
- Make Some Noise: Now, notice that I said give silence a try. It’s honestly a bit hit-or-miss for me, as, like many of us, I am so very accustomed to at least having a light level of commotion in the background at all times (I blame that heritage squarely on my loud family from New York City). I often tune into the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify, or throw on some deep house, jazz or classical music with limited lyrics. One additional piece of advice — never try to listen to deeply lyrical songs or podcasts and keep the decibels low. Studies have shown that music that is too loud or fast is often counterproductive to focus.
- Take a Nap: No, seriously. It’s proven that a lack of sleep can dramatically decrease someone’s focus and attention span; two elements essential to being creative and productive in the workplace. Sleep often takes a backseat when deadlines are tight and expectations are high, but realize that you’re only doing your work a disservice if you don’t take the time to get some rest and relaxations.
- Take a Break: OK, so you may be thinking that this and my last point are just obvious attempts to get my boss to let me take naps and surf the Web while on the clock, but I promise — my intentions are good. Many times, I’ve been sweating a deadline, looking at the clock as my rapidly increasing heartbeat drowns the tick-tocking. At these times of high stress, it’s vital to give yourself a break, even if just for a minute. Some of my most creatively rich ideas have come after taking a deep breath, chatting with a colleague about Game of Thrones and coming back to the task at hand renewed and fresh.
- Copious Amounts of Coffee: Maybe copious amounts aren’t the best idea for your health, but this bitter, black nectar of the gods is a great resource for my coworkers and me. If coffee is a bit too strong for you, try a black tea or a green tea if that’s even a step too far. The powers of caffeine are well-documented in science and have definitely saved me on more than a few days that my mind has just seemed to stay comfortably tucked in bed. Drink responsibly.
Of course, everyone works more efficiently under different circumstances. There is, unfortunately, no end-all be-all answer to the problem of persistent thought drifting. However, the key is to keep searching until you find what works for you. Just give yourself a little quiet, take a breather and get that coffee pot percolating; it’s time to get back to work.