Published on November 30, 2018, at 11:40 a.m.
by Emily Hillhouse.
Maximizing productivity is not always easy, especially when there are distractions that keep you from focusing on the tasks at hand. If you feel you need to be in a quiet, distraction-free environment in order to work efficiently, you are not alone.
Even in a people-and-relationships-driven industry like public relations, many practitioners find it is important to take time away from group brainstorming sessions and hash out some ideas on their own. For many, intense focus is crucial for writing, research and other aspects of their profession.
If you find your productivity waning, here are some easy and practical ways to take control of your environment and your ability to focus:
Listen to white noise
Putting in headphones is the universal signal for “I need to be left alone.” While you don’t want to constantly alienate yourself from others around you, this is a good technique for those moments when you need a surefire way to increase your concentration.
Since listening to music can be distracting, another option to help you zone out everything except your work is white noise, which is a term for homogeneous sound frequencies like static or rain sounds.
There are multiple free white noise apps on iTunes and Google Play, such as White Noise Lite. Also, you can find hours-long videos on YouTube of hertz waves and binaural beats designed to drown out noise and help clear your mind to focus.
Get creative with your location
According to a study from UC Irvine, it takes 23 minutes to recapture your focus following just one distraction. Brainstorming campaign ideas with others is a great way to gain fresh perspectives and get out of your own head. However, when it comes to nailing down specifics, you might need to dodge any and all distractions in order to follow your train of thought. If silence helps you concentrate more than white noise, it might be easier than you think to find some peace and quiet.
For such a simple and effective philosophy, “ask and you shall receive” is often overlooked. To avoid distractions while you’re working, consider asking for temporary access to an empty conference room at your office. After you’ve sufficiently fleshed out your ideas, you can invite others in to see what they think.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
Some may find the idea of locking yourself away to focus to be the opposite of effective. If you’re an extravert who works well in a highly social environment, but still has trouble concentrating throughout the day, the Pomodoro Technique might be the perfect system for you. It combines getting your work done and staying engaged with those around you.
It’s simple: Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work for the entirety of that time. After the timer goes off, place a checkmark on a sheet of paper and take a five-minute break. Stand up, stretch, walk to the water cooler or talk to a co-worker about what you’re working on. Restart your timer once your break is finished, and after you’ve made four checkmarks, take a longer break.
While it is a popular tool for studying, the Pomodoro Technique works in an office environment as well. According to Alan Henry at Lifehacker, the periods of focus “make sure you’re consistently productive” while the constant breaks “bolster your motivation and keep you creative.”
Turn off notifications
Staying connected is crucial for PR practitioners. Depending on what you are doing, however, you may benefit from temporarily going off the digital grid. While this seems obvious, there are a variety of ways to make the temptation of checking your phone or social media easier to resist, aside from manually disabling notifications on your phone and computer.
SelfControl is an app for Macs that allows you to disable your own access to distracting websites for periods of time. Freedom is another app available for Windows, Macs, iPhones and Androids, which lets you do the same thing, but also gives you the opportunity to regain access by restarting your device.
FocusWriter lets you write on a simple or aesthetically pleasing screen and automatically blocks all notifications from your desktop. You can also set timers, which will come in handy if you give the Pomodoro Technique a try!
Whether you use these tips or other methods to concentrate, don’t forget to find a healthy balance between work and play. Locking yourself away for a few hours to get a big project done is fine on occasion, but don’t make a habit of shutting out your colleagues for the sake of efficiency. Practice adequate self-care, and never place your worth or value in your level of productivity alone.