Ping. Ding. Ring.
So many things are vying for our attention these days. I remember when I first started working that the sound of the telephone would drive me nuts. I quickly learned that silencing the ringer was the way to go if I had some important things to get done.
Another issue was walk-in visitors to the office. It was kind of an open door policy in this workplace. The boss could come by anytime. Coworkers would walk by. And even those that you didn’t see often would poke their heads in as they walked down the hall.
After awhile of building some confidence I learned to just shut the door for an hour or two if I need to work uninterrupted.
So many things distract us. And it’s not just those types of interruptions. Sometimes it’s just thoughts. Things we need to get done. Things we’re worried about in the future because they’re unsettled.
So many things.
How do you deal with an active mind while working?
Here are some thoughts.
1. Create and Audit Routines
Have you ever arrived at the office parking lot in your vehicle only to think, I don’t remember anything about that commute…
It has happened to be a lot of times. And not just driving to work. But driving somewhere familiar. The same things seems to happen during my morning routine and bedtime routine. When you do the same thing over and over it seems your brain kind of goes on auto-pilot. It’s like, I got this take a break.
The same thing can happen in the workplace. You just need to focus on building good routines. Routines that allow you to get your work done. You probably know the tasks and the order of things. But for whatever reason you don’t always stick to it.
Develop more routines in your work. Stick to them. And every few months audit them to see how they’ve changed. Then get back to it.
The more you do it the more your mind will be able to go into auto-pilot mode.
2. Turn Off Interruptions
Our phones are great tools. But we have to do more to avoid the interruptions they bring. That old phone sitting on my office desk was enough. I hated unplanned calls. So I had to silence the ringer. It was amazing. I could go back and check messages after. And if something wasn’t important people would often not leave a message. If it was really important they would call my neighbor and have them bang on my door. That happened once in five years.
Turn off notifications on your smart phone. Silence it. Turn it off completely. Leave it in your coat pocket and hang the coat on the door. Leave it in the car. If you’re working on something really important, throw the phone in the river.
If you want a quiet and focused mind, you have to eliminate these types of things. Each interruption short circuits your focus. It isn’t just a quick interruption. Your brain needs time to get back into focus with each occurrence.
3. Schedule Time To Deal With Things
One of the things that keeps a mind active and loud is worrying about the future. Unsettled things. What should we do about that. How will we handle that. What will that person think when this happens. You know the routine.
One way to possibly combat these thoughts is to schedule time to deal with it. Each time a thought comes up take a moment to put a half hour or hour on the schedule to “deal” with it. Not sure what gift to buy the boss? Put it on the schedule. Don’t let it sit and stew in your brain while you’re working on other things right now.
Exercise can be a lot of things. It can be walking everyday at lunch. It can be going for a run in the morning or evening. You can define the exercise. It’s good for your body and also for your mind.
I’ve found that exercising gives me time to process thoughts. Even for 20-30 minutes you have time to work out a little bit. Sometimes you really focus on the task at hand and give your mind a break from working. Other times you walk and think through some issues.
Either way, it definitely seems to help.
5. Create Time For Surprises
Unplanned things happen in life all the time. At home and definitely at work. The boss comes in with a request. Or she emails you with an urgent task. All kinds of things.
What I like to do is schedule time for surprises. They’re going to happen. We just don’t necessarily know what the surprise will be. But we can pretty much plan for a certain number of surprises and the time they will take up from our regular workweek.
So why not schedule time for it?
The best case is that you have a little free time for whatever you want each week.
Our brains are busy these days. But maybe it’s been that way for centuries. I can’t say that the phone creates a busier brain than those that tried to survive in the wilderness a thousand years ago. Whatever the situation, we are busy now. And we have to deal with it.
We know that unfocused work leads to unfinished tasks and poorly finished ones. Hopefully these thoughts can help you with what you’re dealing with at work.