finding focus in the digital age

According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, only 39% of an employee’s time is spent on role-specific tasks. With distractions such as emails to catch up on, instant messenger notifications from colleagues, and way too many tabs open on your computer, the inability to find focus in our digital age is understandable. On top of all that, working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic means digital distractions and a lack of face-to-face interaction with coworkers make productivity even more of a struggle.

So what measures can brokers take to find focus in the digital age, let alone during a time where your current work environment and processes have been flipped upside down? Check out these tips for establishing balance and increasing productivity despite being plagued with multiple distractions during a 40-hour workweek.

Begin Each Day with a Productivity Plan

Ever find yourself mapping out the week on a Sunday night, only to be presented with a handful of “fires” Monday morning that completely throw a wrench in your day? The first step: don’t panic. While minor hiccups in your workday are bound to happen regularly, it’s still possible to stick to your intended schedule. Start by blocking off time on your personal calendar for tasks that you wish to achieve. If you end up moving projects around based on priority throughout the day, that’s OK. But planning out what you need to get done in a 9-5 workday will eliminate the need to “scramble” five days a week. Remember — it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Identify Non-essential Meetings

Meetings that simply could have been a brief email chain — we’ve all been there. Pinpoint touch bases that need to be attended in order to complete essential tasks at hand. Finding a balance between hopping on calls and actually achieving work during the day can be tough, but it’s perfectly acceptable to push back meetings that will not contribute to your productivity. Better yet, if a problem can be solved with a quick email or instant message, suggest that route!

Interact with Colleagues Based on Priority

Here’s a disturbing statistic for you. According to researchers at University of California, Irvine, workers are interrupted every eleven minutes and do not resume those interrupted tasks for another twenty-five minutes. In any industry, the pressure to be a “people pleaser” is overwhelming. Whether colleagues are reaching out with task-based questions or just checking in, you may feel obligated to respond quickly. That being said, working from home makes this phenomenon even more overbearing. There is really no such thing as being “unavailable” anymore when all it takes is an instant message to get a colleague’s attention. Consider turning notifications off and marking your calendar to let co-workers know you are busy. Those messages will still be there when you complete your work.

Take Breaks — and Catch Enough Z’s!

Unfortunately, no amount of caffeine can make up for a sleepless night. Similar to your task planning process, be sure to break up your workdays with time for lunch, short breaks, and of course, a concrete end time. If turning off your email notifications is the only way to completely “log off” at the end of the day and get a good night’s sleep, then do so!