Startups and entrepreneurs need an environment conducive to everyday business development. Cafés may offer free wifi but lack the supplies and other technology that businesses need. Working from a home office has its perks but you’re bound to get sidetracked by family, pets, and chores. For many, coworking offers a great alternative to a traditional office.
Some find the open, collaborative design of coworking spaces distracting. Follow these tips to improve your concentration in any workspace.
Even private offices can present distractions. Some things can be minimized, but others can’t be controlled. Some can be remedied with a simple cleanup.
Start with your desk. It’s common for people to display photos of loved ones. But having too many pictures (or ornaments in general) can encourage the mind to wander. Keep your workstation tidy. Put away supplies or decorations that don’t contribute to productivity. And yes, that often includes tucking your phone away or putting it on silent!
In certain occasions, it may be worth moving to a quieter room. Book a conference room for meetings or planning sessions. Take a call in a soundproof phone booth. A change of scenery, even temporarily, can have a major impact on your mindset and productivity.
If you’re planning on using the shared coworking lounge for a prolonged period, but struggle with distractions, consider registering for a dedicated desk. A consistent workstation reserved exclusively for you can help cut down on disturbances, including the busywork involved in getting settled every morning.
Ironically, the more you try to do, the less you get done. It’s easy to think that having a dozen tabs open makes you more efficient. But how many tasks can you focus on at a given time?
Create a to-do list, then schedule your projects on a calendar. The second part is the key. Many of us have a list of things we need to get done. But scheduling the tasks on a calendar ensures you only work on one thing at a time. This helps you avoid multitasking or accepting different meetings. You can focus on that important project.
While task management apps are a dime a dozen, nothing beats a simple pen and paper system. Read our previous guide to collaborative calendar apps to keep track of your shared projects and daily assignments.
You can’t always control your environment, especially at work. Your coworkers may be running through a presentation next to you. Or they might be having a casual conversation. Whatever it may be, you need to roll with the punches and continue your tasks, instead of moving or causing a scene.
That’s when listening to music or a podcast can be helpful. Try buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones. These are equipped with a special mic that “flips” the frequency of ambient sound. They’ll help neutralize any background noise.
If you don’t have any noise-canceling headphones, instrumental music can be a great solution. Try classical, jazz, or electronic. Music with words can be distracting for many. Instrumental music will drown out the distractions without diverting your focus. If instrumental music isn’t for you, simple white noise might be worth a shot. The free Ultimate White Noise Generator from myNoise can be customized with 10 sliders and even offers pink and brown noise effects for a more satisfying sound. Their “white rain” generator goes a step farther by leaning into the natural white noise of a gentle rain.
Letting others know that you need privacy or silence at certain times can go a long way. Take a short walk through an Expansive hallway, and you’ll see a variety of “Do Not Disturb”, “Please Be Respectful Of Our Guests” or similar signs, which can be a good way to establish your desire for peace and quiet.
It’s important to also create social boundaries when necessary. Learn to say “no” to friends, family, or other coworkers when you need to focus. Of course, that can be easier said than done. But when you start saying “no” and becoming more selective with how you spend your time, you’ll get a lot more done in the end.
Finally, create boundaries for yourself at work. Even if you get to set your own working hours, be firm about when you start and when you end. Additionally, set email and phone “office” hours on your website. That way, you’ve set expectations for when you can and can’t be reached. But once set, you’ve got to be disciplined in maintaining those boundaries, or you’ll end up right back where you started.
Silencing your phone or setting it away can be one of the biggest boundaries you set. The average American adult checks their mobile phone 58 times per day. What’s even more staggering is the fact that 70% of those sessions last less than two minutes. It’s not our total screen time that affects our productivity, it’s frequency with which we distract ourselves by picking up the phone. A key contributor to maintaining the boundaries you set for others is to ensure you’re keeping them with yourself as well.
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to focus on your work is to step away from time to time. So much of our work is completed on laptops or computers, it can be easy to neglect posture or fail to get enough physical activity after sitting all day. As our kids learned during their time in remote school, even a few minutes of a screen break go a long way toward refreshing your mind, relaxing your muscles, and keeping your eyes healthy.
Exercise for an hour before work. Or if you’re short on time, take a quick walk around the building or climb the stairs from bottom-to-top each afternoon. Grab a cup of coffee or tea in the lounge. Be intentional about trips to the mail room. You may even want to run a personal errand, like sending mail or buying office supplies. Any burst of activity to break up your day can help your mind feel less drained at the end of the day.
Having trouble managing your time between work and break? Check out the Pomodoro Technique. This method breaks down your work into 25-minute intervals, broken up by break periods. It’s a simple, but effective way of increasing your attention while making sure you get moments of rest.
Finally, remember the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. If you want people to be respectful while you work, do the same when you’re around others trying to concentrate. Speak quietly when others are having important calls or conversations. Limit your phone calls and be aware of your volume while on the phone (which can be easy to forget!) to avoid disturbing those nearby.
Also, remember basic hygiene. Coworking spaces are shared. Even if you don’t share a desk or office, leaving clutter around may affect other people as well. Be mindful of your space, keep your area clean, and remember to tidy dinnerware and loose supplies.
Coworking spaces have all the elements to turn you into a productive worker. But you need to put the work and practice in. Don’t expect to magically finish work. When you come into work with the right mindset, attitude, and work etiquette, you’ll start to see your performance improve.