Having trouble focusing at work? Here’s why and 12 ways to fix it

Having trouble focusing at work? Here’s why and 12 ways to fix it

We live in a noisy, chaotic world. Even if you have excellent concentration and time-management skills, it can still be hard to focus with all the many distractions that surround us. From endless notifications on your phone to late-night emails, we’re all trying to stay focused at work — and beyond.

So rather than trying to control everything else, turn your attention inward to remove friction where you can. The smallest of changes can lead to a more productive day and help you stay on the path of your to-do list. It’s all about taking tiny little baby steps toward reducing distraction and improving focus.

From focus playlists to ergonomic furniture, there are so many impactful ways to introduce more order and ease in your life. As you work on building and sustaining focus, you’ll also be more likely to produce meaningful work and find balance in all areas of your life. We’re sharing our top tips for how to stay focused at work so you can get more done in less time and finish every day feeling productive and proud.

How to stay focused at work: 12 actionable tips if you’re having trouble focusing at work

Different distractions come with different work environments. For example, if you work from home, you may have more distractions with your kids, pets, or general household tasks (laundry, dishes, making lunch, etc.). On the other hand, if you work a hybrid schedule or are in an office full-time, it’s common to get distracted when you see co-workers. A 5-minute coffee chat can quickly turn into an hour-long catch-up session.

But regaining focus is attainable! Here are 12 simple yet powerful ways you can take control, limit distractions, and strengthen your ability to give your full attention to whatever task is at hand.

Zody Mesh Office Chair

1. Create Distraction-Free Zones

Do you have a messy desk? A computer desktop loaded with random documents and screenshots? A cluttered email inbox? This isn't helping you work as productively as you could be — but it’s so easy to fix.

Especially when it comes to your desk. Pen holders and document trays can free up much-needed real estate and give you more space in your brain to focus on projects in front of you.

We recommend tackling one thing at a time to see how it impacts your workflow. Sometimes spending as little as 15 minutes organizing your email inbox can make a world of difference in your workday. Try tidying up your workstation and computer desktop before clocking out for the weekend. It will make your Mondays just a little bit easier.

2. Practice Time Blocking

Use your phone timer or try one of the many time-management apps to help you block time for certain projects. You might be surprised at how much you can get done in just 10 or 20 minutes. Time management is like a muscle — it’ll get stronger the more you work on it. So be patient with yourself and stick with it.

3. Make Lists

Jot down what you need to do somewhere outside of your brain. It doesn’t matter whether you store your to-dos in a planner or your notes app. Simply getting these lists in one place will give you space to see what projects are priorities. This will help you stay grounded rather than overwhelmed by what’s on your plate.

4. Set Reasonable Expectations

Sometimes our to-do lists get out of hand — and we take on more than we can realistically accomplish. But when your goals are out of reach, this will zap your energy and likely leave you feeling frustrated, which will only make it harder to get things done.

Instead, try to be realistic about what you can accomplish and what you cannot. The more you hone in on what you can reasonably get done, the easier it will be to say “no” to distractions.

That’s where boundaries come in. If you can’t focus at work, establish boundaries like limiting unnecessary messages, only checking social media once a day, and avoiding online shopping to keep yourself on track.

5. Reduce Notifications

Ditch the red dot. While some notifications are necessary, chances are there are a few you can mute. Consider turning off notifications that aren’t essential to your workday. This will help you avoid getting a jolt of distraction that can turn an easy 30-minute task into a 3-hour project.

If you work in a shared space, you can also set visual boundaries with our Belong Back Screen and Belong Territory Screen. They’re designed to improve focus work and reduce distractions.  

6. Take Advantage Of Your Calendar

Use your calendar not just as a way to see what’s on your schedule, but as a way to alert others when you’re busy, including (and especially) when you’re in “focus mode.” This is a simple tip you can establish in just a few seconds. We suggest making it a recurring event so everyone on your team knows when you’re in a focus zone and can respect your work schedule.

7. Use Focus Tools

Plenty of plugins are designed to help you be more productive. StayFocusd, Limit, and Pause are options that are aimed to help reduce the amount of time you spend mindlessly browsing, so you spend more time crossing things off your to-do list.

8. Get Ergonomic Office Furniture

Aches and pains aren’t only uncomfortable, they’re also distracting. If you find yourself experiencing lower back pain or achy legs from sitting all day in an uncomfortable chair, do yourself a favor and invest in new office furniture. Ergonomic office chairs and ergonomic sit-to-stand desks may just be the secret ingredient to a more productive day with fewer distractions and less body pain.  

9. Make A Playlist For Focus Time

Make your own focus playlist or use one of the curated ones on Spotify or YouTube. Turn up the music, get in the zone, and allow yourself to sink into your projects. Just don’t forget your headphones, especially if you work in a shared space.

10. Take Breaks

Focus on your breath, take a walk, or do a few stretches at your desk. Spending a few minutes looking away from your computer can sharpen your focus and actually help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time. It might sound too good to be true, but studies show breaks are an essential part of how to stay focused at work in the long run.

11. Stop Multitasking

Your attention span can only do so much at one time. Multitasking is shown to lead to forgetfulness, reduced productivity, and decreased efficiency. Instead, do one thing at a time. You’ll set yourself up for success to get more done and get it done well.
12. Sleep

Last but certainly not least, one of the best ways to improve your concentration is to get more sleep. If you’re sleep deprived, it will make it that much harder to get through your to-dos. Not to mention, it will help improve your memory, creativity, judgment, and brain functioning.

Why you’re having trouble focusing at work

Why can’t I focus at work? This is a question we’ve all likely asked ourselves. The good news: If you’re having trouble focusing, you’re not alone.

We’re believers that when we know why something is happening, it’s easier to fix it. Think about times you find yourself getting distracted and see if there’s any common thread that you can address.

Is your phone always involved? Or maybe your pup? Do you tend to get more distracted first thing in the morning, or when you go into the office? Is something going on in your personal life that’s impacting your work life? These are just some of the potential reasons you might find your brain drifting away from your work.

Here are some other common reasons you may be struggling to stay focused at work:

●   You’re overwhelmed: When you have too much to do, it can be hard to know where to start. This lack of direction makes it all too easy to get distracted with things to do to avoid working. A big part of how to improve focus at work is learning to let go of certain things so you can give more energy to what you spend time on.

●   You’re bored: If you’re not interested in your work, it can be that much harder to get it done. Try sandwiching tasks you don’t enjoy in between ones you enjoy more. Try out the “eat the frog” technique, which involves doing the thing you like the least first. It'll only get better from there!

●   You’re exhausted: It’s nearly impossible to be productive when you’re running on empty. Sleeping, drinking water, and eating nourishing food are tried-and-true ways to create a healthier and more efficient work routine. This might sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Take care of yourself and you’ll likely see your work improve too.

How to stay focused at work? It starts with deliberate changes

Small, actionable changes can transform the way you work and truly improve your focus with both everyday tasks and long-term projects. Time management apps, focus playlists, and to-do lists are just some of the many ways to cultivate focus even when distractions feel overwhelming.

Ultimately, if you’re reading this, it shows you want to be more focused, which is a great place to start. Once you desire something, you’ll likely begin to prioritize it. Just be gentle with yourself as distractions are inevitable — and it can take time to learn how to deal with them in a way that works for your unique situation.

Of course, you don’t have to do everything at once. In fact — don’t! Instead, try implementing one thing at a time and notice if you see any improvements in building (and maintaining) your focus. When in doubt, take a breath, move your body, and make a list. You've got this.


Some things are too good to keep to yourself.