Nowadays, more and more companies are stepping away from space-restricting cubicles and switching to open workplaces to encourage connectivity and creativity. Yet, with more freedom and space come various distractions that can often make being focused more complicated than it already is in the modern era of technology and social media.

A recent Gallup report found that the current ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is nearly 3-to-1. Many employees tend to only work productively for approximately 3 hours, according to a 2017 study from the U.K.’s largest money saving brand, Vouchercloud. With longer work hours, many employees also say their productivity levels are dropping due to stress and anxiety caused by their workload.

We asked our ForceBrands team members, who are used to working in a busy workplace, to weigh in. Read on as we share their tips on staying focused and productive even amid workplace distractions.

1. Prioritize to-do lists
Creating to-do lists every morning allows you to see how many tasks you have each workday and how much time you will need to allocate for every project. If you are unsure which task is a priority, consult with your manager. Luke LaClair, Digital Client Strategist at ForceBrands, suggests pre-planning tomorrow’s workday the day before: have lists of contacts, meetings, and goals before you come in.

2. Set your own deadlines and goals
Once you have completed your to-do list, it is much easier to set time frames for each task. Many of us are prone to procrastination, and simply setting a date as a deadline doesn’t suffice. It can be helpful to set time allotments for your assignments and goals, break them down into the smallest parts possible, and micromanage. “I like breaking down the numbers little by little, so I can kind of dissect them almost into hours: here’s the revenue I need to make between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m,” LaClair says. “If I don’t hit that the first half of the day, then here’s what I have to make up in the second half of the day.”

3. Block out the background noise
“Over-the-ear headphones are nice to wear when you are working on projects,” says Allisyn LaBarca, Creative Lead at ForceBrands. “They allow you to block out the office sounds and really focus on what you’re doing.”

4. Guard your time
When you know how long each project will take you, it is easier to be conscious of co-workers approaching you with requests. Julia Parsons, ForceBrands’ Digital Account Manager, says it is okay to prioritize your own projects and get back to your team’s requests later. LaBarca also suggests blocking time on your work calendar. “Setting it as a meeting on your calendar allows for others to see that you’re busy and prohibits them from scheduling other meetings during your ‘in-the-zone’ time,” she says.

5. Eliminate digital distractions
Turning off your notifications can help you focus on a task. It may seem counterintuitive in modern workplaces, but constant app badges appearing on your phone screen are hurting your productivity. “We don’t need to be notified every five seconds of every email that comes in,” Parsons says. “It’s okay to respond to emails at the end of the day.”

6. Avoid the temptation to multitask
In this digital age, our attention spans are getting shorter. We are used to switching from one small task to another and from our smartphones to our laptops whenever we get a new idea. Try to resist the impulse to instantly switch gears and follow a new train of thought because it disrupts your current workflow and can lead to mistakes.

7. Do switch gears from time to time
If a project is grueling and your deadline allows it, it can sometimes be beneficial to switch gears. “Oftentimes, going back to a project with a refreshed view will help you to become unstuck and finish it more quickly than you would have if you had kept trying when you were not ‘in the flow,’” LaBarca says.

8. Identify your main distractions
We all get distracted by different things, and it is important to know what stands in your way of accomplishing assignments. Some employees get distracted by external noises and work chatter. For others, they’re distracted by having constant notifications popping up on their phone screens. Once you detect what your weakness is, you can refer to the above tips to find solutions that will help reduce your distractions most efficiently.

9. Do what you love
As cliché as that sounds, having a passion for what you do can help you stay laser-focused most of the time. It’s much easier to block everything out when you are truly invested in your work. “If you are doing something you love, all the outside noise and everything that comes into play outside of what you are doing doesn’t really distract you,” LaClair says.

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