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The open-plan office is the bane of a workaholic’s day. Sure, the idea is great in principle — flexible working! Easy communication! The boss can see your screen! But the reality is an endless nightmare of interference and distraction.
Little wonder, then, that a new report has found that we are a city with an increasingly limited attention span. It’s office attention deficit disorder and conquering it could make you happier and better at your job.
According to Dr Nicole Millard, an expert in data, analytics and emerging technology, the average worker manages just three minutes on a task before losing focus. It’s time to fight back against this tyranny of interruption.
Here’s how to concentrate:
1. Golden bullet
While writing his eighth novel, out this week, author Dan Brown rose at 4am each day, fuelled by bulletproof coffee, made with butter and coconut oil, to keep him sharp. Brown says that the potent concoction “changes the way your brain processes caffeine”, and boosts thinking power.
Crussh sells “Smart Coffee”, which contains Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil and grass-fed butter. If that doesn’t do the trick, work out — Brown’s computer is programmed to freeze every hour for a minute, during, and he does push-ups.
2. Tech up
Block out the endless analysis of your frolleague’s latest Tinder drama with noise-cancelling headphones. Choose size over comfort — the point isn’t the tech but the visual clue, the bigger the pair the less likely an approach.
The Jabra Evolve 80 stereo headset even comes with a “do not disturb” light. If they’re persistent, install the “Nope button” to your Google Chrome browser and it’ll send a call to your phone just as they come over to chat. If you are your own worst-enemy, add-ons like Freedom block all internet, app and social media access for a limited window from all your devices.
3. Ditch drop-ins
The key to peak-concentration is to minimise “drop-ins”, a term coined by author Paul Loomans in his recent mindful manual Time Surfing. These are unexpected interruptions: a colleague asking a question, or a phone-call.
In open-plan offices, these can happen every minute. Loomans suggests finding a private place to work (if you have a “flexi” office with quiet rooms) or let people know you can’t be interrupted. Use traffic light signals, suggests Isaacs: stick a red card on your desk if you’re busy, and a green card if you’re happy to chat. Use red sparingly, she warns “or you’ll just look miserable”.
4. Move it
Your mind is a muscle. Exercise boosts brain power and aids concentration, memory and mood. Try wearing ankle weights, or just schedule a lunchtime sweat-work.
“It’s focused meditation, but it’s achieving the same thing: calming you down, reducing stresses and re-engaging the working memory,” she adds. Namaste.
6. Find a “coffice”
If all else fails, change your environment. Millard predicts a move towards a new type of office. We’ll become “shoulder-bag workers” she explains. “Our technology has shrunk so we can literally get our office in a small bag. We are untethered, we don’t have to have a desk any more.” The only crucial part is socialising, she says, and for that there’ll be a move to “the coffice”.
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