It’s 10 in the morning, and you’ve spilled your coffee. You can’t remember where you put the phone number for the insurance prospect you promised you’d call first thing in the morning. You are distracted. There’s too much to think about, and your endless to-do list is affecting your performance. If you’re stuck in a rut and don’t know how to improve focus at work, try one of these tips for blocking distractions and performing at your highest level.

Stop what you’re doing and create a to-do list

If you feel unfocused, it’s likely that your performance is suffering as well. Stop everything you’re doing. Grab a blank piece of paper and set an alarm for 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter how busy you are. There will never be a “good” time to press the pause button at work, so stop what you’re doing right now.

Okay, well, maybe wait until after you read the rest of this post.

Set a timer and purge your brain of all the to-dos, wishes, creative ideas, and distractions you can think of. It doesn’t matter if you’re intermingling your personal and professional thoughts. Don’t organize as you go. Simply get everything out of your brain and onto the paper.

When you’re done (feel free to keep going after the timer goes off if you need more time, but don’t stop beforehand), clean up your list in whatever way is most productive for you. It’s probably easiest to split the list in half for personal and work items. Then, prioritize. Do you want to do the big, daunting tasks first? Maybe you’d rather tackle as many small items as you can – just crossing things off your to-do list can motivate and focus your brain.

It doesn’t matter how you prioritize. If you’ve organized your thoughts and have action items to work on, you’re effectively setting yourself up to stay focused in the office.

Set up an organization system and stick with it

Is paper constantly piling up on your desk? Does your email inbox keep growing out of control? Are you a post-it junkie? Being unorganized is a significant harbinger to a distracted mind. When you’re learning how to improve focus at work, the best place to start is by organizing your physical and technological workspace.

Start with your physical area. Is your office clean and uncluttered? When you’re constantly looking for paperwork, you’re losing quality work time. Clean up your office. Block off time on your schedule if you need to. Once everything is tidy, it’s time to evaluate how well your current organization system is working for you.

If your filing is getting put in the wrong places, or you find yourself losing important notes or numbers, you need a better organization system. Take a break and head to your local office-supply store for shelving or other tools to help you stay uncluttered.

Once your workspace is clean and functional, it’s time to take a look at your digital organization. Create filters in your email system. Clean up the icons on your desktop. Make computer folders and delete anything unnecessary. Use apps like Trello, Basecamp, or Asana for digital project management. Feedly or Pocket can help organize posts and articles you want to read later. SelfControl app will block any websites you find distracting for a set amount of time.

Limit your access to the computer

Do you spend most of your workday on the computer? If you’re responding to emails from current customers, importing leads into your CRM software, or doing data entry all day, you’re not making time for any other tasks.

Plus, your eyes need a break, too. Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eye Strain, is a real thing. Take care of your eyes, and get other important work done.

It may seem impossible, but there’s so much you can complete without your computer. Turn your screen off or close your laptop. Respond to your long list of voicemails. File the paperwork building up on the corner of your desk. Make copies. Print and label envelopes. Sign contracts and policies. Take a trip to the post office. Send thank you notes for referrals.

Start a distraction list

If your brain always wanders from the task at hand, keep a blank notebook on your desk so you can take notes. Write anything down that you’re thinking so you can address the thoughts at a later time. It’s one of the easiest tips to tackle if you’re trying to learn how to improve focus at work.

Keep your distraction list separate from your to-do list. At the end of the day, when you have time to process your stream-of-conscious thoughts, you can move over any notes to your to-do list that need to be action items.

Do you want to learn more about what makes you unfocused? Write down what time it is every time you add something to the list. After two weeks of utilizing a distraction list, assess the times of day you're taking notes. Are there any patterns? Maybe your mind wanders most when you’re hungry. It’s possible you need to schedule a break in the late mornings or afternoons.

Similarly, examine the content you’re adding to your distraction list. Is there a theme to your notes? Maybe you’re prioritizing incorrectly. If the same tasks keep appearing on your daily purges, pay more attention to them.

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re constantly juggling a huge to-do list. While you’re working on staying focused and creating organized systems, QuoteWizard can build up your prospect list. Join now to get high-quality leads sent your way.

Do you have any tips on how to improve focus at work? Share your favorite strategies in the comments section.