By: Ryan Malone
One of the challenges I hear about from a lot of engineers is how to stay focused when there are so many distractions vying for their bandwidth. I can relate, the same problem exists for me! I think that any engineering professional today is going to have to come up with ways to protect their “space” so that they can generate quality focus time on the tasks before them. This is really important for doing work that requires the minds full engagement. I remember doing design work early in my engineering career and how frustrated I would become when I was interrupted by a phone call or someone stopping by to chat. It became even worse when later in my career when I sat in a cubicle farm. Trying to concentrate on writing a report or putting a presentation together with ringing phones, conversations all around and unfettered access to anyone walking by nearly drove me insane. So how do you create the space necessary to be focused?
Before I get into the five things you can do to increase focus in your engineering career I have to ask: do you want to increase your focus? I ask this because some of these suggestions will require you to not be immediately responsive to another person’s desire to communicate with you. You may also have to learn how to tell people “no” when they want to stop by to chat. And you will also need to train yourself to be focused on single tasks. If you’re willing and able, then here are the five things you can do to increase focus in your engineering career:
The take-away: multi-tasking provides the allure of getting more done, but that’s it.
When you focus on a single type of task your brain remains primed for accomplishing that type of task. Your brain isn’t a computer, it can’t run multiple operating programs simultaneously!
Here are two examples that I use weekly for batch scheduling similar tasks. When I have several phone calls I need to make I schedule a block of time on my calendar to “Conduct Phone Calls”. Similarly, I schedule my writing for articles – like this one – in batch sessions on my calendar to keep my mind in flow on writing or article R&D. To become effective at this tactic requires you to plan ahead and identify similar tasks across the projects you have in motion.
Make a commitment to try one of these techniques/tactics in the way you approach your work flow for two weeks, then let Anthony, I, and our other readers know if you experience any increases in your ability to focus. Leave your comments here at this post, or consider leaving them at Engineering Management Institute Community page on Facebook.
Seriously! The topic of “focus” is really important to both Anthony and I, as well as a lot of the engineering professionals we know, work with, and coach. If you have tactics that you’ve found to work for you, we want to share that information with as many engineers as possible!
“Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PMP
Engineering Management Institute
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