How to Focus in a Fast-Paced Workplace

By Chelsea Babin

Adapting to a fast-paced workplace isn’t always easy. Whether you’re anticipating a busy start to your new work year, overwhelmed by the open office you now work in, or simply trying to figure out how to keep up in your new fast-paced workplace, these 5 strategies can help you cope.

1. Take Breaks: This simple strategy is a cliché, but it’s become a cliché because it’s so effective. If you’re getting swept up in the fast, loud atmosphere of your open office, chances are you’ll forget to do important things like eat, hydrate, and step away from your computer for some fresh air. While this may not affect you much in the short term, avoiding breaks is a great way to burn out faster than you ever have before. Whether you take a ten minute break every hour, a thirty minute break twice a day, or take a break whenever you’ve completed two tasks on your to-do list, making sure you have a system in place that reminds you to take breaks will keep you from being overwhelmed by a hectic workplace.

2. Flip the Important/Urgent Task Switch: You have one task that’s incredibly important. You have another that’s really urgent. How do you get both of them done? Imagine that there’s an Important/Urgent switch and start using it! Whether you make the switch after a certain length of time, after one full step is completed, or after you’ve reached a previously designated point, you can balance the important tasks with the urgent ones using this strategy.

3. Drown Out the Noise: Many modern offices have done away with dividing walls and welcomed the hectic atmosphere of an open office. While this often facilitates better collaboration and communication, it can be incredibly difficult to focus. To avoid this you either need to find a quiet place where you can work on individual tasks, find a really great pair of noise canceling headphones, or put up a “do not disturb” sign on your desk so that your coworkers know not to bother you. When you have a system for finding focus, you’ll be able to complete tasks more efficiently and your fast-paced workday will become less crowded thanks to your increased productivity.

4. Buddy System: You know who can keep you accountable in a fast-paced workplace? One of your coworkers. They’ll know the specific scheduling struggles you’re going through and understand the hectic workload you have because they work near you. Chances are, they’ll also have the same struggles. Using the buddy system to keep each other accountable for hitting deadlines, taking enough breaks, or even just as support when things get too hectic can make your fast-paced workplace seem so much more manageable.

5. Schedule a Meeting With Yourself: When you have a meeting on your calendar you’ll often work a bit differently. Around 30 minutes before the meeting you’ll start wrapping up tasks and shifting into a lower, slower gear. You’ll mentally prepare yourself for an upcoming period of focus on one specific thing and often push all other tasks out of your mind. Why not use this strategy to help you focus in a fast-paced workplace? If you have a big project or a major task that requires a lot of your attention but you can’t seem to slow down enough to give it its proper due, try scheduling a meeting with yourself where you focus solely on this project or task. Treat the minutes leading up to it the exact same way you would treat a meeting with anyone else and let your mind slow, push all other tasks away, and prepare for the task at hand. It really does help!

Finding the focus you need to be successful in a fast-paced workplace is a bit like finding serenity in the middle of a hailstorm. It doesn’t seem possible but, with the right preparation, you can shelter yourself from the hazards of a hectic, open office and stay productive in this kind of environment without burning out. Use these 5 strategies to help you regain your focus despite your fast-paced workplace.