Stay Focused on Work — Not Your Personal Issues

Maintaining boundaries between your personal and professional lives is something that comes naturally most of the time, but sometimes circumstances can be so overwhelming that you find yourself struggling with personal issues at work. How do you stay focused so you don't lose your effectiveness on the job or add to the stress the problem is causing you away from the workplace?

Read on for five awesome tips to help you stay focused and productive on the job so you can better manage personal issues when you’re able to give them your full attention.

1. Research your Employee Assistance Program

With more employers recognizing the importance of a healthy work-life balance, many companies now offer improved Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits. Help may be available in numerous areas, including conflict resolution, counseling and financial planning. Employers understand that it’s counterproductive for employees to bring personal problems to work, and the wide variety of EAP benefits are designed to help employees in both their personal and professional lives.  

2. Make note of what's troubling you

Jot down how you're feeling about the problem that threatens to disrupt your attention span.


Before heading into the office, allow a few minutes to jot down how you’re feeling about the problem that threatens to disrupt your attention span. It may be something general, such as feeling overwhelmed, or something specific, such as wishing your children were spending the upcoming weekend with you and not your ex. Leave your notes in a place where they will remain undisturbed during the day. Go about your business in the office knowing that you don’t have to deal with personal problems at work; they’ll still be there — or will have resolved themselves — by the time you get home.

3. Determine what steps you can take while at work

When making your notes, figure out whether there’s something you can do during the day to help solve the problem you find so vexing. If so, jot yourself a note as a physical reminder, and take action when the time is right. If making a brief phone call during your lunch break can reduce your consternation, for example, allow time for it and work undistracted throughout the morning. You don’t want to overextend yourself, but taking small steps when time permits can go a long way toward minimizing the impact of personal problems at work. 

4. Consider making time for physical activity

When all you can think about is where you might have put that important letter from the IRS, taking your mind off it for a little while could, ironically, help trigger your memory. A 10- or 15-minute stroll to pick up lunch or simply get out from behind the desk can provide both restorative exercise and a fresh perspective — and a fresh perspective might be exactly what’s needed.

5. Look for a reason to smile

Rising above personal problems at work can seem daunting, but don’t underestimate the power of humor to help take the edge off. Allow yourself a laugh and share a smile once you’re in the office, even if you felt humorless and upset when you arrived. When times are tough, humor — in appropriate doses — has a way of helping us see the light at the end of the tunnel. Smiles can also arise from sources other than humor, such as the bird perched on the branch outside the nearest window or the surprise birthday cake for a coworker. Whether you’re having a good day or a bad one, savor the special moments.

Everyone occasionally has to deal with personal issues at work, but they don’t have to prevent you from concentrating on your job. Take the necessary steps to stay focused in the workplace, and you’ll likely find yourself better equipped for handling personal matters at the appropriate time.

Dealing effectively with your personal problems but still feeling stressed at the office? See our five tips for practicing mindfulness at work.

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