9 ways to help your project team stay focused

by Wendy Soon on March 11, 2014

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  1. Break it up. The biggest hurdle to focusing is when there is so much to do there is no way to focus. Break up projects into manageable, bite-sized chunks for your team. The total amount of work will not change, but the perception of work will create a psychological effect of it being “easier” to complete. The thought of a never-ending project can seem a lot less daunting if milestones are created along the way, to cheer the team on regularly. If possible, try to structure the work so that each phase even has a different feel to it, to make it even more distinctly different as the team moves from phase to phase. Staying refreshed and motivated is the most effective way to keep your team focused.

  2. See the results. Following up on the previous point of breaking things up, it helps to see results regularly. Slogging away for months and even years without seeing any form of result can be a very disheartening experience. Find ways to measure success or progress along the way. This could be in the form of sales numbers, or new features added to an unlaunched product. Insist on making this a formal procedure, by getting together physically as a whole team to share their experience and successes to date. This helps everyone in the team to regularly see how well the project is moving along as a team, especially when some sections take longer to see results than others. (For example, a sales team might not have seen any increase in sales for a whole year, but meeting every 3 months and seeing other teams progress in terms of new product development, could help boost the morale of the sales team, knowing that the team as a whole is progressing). Making results visible helps in keeping the team positive and motivated, and thus keeping them focused.

  3. Switch people around. Regular, repetitive tasks can be the most effective way of producing results (think factory style), but are the worst for keeping the boredom out of the room. Instead, think about long term productiveness, and sacrifice on the short term by moving people around from one task to another. This ensures continued learning for your team members, and maintaining freshness and focus on their work. This not only helps to keep them interested in the new challenges each day, but it also enables the team members to understand other team members better, and helps them visualize the bigger picture more easily.

  4. Enjoy the success. It is easy to focus on the problems and the negatives along the way, before the final goal is achieved. However, do remember to smell the roses as your move along, no matter how small the patch and how tiny the roses are. Celebrate these small successes along the way, so team members get to enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with achievements. Boosting the adrenaline levels with these little successes will go a long way in keeping team members excited and focused on the final goal.

  5. Recognize accomplishments. Not only do you celebrate little successes along the way, but even if the final product falls into the “can be improved” category, don’t forget to still recognize the accomplishments. Recognizing the little things that your teammates have done well encourages them to stay focused and continue to do better next time.

  6. Keep the work apart. There is a strong tendency to multi-task, especially if there are multiple projects of a similar nature, and there is a budget restraint in the team to hire more. Although not always feasible, try to minimize overlaps of projects so that even the most effective project worker and multi-tasker can maintain their focus on the projects one at a time. Keeping them focused on one project could lead to greater productivity, thus completing projects at a faster pace to move on to the next, instead of juggling multiple projects but completing them at a much slower pace.

  7. Keep up the positive attitude. It takes a strong source of positivity to influence the attitude of the entire team. Good team leaders always keep a positive attitude. Always. They need to maintain the positive attitude to motivate the rest of the team to stay confident. Do your work by anticipating problems and planning ahead, instead of discovering problems only when they come and having to respond to them. Keep your team well informed of such potential situations, so they can be well prepared. This can help to keep problems small, so teams can continuously stay focused on working on the main project without getting too flustered along the way.

  8. Maintain good relationships. A good team needs great bonding to work well together. Good relationships need to be maintained, so trust is increased. This is especially important when deadlines get nearer and the stress level of the team increases. It eventually leads to complete reliance on trust of each team member to deliver their respective work, so each team member can focus on just completing their own jobs.

  9. Remind people why their work is important. Especially in lines of work when the impact of the work is less obvious, team leaders should continuous remind their members on why their work is important. People are more likely to stay focused on tasks when they are convinced that the results matter. Under the pressure of time and expectations, it is easy to lose faith, confidence and focus. Constantly assuring them about the importance of their work, as well as their skills and contributions to the big overarching goal will keep them motivated.

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