How to Stay Focused During your Workday
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE EHS Consultant
It happens us all. We have a “to do” list as long as your arm and you just can’t seem to focus on one task at time!
With so many employees now working from home during the pandemic and many more encouraged to continue working from home into the near future, it is fair to say that we all need some extra techniques to keep our mind focused on the job in hand!
Whether you are working from home or you are back working in your place of work, there is no doubt that we all have moments when our minds wander and after the last few months there may be all sorts of emotions going on which may affect your normal concentration levels. The main thing to remember is that this is totally normal and that you have tools and techniques to help you manage better.
Obviously, when you lose focus while you are working, you become less productive. All your valuable time and effort is wasted. Once that happens, it is hard to regain the momentum you had. Unfortunately, we cannot shut out the whole world when we are busy, but the decision to stay focused at work is totally in your hands!
The science behind a wandering mind:
Did you know there is actual science behind why your mind becomes distracted?
Research suggests that mind wandering may begin at a physical level and the Neurogenetics Theory attempts to explain what triggers it. The brains neurons need a consistent supply of energy to keep working. The neurons look to two sources to provide this energy: glial cells and glycogen stores. If they can’t find this energy, then they will start working at a reduced capacity and other parts of the brain call for attention! Fascinating!
Here are some tips for keeping yourself focused during your work day:
- Get organised! – Is there anything worse than a messy work area? When your workplace is clean and tidy it helps you knuckle down and get stuck into the work at hand. Give yourself ten minutes at the start of your workday to get your personal space in order, or better still, do it the day before when you finish up and set yourself up for a successful day ahead tomorrow.
- Are you sitting comfortably? – Don’t loose precious time by sitting the wrong way and getting distracted by discomfort. Make sure you are using an ergonomic chair and table and that your workstation is set up correctly.
- Turn down the distractions – If possible, consider putting your phone on mute and disable your notifications for your email. Is there anything more distracting that having your phone pinging in the background when you are trying to accomplish a mammoth task? We are too tempted to check our messages and notifications straight away, even if they are not work related. Take control and eliminate the distraction, there will be time to respond later, when you have achieved what you needed to.
- Prioritise Tasks – Having a “to do” list is great, but not so great if the tasks are not prioritised! According to research, the first hour of work is the most productive. That is because all your energies are yet to be spent. Have you ever tackled a not so pleasant task first thing in the morning, completed it and found that it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was? What a good feeling it sets up for the day, when you accomplish the difficult tasks first! Keep the simple tasks for later in the day and you will be amazed at how productive you can actually be when you plan your day out properly.
- Drink up! – Be sure to have water nearby, feeling distracted? Grab your water and hydrates! Drinking water is not only healthy, it refreshes your body too. At that first sign of tiredness or hunger, water can help push them away. This will give you a chance to finish what you are doing.
- Add a deliberate distraction – This may sound counteractive, but adding a distraction can reduces distractibility, who knew! Attention is a limited resource, so filling the gaps can help you stay on track. Try listening to music without lyrics to boost your concentration levels. Having suitable music in the background while you are working can provide ease and inspiration. Check out Spotify for some useful playlists designed especially for working. There is even one for working from home!
- Count your breath – When you are feeling overwhelmed and distracted, take a break and concentrate on your breath. Counting your breaths while breathing in and out can help cleanse distracting thoughts and clear the clutter out of your brain. Take a deep cleansing breath in, pause and then release while counting in your head. The better you get at it; you can increase the number of breaths.
- Get your sleep – This is an obvious one for sure. We all know how hard it is to focus on anything when we are fighting fatigue. It’s an uphill battle. We have enough going on around us, without having to deal with the constant tiredness that so many of us struggle with these days. Experts say we should be getting at least seven hours of undistracted sleep every night, if you are not getting this, then you are not firing on all cylinders. Figure out what you can do to improve your sleep habits and you will be heading in the right direction for improving your focus and your overall wellbeing.
The above are only simple suggestions, but at the end of the day, we are all different. If you pay attention to your own habits and the way you work, you will figure out what techniques work best for you. The most important thing to do is to acknowledge it when you focus drops and have the tools to use, so you can carry on your work day in a productive and stress-free way. Remember, we are only human and when we know better, we can do better.
If you need help or support with your employee wellness, get in touch!