Let’s admit it, while we all put in a hard day’s work it can be difficult to stay focused throughout the day. There are social media networks to check. There are TV shows to watch. Why work when you could be instant messaging your best friend? Internet access means distractions are easily accessible. When you can’t focus at work, the end result is that your mind wanders away and your to-do list gets even longer.
Getting back to the task at hand can feel like we’re fighting an uphill battle against our own attention span. We’re waiting for brain power to kick our focus back into gear but it becomes too tough.
Most of us find it difficult to stay in the present moment. So what can we do when we lose our focus? Here are 6 tips and tricks to help you regain your focus and toughen your long-term attention span.
Take a Break From the Screen
Short breaks are an easy way to reset the mind and body. Unfortunately, many people’s first instinct when taking a break is to reach for their phone. But if we associate mental breaks with our phone, it makes it harder in the long run to break that habit when notifications come up.
So don’t just reach for your phone. Go grab a glass of water, a breath of fresh air, or go for a quick walk if you can. Even five minutes of moving your legs can do wonders.
Even better — bring mindfulness into each movement. Studies have shown that small actions along with mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety immediately. With less stress, you can approach your job with renewed focus.
Try finding new things to do outside of the office and refresh your brain’s energy!
Don’t think you have time to get up from your desk before the next meeting or call? Luckily, there is a simple act you can do to reset your brain.
It’s as easy as taking a deep, controlled breath.
There are many benefits that come with deep breathing. It can help you relieve stress and anxiety while helping you reconnect with your body. It gives you a moment of mindfulness — allowing you to train your brain to focus on one thing at a time. Deep breathing can also give you a new burst of energy to get back to your day.
Inhale deeply, and try to extend the exhale as long as possible to calm the body and refocus your mind. Try these breathing exercises specifically for focus.
Get rid of all unnecessary external “noise” by setting your phone on airplane mode, and turning off notifications on your desktop if you can. It could help to set aside a certain time for checking emails too.
Multitasking may feel successful because you can finish working on the fast stuff but it really pulls your focus across too many things and can draw out your work time.
So juggling two or three other projects would fall under distractions.
Besides silencing your notifications, you can also reduce distractions by letting your co-workers know that you need a “Do Not Disturb” moment. It may be hard to say no to co-workers’ chit chat or requests for help, but consider it a favor to yourself. Many communication and instant messaging tools like Slack allow you to set a “busy” away message which is a simple way to let your co-workers know you need some quiet time.
Clear Your Environment
Sometimes, our internal clutter can leak into our exterior lives without us knowing. It manifests in messy desks, a million open tabs, and even a scratchpad that’s too overwhelming to look at.
A great way to take a break (and clear that clutter) is by clearing your environment.
Research shows that having a tidy desk can really help when there is a big task that needs to be completed.
You don’t need to do a deep clean or re-organize everything in the office. Even doing something simple like tidying up that stack of papers, throwing away old sticky notes, or putting your coffee mug into the sink could help relieve you of the clutter.
Experiment With White Noise
A workplace can have a lot of distracting noises — everything from excited co-workers to client meetings to loud music. While some people can appreciate the background noise, others might find it hard to ignore the feeling of curiosity when an interesting sound occurs.
That’s why it’s always helpful to bring a set of earphones for your work day. It’s another great way to politely say “do not disturb.”
There are many options to listen to: Podcasts and music are easily available everywhere. But for those who find themselves humming along to music or getting invested in the podcast’s stories, white noise could be the best option.
White noise works because there’s nothing clearly distinctive in the sounds but it’s a way to drown out other noises.
If your office or coffee shop is just too loud, give white noise a try. There are many YouTube videos like this one that provide white noise for over 10 hours.
…Or Find Ambient Sounds That Suit You
White noise might not be for everyone so another option is ambient sounds. These types of sounds are usually much more gentle than the hubbub that comes with a fast-paced office or the loud sounds of a coffee grinder.
Experiment with what you need, and work with what you have to make your environment suit you, and check out brain.fm for inspiration!
Stay Fueled Up
It may sound trite, but you will absolutely be able to stay focused for longer if you are well-nourished. Eating breakfast – even a small one – will help keep you fueled through lunch. A mid-afternoon snack can be a great way to take a break and prevent the usual energy lull many people face later in the day. Of course, some foods are better than others – check in with your body and make sure you’re energizing yourself for the rest of the day.
Productive people are productive because they are able to find that sweet spot of focus and energy to cross activities off their to-do list. But it’s not an impossible task to become one of those productive people. With a little bit of brain training, you can find better focus in your work every day. Find even more ways to strengthen your attention at work with our definitive guide for focus.