While staying focused at work isn’t always easy, there are many ways to set yourself up for success.
You probably know the feeling: it’s 2 p.m., fatigue starts to set in after working since morning, and the motivation to keep going starts to drop.
At this point, it’s tempting to procrastinate and let your mind wander. You may check your phone messages, scroll through social media, or have a chat at the water cooler. Before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and you end up rushing to meet an afternoon deadline.
Whether you work remotely or in an office, many distractions can limit your productivity. If you have difficulty staying focused, these small steps can make a big difference.
An important part of creating a focus-friendly workspace is eliminating distractions. This can put you in the right headspace for working and promote productivity.
Chaye McIntosh, clinical director at ChoicePoint, explains that it’s important to set up a dedicated home office if you’re working from home. Make sure to keep it tidy and with minimal stimulants to keep you vigilant and focused on your work.
Alexander Burgemeester, a clinical psychologist in the Netherlands, similarly states: “It is too difficult to work from an area of your home that is not conducive to being productive, especially if there are other people at home at the same time.”
He continues: “Whether it is your bedroom, a home office, or your basement, it is important to create an area in your home that is for you only during a set period of time.”
The same applies to working from an office. Maintaining a tidy desk can support concentration and help you meet those deadlines with plenty of time to spare.
Generally, a responsible and valued employee sticks to their scheduled tasks and hours.
“Avoid distractions during working hours, such as doing personal tasks and looking into social media notifications,” says McIntosh. “This will not only waste your time but impede your productivity and performance as well.”
Try to cultivate habits that support your efforts to be productive.
For instance, Burgemeester recommends waking up at the same time every day, having a good breakfast, and starting and finishing work at the same time. Routines can help you stay on track, even if you’re working in changing environments.
One way to add routine and structure to your workday is to use the Pomodoro technique, where you set a 20-minute timer for focused work, then take a break when the timer goes off.
Although commonly used by individuals with ADHD, it can also be a great tool for anyone else who may have difficulty starting tasks or staying focused.
We’ve all heard that “a healthy body contains a healthy mind.” This certainly holds true when it comes to staying focused.
Engage yourself with nature during breaks by going for a walk or even a jog if you have the time and energy. This will help you overcome the sedentary lifestyle that that many jobs entail, McIntosh states.
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Burgemeester explains that you have to take it upon yourself to be strict about your phone use, especially if you aren’t monitored much at work.
So, if you don’t expect any work-related calls, turn off your phone or leave it in another room, in a desk drawer, or even in your car. This will keep you from habitually tapping your phone screen to check who messaged you or what’s happening on social media.
A to-do list is a simple yet powerful tool you can use to stay focused at work. It allows you to see which tasks you need to complete and by when.
“A visual aid is very helpful for most people as you can cross off tasks as you complete them, which serves as a type of reward,” says Burgemeester. “It feels good to do this, so we are more inclined to keep doing it.”
You can try using a notepad, a daily calendar, an online tool, or even an app.
It can be hard to concentrate on work when you’re hungry.
When you’re in a rush, it’s not always easy to make a whole meal to bring to work, Burgemeester states. Instead, consider bringing some healthy snacks to keep you fueled and focused.
If you find that hunger distracts you from working, consider some of these ideas that are easy to make ahead or simply grab on the go:
- apple slices with nut butter
- granola bars
- veggie sticks with hummus
- Greek yogurt cups with berries and chopped nuts
- protein bliss balls
- brown rice cakes with avocado
- tinned tuna and cucumber slices on wholemeal crackers
- overnight oat cups with fruit
- chia pudding jars
If you work a full 8-hour day, it’s important to take regular breaks.
It may seem counterintuitive, but stepping away from your desk can improve your productivity. Even a short 5- to 15-minute break can help you recharge and improve your focus upon your return.
“Having set breaks helps to break up the day, makes it easier to recharge, and will help when trying to maintain productivity at the end of the day,” says Burgemeester.
To manage when to take breaks, consider using a Pomodoro technique app.
Communicating regularly with your team and leaders can help you stay on track and focused.
Chaye McIntosh states: “Don’t act unrealistically. Clarify expectations to your boss or coworkers by having frequent and transparent conversations with them. This will help you in building trust between you and your fellow workers.”
Open, continuous discussions about your tasks can clarify what you have to do and if there are any deadlines to meet. In return, this clarity can help keep you motivated to stay focused throughout the day.
Whether you work from home or in an office, staying focused throughout the day can be challenging.
Many things can hinder productivity. For example, if you work from home, a pet or a child might need your attention, and if you’re in an office, you may have a co-worker who keeps interrupting you.
To stay focused and perform at your best, try to remove distractions, create a to-do list, and stick to a daily routine. It’s also a good idea to take regular breaks and stock up on nourishing snacks to fuel your work.
Over time, these changes will turn into habits. The more consistent you are in following them, the more focused you will be.