Prone to procrastination, distraction or a bit of office socialisation? Even the best of us can struggle to keep focused from 9 to 5. Here are 3 tips to help you master workplace concentration.
1. Divide and conquer
Staring at a long to-do list can quickly lead to distractibility. It’s basically your mind’s way of self-sabotaging as the tasks at hand seem overwhelming or unachievable. So, get sorting. Split your list into a) more complex, urgent jobs b) smaller, less urgent jobs c) loose ends, like unread emails. Once you have a clear plan, you’ll be able to focus and get it done.
2. Structure your space
If you can barely see your keyboard under piles of paper or have endless clutter, you may not be working as efficiently as you could, according to researchers at Princeton University. The study concludes that a cluttered environment steals a part of your ability to process information and focus as compared to an organised and placid environment. So, take time to get your workspace in order. This may mean making designated piles, giving everything a place, or adding plants, which has been shown to reduce tension, anxiety and fatigue.
3. Rely on routine
Constantly rolling into the office at different hours or changing your order of tasks can eat away at your ability to get stuff done. Humans love routine, so over learn a way of doing things and concentrating from 9 to 5 will become second nature.
4. Take a break
Skipping lunch breaks or working around the clock may look good to the boss, but it’s a slippery slope to poor concentration. While prolonged sitting is associated with health risks, such as heart disease, studies show that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and mental exhaustion.
“Mental concentration is similar to a muscle”, Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management, John Trougakos, told NY times.
“It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weightlifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym”.
Be it a walk around the block, doing some deskercise, or a few minutes of mindful (deep) breathing, stepping away for your desk at regular intervals is enough to recharge your mind and fuel your focus.
5. Exercise your mind
According to Harvard Health, regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping releases brain chemicals key for memory, concentration and mental sharpness by boosting the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Further, physical activity stimulates endorphins (happy hormones), providing an instant mood lift. If you can’t wrestle yourself out of bed in the morning, opt for a lunchtime gym session or plan a ‘walk and talk’ meeting, instead of a sit-down coffee catch up.
6. Feed your focus
If you want to fire on all cylinders throughout the day, then you need to eat regular, balanced meals. Certain foods that can boost concentration are: blueberries, green tea, avocados, leafy greens, fatty fish, flax seeds, nuts and, most important of all, water (to stay hydrated). Avoid being caught empty-handed during a busy work day, and plan ahead your snacks and lunch so you avoid running on empty.