At some point in your career, you will find yourself sitting at work with a full load of projects and absolutely zero focus. Whether you’ve lost focus because you hate your current job, you’re going through personal issues, or another of many reasons, one thing is for sure—you are not alone. Many people struggle to stay focused throughout the workday. It may be feasible to coast for a day or two, but eventually you will have to get your focus back. Whether you need a lifestyle change or a quick fix in the moment, here are a few ideas to help you stay focused and remain productive at the office.
In the Moment
One of the easiest things you can do to regain focus is to move. Not like relocate to Hawaii and live in a tent move, but physically move your body. Get up from your desk and take a loop or two around the office, or better yet get outside. You do not have to commit to an entire workout routine during office hours to reset your mind, nor should you chain yourself to your desk unproductively because the partner is watching. You can shake off boredom or distraction and regain your focus by taking time out of your busy day to move.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help you quickly reset. The practice involves breathing and relaxation techniques that can be helpful when your mind is wandering instead of finishing that brief. Take the first five minutes of your morning and listen to a guided meditation—plenty of apps are available to help—to get your day going, and do another five minutes when you need a break or when you leave for the day. Find somewhere quiet, if possible, and focus on the meditation. You will come out more relaxed and ready to get back to work.
Stuck on something? Take a few moments to reorganize. Oftentimes, when you are in the middle of a big project, things in the office can get messy—paperwork all over, files on the floor, post-it note reminders littering the walls. Take a break, get up and start organizing your things. By focusing on cleaning up, you clear your mind of the job, even if it is only for a few moments. Having a reorganized space can also clear your head of the clutter and help you focus on the task at hand. An organized space can lead to an organized mind.
There is nothing more annoying than a coworker who interrupts you when you are in the middle of a task, shifting your focus and attention away from work. Defend your time and focus from those trying to steal it away from you with their tales of woe and office gossip. Block off time on your calendar to complete the assignment. Close your door (if you are lucky enough to have one) to signal that you are busy and unavailable. Stand your ground and tell intruders that you do not have time to chat, but that you will catch up later.
Sometimes, when life throws you a curveball, the best cure can be to step away. Make a plan and take some time off, even if it is only for an afternoon. Stepping away to deal with personal issues without trying to struggle through your office hours allows you the time and space to process and refocus. The main thing to remember is to deal, don’t dwell. If you are a spiral thinker or someone who likes work to distract you from the issue, then get back to it after you have taken time to deal with it. But even a little time away to handle a life crisis can do wonders for regaining mental focus at work.
Keep it Simple
When you are overwhelmed or feeling unmotivated, get going by doing something simple. Doing a simple task or assignment can provide a feeling of accomplishment and you get to check something off the to-do list. Sure, that major assignment is still sitting on your desk, but getting small things out of the way can lead to a productivity flow that helps nudge you in the right direction to perform the larger task. And speaking of the larger task, break it down into smaller, more manageable projects to make it seem less daunting. Writing a brief? Start with the procedural facts section, then move on to the more substantive parts. Breaking things down into smaller jobs can also be a great way to show your boss you are actively working on the issue without having to admit it is not done yet. Tell them what you have done and your plan for completing the unfinished portions.
Have a Snack
Everyone knows to be healthy you need to eat right and drink water, but what you eat and drink can have a major impact on your mental health, too. Lack of focus can come from being exhausted and undernourished. It can be hard to eat for wellness when you are short on time, so make a plan to start integrating healthy, brain-boosting foods into your diet. It does not have to be an all-or-nothing commitment; start with breakfast or snacks, then add in lunches and dinners. Consider bringing in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dark chocolate and skipping the vending machine. Have some healthy options on hand to help your health and your focus.
Sleep it Off
It is hard to escape the notion that a good night’s sleep solves a lot of problems. If you are having trouble sleeping, there is no shortage of advice out there to fix the issue. New mattress, new pillows, regular nighttime routines—all great suggestions, but not always feasible. Do your best to find what works and make a real effort to completely unplug before bed. Try to set limits on working right up until you close your eyes for the night. Give yourself time to unwind and relax. Instead of freaking out about all the unfinished work you have piling up on your desk (possibly due to your lack of focus), prioritize and make a realistic list of things that absolutely must be completed the next day. Having a plan before bed can help calm those 3 a.m. mental checklists that keep you from precious sleep.
Therapy can solve a lot of workplace issues. Venting to a neutral person and learning coping strategies helps alleviate the stress from work. There are many ways to get therapy these days. You can go the traditional route and have an office visit with someone, you can use a telehealth option, or you can text back and forth with your therapist. There is really no barrier anymore to getting help from a trained therapist. Managing and limiting work-related stress can do wonders for your focus and productivity. If you are not ready to plunge in with a therapist, there are other therapeutic methods you can use to destress and refocus. Smile therapy can sound silly, but smiling releases endorphins and helps reduce stress. If you feel awkward sitting at your desk practicing your best smile, pull up a funny clip on YouTube to help yourself laugh or go out with a friend and share some laughs. Smiling more can also lift the mood of those around you, potentially making your office a better work environment. Another therapeutic technique is as simple as counting. Close your eyes and silently count forwards or backwards to 100 to relieve the stress and anxiety. By concentrating on keeping the count, you regain the focus you lost. There also are games and apps you can download to improve concentration and focus.
Everyone loses focus at some point in their career. The important thing is to take steps to get your focus back, and not lean into it. Regaining your focus and accomplishing your goals keeps you moving forward in your career and allows you to be more productive and potentially more efficient. You may find that some of these techniques do not work for you, but others do. Whatever technique(s) you use, make sure you practice daily, creating a routine. If you make it routine, you improve your working life and reduce the risk of falling back into bad habits.
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