How To Stay Focused: 20 Tricks And Tips For Office-Workers And Self-Employed
Whether you’re working from home on your own business or spend days in the office, it’s sometimes really hard to concentrate. Here are some tips on how to stay focused.
The productivity of labor has reached unprecedented heights compared to what it used to be half a century ago. And yes, I’m talking about office workers! With the internet providing easy access to any kind of information, all kinds of programs on your computer and highly developed communication systems, one can do an impressive amount of work nowadays.
However, lots of office workers suffer from lack of focus because of information surrounding us, distracting us, disrupting the work. Here are 20 tips on how to stay focused today.
How to stay focused: Life-style tips
1. Sleep enough
Your ability to focus depends on many things which we are going to cover in this article. But if you’ve been sleeping four hours a night for the past three years, they will hardly work.
The lack of sleep affects your memory and thinking, turning you into a slowcoach. It’s Ok to sleep less than 7 hours from time to time. But don’t let it become a habit.
To fall asleep fast, don’t go to bed right after taking a shower/bath. Don’t do anything exciting before it, like playing video games or watching horror movies. The best thing to do before turning the lights off is reading a book.
2. Don’t drink too much coffee and tea
During work, many of us like to have a cup of coffee or visit a coffee shop at luch. Caffeine stimulates brain activity and boosts your ability to concentrate. However, few know that consuming too much coffee or strong tea causes the opposite effect. After the initial energy boost wears off, more coffee causes fatigue.
To avoid this and other side effects of caffeine, drink coffee and tea in reasonable quantities. Depending on your natural tolerance and weight, the safe dose is about 400 mg. As for tea, one can drink up to 3-4 cups each day without having to worry.
3. Find your best time for work
Some of us need some time to wake up before getting to work, while others are fine right after breakfast. Of course, in most cases, we can’t choose when to start working. But if you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, or a freelancer, or your job does provide flexible schedule, choose the most convenient working hours.
But be careful here. If your schedule is totally up to you to decide, it doesn’t mean you should take long breaks whenever you want. Stay disciplined. Having all day to do the job sounds tempting. But it’ll take days to finish anything if you get distracted all the time. So, even if you don’t have a strict schedule, make one! Do what everybody else does – work for 8 hours with a 1-hour lunch break.
4. Make to-do lists
Another good habit that’ll help you keep mental focus is making to-do lists.
First of all, with a list of things you have to do, you can see all the tasks right away and plan your day accordingly. Second, this way you won’t forget anything.
Third, having a list of to-dos which you can strike off one by one grants you the sense of closure. It feels like another step to your ultimate goal and brings satisfaction.
5. Don’t bring work home
Whether you work from home or go to the office, don’t bring your work home. When you leave the office building or when you close your web browser, consider yourself unemployed till the next morning.
Just like body needs rest from physical activities, your brain also needs distractions. If you overextend yourself, it’ll only make things worse. Besides, sometimes when you stop thinking about a problem, the solution comes by itself.
The subconscious part of our minds never stops working. Besides, looking at the same problem with a fresh eye the next morning can show you the solution right away.
How to stay focused: Preparation tips
1. Clean your desk
Start your day with a little cleanup. Remove unnecessary things, wipe the desk, close unneeded tabs in your browser, etc. By preparing your place for work, you also prepare your mind. A messy desk makes your thoughts messy as well.
2. Remove all distractions
Make sure to eliminate anything that can distract you before getting to work. I realize that someone may have to work from home while kids are playing in the next room, but do as much as you can.
Find a quiet place, close the door, mute your phone if you don’t need it… feed the cat. In other words, take care of anything that can disrupt the work.
3. Lock social networks
Strictly speaking, this tip is directly related to the previous one. But since many people find it hard not to check social media every 10 minutes, I decided to talk about it outside the other issues.
Consider putting a lock on social media.
There are dozens of apps that block social networks, certain websites and even video games. Try Freedom or similar apps.
But be careful. Some of them are so strong that even restarting the device won’t lift the block. Some even claim that the app can protect itself from being uninstalled.
4. Prepare mentally
When you work on something for a long time, you get accustomed to certain rituals. For example, in my case, it’s making a cup of coffee, opening my music collection and choosing a playlist, checking the posting schedule, etc.
I repeat this ritual every day, which helps tune in to the right wave length.
5. Set tasks for the day
Although you should already have a large to-do list, making a small one won’t hurt. Seeing what has to be done by the end of the day helps you schedule your work, define minor and the most important tasks, control how much time is left and so on.
How to stay focused: Tips on working
1. Do the hardest task first
Whether you start working early in the morning or not long before lunch, it’s a good idea to start with the most difficult part while you still have enough time and energy.
For example, if you have a monotonous task that doesn’t require any thinking and one that needs scratching your head a lot, do the latter first. The easy part won’t take too long anyway, but by the time you’re finished, the hard part will seem too difficult.
2. Break complex tasks into simpler ones
Procrastination is often caused by the complexity of a task. Whenever you think about the job that has to be done, you just can’t force yourself to start. In this case, try breaking it into smaller and simpler pieces and start with one.
3. Avoid multitasking
Dogs that put up many hares kill none. When trying to do several things simultaneously, usually none gets done. On the contrary, focusing on one task only leaves no space for distractions. In this case, you don’t have to switch between different jobs back and forth.
4. Do smaller tasks right away
On the other hand, ignoring every unexpected problem, even small ones, will result in tiny problems piling up. Eventually you will need a whole day to solve them.
To avoid it, use the so-called two-minute rule. If something is going to take less than two minutes, do it right away.
5. Switch tasks
Although in most cases you want to stay focused on one job, when you feel stuck, it may be a good idea to switch to something else. When you do something for too long, the brain gets slowed up to the point when you can’t actually see the obvious. A change of task can really help in such a situation.
How to stay focused: Let yourself rest
1. Take breaks regularly
Working several hours straight will exhaust you eventually, making it really hard to stay focused. That’s why you need to take a break from work every now and then.
There are many techniques to alternate work and rest – for example, the Pomodoro Technique. You work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Repeat it four times and take a longer break – up to half an hour.
You can experiment with other similar methods or stick to your own. The point is to let yourself rest a bit.
During short breaks, one can have a cigarette or a cup of coffee, but it’s not a good idea to check your emails or social network account. You know how it works: you expect to have a 5 minute break, but it turns into 20 minutes of wasting time.
So, the best thing to do instead of this is to exercise. Physical activity lets the brain rest and recharge. Besides, regular exercise will make you feel better. After just a few push-ups, you’ll feel refreshed and ready for a new round.
3. Exercise your eyes too
If you have to work on the computer all day long, your eyes need exercising as well. Here’s a simple technique.
Shut your eyes tightly and open them a few times. Then look up and down, right and left. Move your eyes in circles clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Then go to the window, stare at a distant object (the farther the better) and then focus on something very close, or simply stare on your finger right before your nose. Repeat each of these steps several times, and it’ll help you stay focused and keep the eyes healthy.
4. Don’t eat too much during lunch
Having too much for lunch will make your blood run to the stomach and from the brain. As a result, you’ll become sleepy and thinking will get harder. Avoid overeating. Alternatively, one can have little snacks from time to time – though it’s hardly healthy.
5. Reward yourself
Every time you complete a task or its part, reward yourself. Promise yourself something good after you finish, like eating a cupcake or reading a few pages of the book you recently found. Such promises stimulate really well.
A lot here depends on habits and self-discipline. On the other hand, nobody’s born with these. You have to train yourself little by little to improve your focus until you’ll be able to work efficiently even from home without needing a boss to watch over you.
Knowing how to stay focused is especially important for self-employed and entrepreneurs. And if you’d love to join the community of online business owners who can work productively from any point on the globe, here’s a treat for you: a free guide on how to launch it. The time is now!