We’ve all experienced days where we can’t seem to focus.
We find ourselves sitting at our desk, easily distracted, and less motivated to get things accomplished. Whether it’s because the weather is warming up and we want to be outside enjoying the sunshine, or whether it’s because we are experiencing a bit of fatigue or burn-out, either way, our focus is declining and so is our productivity.
Luckily, there are some scientifically proven and effective ways to help enhance focus. Here are 15 tips that frequently come up during coaching and can easily be implemented into your daily routine.
15 Tips to Stay Focused
- A study at Stanford found that self-proclaimed “multi-taskers” performed more poorly than non-multi-taskers when tested in the areas of attention span, memory capacity, and ability to easily switch from one task to the next.
Establish a to-do list.
- To-do lists can serve many purposes. They help prioritize tasks, prevent projects from falling between the cracks, and serve as an accountability measure. When you find yourself with a few extra minutes, often there are items on the to-do list that can be knocked out.
- New research performed at the University of Illinois found that people who took short breaks throughout the day performed better at computer tasks than those who didn’t take breaks. Going for a quick walk around the office or shutting your eyes for a few minutes are two great ways to recharge your battery.
Keep work at work.
- Too much exposure to situations or problems have the tendency to cause fatigue and/or burn-out. Remember – When you physically leave the office for the day, make sure you mentally leave the office as well. This is often a problem for busy executives. Without establishing boundaries, work can increasingly invade your family time leading to other problems.
Devote specific hours to tasks .
- Blocking time out throughout the day to focus on specific tasks helps to combat lost time that may be spent deciding when to complete which task. By blocking out time, tasks are treated as appointments, and time can be better organized and devoted to accomplishing each task. Don’t forget to block time out throughout the day for short breaks and lunch! We have found this to help executives get the most important—or lesser desirable—tasks done. For example, this often helps CEOs and business owners work “on the business” as opposed to working “in the business.”
- Mediation requires a great deal of focus and concentration. A study at the University of North Carolina found that people who meditated for only twenty minutes a day for five days performed better on cognitive tests and experienced lower levels of fatigue.
- Recent research has shown that exercise is good for the body and mind. According to one of the top professors at Harvard Medical School, regular exercise promotes brain health, memory capacity, and concentration.
Grab a cup of coffee.
- If you find yourself feeling groggy or tired, reach for a cup of coffee. Studies have shown that caffeine in moderate doses may enhance focus. However, be careful not to indulge in too much caffeine, as that can bring on the jitters, which typically makes it more difficult to focus.
Train your brain to focus.
- Your brain is a mental muscle, and like all muscles, it performs best when it has undergone some form of training. Research has shown that people who are easily distracted can experience significant benefit from brain training exercises, such as those promoted by companies like Lumosity or Cogmed. Many business owners and entrepreneurs are ADD or ADHD and can benefit by identifying strategies to help them focus, such as listening to music or employing “body double,” which involves having another person in the room. Consider working 5-10 minutes longer on a boring task and then reward yourself in some way. This can help the brain focus for longer periods of time.
Find a quiet place.
- Ambient noise, also known as background noise, can really take a toll on our ability to focus. Researchers at a University in Pennsylvania found that ambient noise can stimulate our bodies to release the stress hormone known as cortisol. Too much cortisol can significantly decrease our ability to focus. Try closing your office door or finding a quiet room in your office building if ambient noise is affecting your ability to focus.
Stare at an object for a few minutes.
- Staring at a computer screen all day can really strain our eyes, making it more difficult to focus. Doctors recommend the 20-20-20 rule to help our eyes refocus. Every 20 minutes, stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Get a good night’s rest.
- Chronic sleep loss can greatly impact our ability to focus. Getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night can you leave you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, and ready to take on the day.
- Working online can be distracting, constantly flipping between emails and numerous open tabs on the internet. A researcher at the University of Washington found that people need to direct their attention away from the first task completely in order to perform well on the next task. It can be helpful to dedicate a few hours per day to working offline, allowing us to focus on one thing before moving on to the next.
Designate the perfect spot.
- Nowadays, many of us have the freedom to work remotely. While this is great, it also raises the question of where we should work when working remotely. Some of us prefer a quiet coffee shop or perhaps our home office.. Experts suggest that working from the same location can enhance focus by eliminating excess variables which will drain mental energy.
- Some of us have become hardwired to need constant mental stimulation, even when we’re relaxing. Experts suggest that this can negatively impact our ability to focus, because we don’t allow our brain time to recharge. Try doing only one thing at a time during relaxation periods or take a break from mental stimulation altogether. Your brain will thank you.[i]
Did You Know?
Coaching is another great way to help stay focused. While we work with leaders at all levels, we specialize in working with senior leaders, such as CEOs and business owners, many of whom are ADHD. Do you know someone who might need our help? Refer them for a free, no hassle consultation. Spots are limited, so please contact us today!
[i] Jessica Orwig and Linda Ramsey, “15 Ways to Stay Focused All Day, According to Scientists”, Business Insider, November 6, 2015