For many of us, work can mean long hours behind a desk, whether at the office or at home. We often have a long list of important tasks or projects that need to be accomplished by day’s end. There will be days when you feel there is just not enough time to get everything done. You may feel like you don’t get a lot completed or that time seems to pass you by so quickly without getting much done. This may be due to a lack of focus or energy or feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
Being focussed and feeling healthy are the keys to becoming a highly effective manager, leader, employee, or entrepreneur. Here are some tips to improve your focus in your workplace:
- Clear your desk
Remove clutter and objects of distraction. Your desk should only contain tools and things that you need for work. Keep pens, pencils, writing paper, paper clips, stapler and other office supplies nearby if you regularly use them for your work. Store other items that you rarely use so the result is a neat and orderly desk space. While some people maintain that they work well amongst "organized clutter", their concentration may improve further without the distractions of a messy desk.
- Have a daily list of things to do
Making a list at the start of the day mentally prepares you for the work to be done. The same list will also serve as a handy reminder of outstanding tasks throughout the day. When you feel yourself waning simply refer to your list of things to do, reprioritise, and get back on track.
- Clear your first 90 minutes to GET STUFF DONE
Plan for no distractions. Don’t check emails, answer your phone or scroll through social media feeds. Head down, bum up and get those important tasks done. The pre-frontal cortex in your brain is firing on all cylinders in the morning so you need to take advantage of this and achieve things that require concentration, thought and creativity. You will be more productive in these 90 minutes than you will be for the rest of the day.
- Use a good chair for neck and back support
A chair that provides stable but comfortable support for your back and neck enables you to work well without feeling any tension or stress around your shoulders, neck or back. Consider the benefits of a standing desk in your work space.
- Keep a notebook for those creative ideas
Creative spurts come when you least expect it. The best way to capture those ideas as they enter your head is to jot them down straight away in a small notebook; refer to them later when the time is right. After jotting notes down, make sure that you immediately return to the task that was interrupted by your random thoughts.
- Sip water regularly
Have a bottle of water on your desk and sip regularly. Our brains can switch off under stress, fluorescent lights and from caffeine, which are all common to a workplace. By sipping water regularly, you will reactivate your brain cells and neurotransmitters, which will improve your focus, memory and concentration. Water is an essential fluid that your body and brain needs to function well.
- Take a few deep breaths
Are you experiencing blocks or mental blanks? Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Take several slow, deep breaths… This will relax the nervous system, aid in restoring calm, and enhance your overall alertness.
- Move and stretch regularly
Sitting is the new smoking. Research has shown that sitting for long periods of time can amplify many ailments and diseases, so get up and move around the office, go for a walk in your breaks, get some fresh air, climb the stairs, do some stretches. Great examples include stretching your arms above the head and behind your back, gently rotate your neck side to side, shrug and release your shoulders, do squats or some calf and hamstring stretches. Just make sure you MOVE regularly.
- Work near bright natural daylight or bright artificial light
Natural daylight regulates your circadian rhythm or internal body clock so that you stay awake during the day and sleep at night. To increase focus and alertness at work, let natural daylight in as much as you can, or if you don’t have natural daylight at your desk, use a bright lamp while working and go outside several times a day.
- Have healthy snacks on hand
Take healthy snacks to work. A smoothie or nuts and fruits give you enough energy to work on a task while keeping you healthy. As mentioned above (#6), drink water regularly. Avoid sugary or 'energy' drinks or caffeine that provide you with temporary bursts of high energy as these may leave you feeling more tired and in a slump after the sugar and caffeine have worn off.
Bring fun and humour into your workplace. Laughing releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones) which have so many positive benefits. Laughter reduces stress, anxiety and depression, it increases a person’s resilience, boosts your immunity and reduces pain. All positives to feel great at work.