In the age of quick and easy distractions, many people are finding it harder and harder to focus on the tasks at hand. I checked both Reddit and Instagram just while writing this short post. Social media and open access to information aren’t bad things, but they’ve made it easier to ignore boring yet important work. As the founder of EraBright, LLC, a marketing agency that I’ve built over the past 3 years – which caused me lots of stress in the beginning, I’d like to share a few simple strategies you can employ to increase the power of your focus and productivity.
Exercise Your Body
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Regular exercise has been shown to increase overall mood and energy. If you find yourself exhausted by the end of the afternoon, add a work out to your morning or evening schedule. It may seem paradoxical: how does using more energy mean you have more energy throughout the day? But the connections to mental health are numerous. Exercise improves the quality of your sleep and helps to reduce stress. All these things help to limit distractions and tiredness throughout the day.
Exercise your Mind
The mind is, in a sense, a muscle. Keep your mind engaged to maintain focus. Do things that interest you, like hobbies that force you to learn something new. The more regularly you engage your mind, the better it will be at maintaining effective focus. Try doodling during long meetings to help stave off unhelpful boredom. Studies are showing that doodling while listening can help you retain information.
Figure Out the Best Time of Day for You
Despite our 9-5 morning-person dominated culture, not everyone has the same natural energy cycle. Some people have peak performance at 8 AM, others at 8 PM. Through trial and error, you can figure out when your mind is most productive. Save work that normally can’t hold your attention for those times. Of course, this isn’t always possible – depending on your work schedule. But knowing your strengths and weaknesses is an important part of success and productivity. If you know you can’t focus until after lunch, figure out what kind of tasks you can accomplish when you’re not running at 100%. And some black coffee can be a healthy, hydrating, and energizing friend for those dark hours.
I’d like to thank my colleague, Bethaney Embry, of The Embry Law Firm for pointing out how vital quality sleep is to mental health. Sleeping better doesn’t just mean sleeping more. It’s important to figure out your body’s natural sleep cycle and try to live accordingly. Again, this can be difficult in the modern office schedule, but try to figure out whether you should be going to sleep earlier or getting up later. Get off the screens at least a half-hour to an hour before bed to reduce the amount of blue light your eyes take in. Read a book or draw some sketches, something calming to get your mind ready to rest.
There are thousands of resources and opinions about meditation, but there are countless connections between meditation and reduced stress. Meditation helps clear your mind, allowing you to move forward with renewed focus. People who meditate report increased positivity and calmness, two things that contribute in a huge way to mental efficacy.
Try to really care about the subjects you find it difficult to focus on. If you zone out during long meetings, try to listen attentively, and ask yourself questions about the topic. Quiz yourself, see if you can guess where the speaker is going next. Think about what the information being presented has to do with your own role. Whether or not you get a chance to respond, think about how you would (all without lifting your focus from what’s still being said). Try anything to keep your mind engaged with what’s going on.
Distractions are tempting…so give in! It’s okay to take regular, short breaks. In fact, they increase productivity. Try to schedule your breaks so they don’t become too frequent or long for you to get anything done, but don’t feel ashamed for needing to take regular time off to decompress from your work. Do your best to leave your work at your desk (or wherever you work) while taking a break. Breaks should be about resetting yourself so you can go back into your tasks with renewed energy.
It’s hard to pay attention, but generally focusing on your own physical and mental health is a great way to improve your ability to function at your peak throughout the day. And hey, reading informative articles like these counts as exercising your mind…so good job!