Let’s face it: in this day and age, there are distractions everywhere.
In addition to the constant nagging of smartphones and social media, the office environment is also racked with distraction – whispers of the latest gossip or people walking by your desk, possibly stopping to chat with you when you don’t have time. And with the way the traditional work environment is set up, maintaining focus for eight hours straight while in the same office, same room, same desk, staring at the same computer is difficult, so cut yourself some slack! All of these factors cause us to lose focus on the job, which leads to a lack of productivity.
There’s also a scientific reason why we lose focus. You know what it’s like to work on something and work on something, only to hit a wall after a certain amount of time – we all do. Well, due to a process called “habituation,” it’s proven that we are only able to maintain our attention for so long. That is, if we are exposed to a certain task for a certain length of time, our brains begin to pay less attention to it. A research study showed that when subjects took part in a 50-minute memory task on a computer, the group that was given brief breaks performed better than those who didn’t take breaks; in fact, the performances of those without breaks actually declined. Prolonged attention to a single task, then, actually causes a lack in focus, and thus productivity.
Therefore, the importance of taking breaks with the intention of returning back to work focused is crucial for maintaining productivity. Here are some quick ways to increase focus on the job:
The most important step to increase focus is to get up from your desk and move around. If you do nothing else on the list, do this! Getting the blood moving will help you come back to your project re-energized. If you can get out of the office for 10 minutes and go for a walk around the block, great! If not – walk around the office floor, walk to fill up your water or tea (but do not walk to get food; using food as a distraction will only end up with you piling on the pounds!). And, get up regularly from your chair to stretch, like touching your toes, for example. Apart from helping you get your focus back, experts report that getting up hourly is also important for the sake of your health!
Change the scenery
If you do nothing else on the list, do this! (We know, we know… we just said that. But this one is equally as important as the first!) In fact, it is pretty much a two birds with one stone scenario because in order to have a change of scenery, you have to get up and move.
Stepping away from your immediate work environment, computer, and desk is crucial in your ability to both increase and maintain focus. Doing so, if only for a few minutes will allow for you to come back recharged and with fresh eyes and mind for working.
One of the numerous noted benefits of meditation is increased focus, and you don’t need to do it for a long time to reap the rewards. The process is very simple:
- Find a quiet space, close the door, turn off your ringer, etc.
- Set a timer for the amount of time that feels right for you (if five minutes is all you can do, great! You will still benefit from it)
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position you can maintain for the length of your meditation, but that will not encourage sleep (it’s not nap time!) If seated, make sure your back is straight, and in any position, make sure that your neck, shoulders, and jaw are relaxed
- Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath – don’t try to change your breathing or force any pattern of breathing
- Keep your attention on your breath. This is usually the biggest challenge because your mind wants to bombard you with thoughts and start worrying about all the things you have to do, or should be doing, instead of meditating. Don’t try to stop those thoughts or worries. Let them come up, but then always bring your focus right back to your belly where you feel your breath. Let the rising and falling of your belly always be your anchor of focus to return to.
Use Positive Affirmations
While it seems cheesy, there is something very valid about the power of saying positive statements out loud to yourself (don’t worry, if your office environment doesn’t allow the privacy for you to do this, you can say them to yourself in your mind, or write them down and look at them as needed).
It is rather impossible to stay feeling unfocused when you are saying words that affirm you are focused. Try saying the following statements out loud for size and see how you feel. The right one will usually shift your mood; you’ll feel the change in your body and mind, and feel better, lighter, and more focused. And if none of these work for you, try writing your own, keeping the statement in the present tense.
I am calm and in control.
I focus my energy on solutions.
I am a problem-solver.
I know what I need to focus on right now.
I know exactly what to do.
I am focused and productive.
I am good at what I do.