The dog days of summer are upon us. Vacation mode has set in and staying focused proves harder and harder. Whether you’re bored and unmotivated due to an empty office, or attempting to tame your pre-and-post vacation workload frenzy, the struggle is real. Concentrating on the task at hand isn’t easy – especially when Friday afternoon rolls around!
Positive energy, ongoing mindfulness and proper organization can help you shift gears and get your work done.
Here are 8 ways to sharpen your focus and improve concentration that might come in handy during the final weeks of summer.
- Create the right environment. Changing up your workstation can give you a fresh perspective. Spend 10 minutes reorganizing your messy workspace. Go to a local coffee shop to finish up a big project. Work from home to avoid office distractions. Ask colleagues to join you in a conference room if you prefer a more open work environment. Figure out where you feel comfortable and productive and try to work there more often.
- Cut the noise. There, I said it, power off your email and step away from your phone for a few minutes. A recent study by the University of California-Irvine revealed that regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes. It’s important to step away from the blue screen and manage your distractions. Since I started drafting this blog post, I’ve already been distracted by five emails and a slew of social alerts. Shut it down for 20 minutes and allow yourself to focus on the task at hand. I do it all the time and I can promise you, the email will still be there when you’re done.
- Snack smart. Brain foods like blueberries, nuts, avocados and whole grains are packed full of mental and physical benefits. If you’re struggling with that 2:30 p.m. feeling, take some snack trips from my colleague Amber’s recent blog, Brain Food Rx.
- Hydrate. A 2012 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration, so minor that you might not even know about it, can lead to attention loss. It’s tempting to refill your coffee mug when you’re thirsty – just don’t forget about water. Not to mention, the other amazing benefits of hydration, like more energy, faster metabolism, immunity booster and more!
- Meditate. Meditation requires you to mentally check out and calm your thoughts. The few days before and after vacation can be among the most stressful workdays. Spend a few minutes taking deep breaths and clearing your mind. You’ll find yourself rejuvenated and more focused. There are several different variations of meditation, so do what works best for you.
- Take a break. Only one in five office workers admit to taking a lunch break. Taking 15-20 minute breaks is a proven way to increase concentration. Go for a walk around the block. Grab lunch with colleagues or friends. Run a mindless errand. You shouldn’t feel guilty using the time off you deserve. Remember taking a break won’t keep you from getting your work done; it will help you focus your energy when you get back.
- Write it down. I know, I sound like a broken record here, but it really does help to write down what you need to accomplish. Recently I’ve been writing down my to do list every day at 4:00 p.m. That way, I know exactly what I need to accomplish the following day.
- Catch some ZZZ’s. A long-time staple on any self-improvement list is sleep, and it’s there for a reason. There are serious consequences to lack of sleep. A recent study by MSU and UC Irvine found that “memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation.” Meaning less sleep causes forgetfulness. Confusion coupled with distraction is a recipe for disaster.
August is one of the slowest months of the year, and keeping focused at work is no simple task.
What helps you concentrate? Feel free to leave a comment below.