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How to Stay Focused at Work


Prone to procrastination, distraction or a bit of office socializing? Even the best of us can struggle to keep focused from 9 to 5. Here are 3 tips to help you master workplace concentration.

1. Divide and conquer
Staring at a long to-do list can quickly become overwhelming. So, get sorting and prioritize. Split your list into a) more complex, urgent jobs b) smaller, less urgent jobs c) loose ends, like unread emails. Once you have a clear plan, you’ll be able to focus and get it done.

2. Structure your space
If you can barely see your keyboard under piles of paper or have endless clutter, you may not be working as efficiently as you could. Making designated piles, giving everything a place, or adding plants, has been shown to reduce tension, anxiety and fatigue.

3. Rely on routine
Constantly rolling into the office at different hours or changing your order of tasks can eat away at your ability to get stuff done. Humans love routine, so over learn a way of doing things and concentrating from 9 to 5 will become second nature.

4. Take a break
Skipping lunch breaks or working around the clock may look good to the boss, but it’s a slippery slope to poor concentration. While prolonged sitting is associated with health risks, such as heart disease, studies show that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and mental exhaustion.

Be it a walk around the block, doing some deskercize, or a few minutes of mindful (deep) breathing, stepping away for your desk at regular intervals is enough to recharge your mind and fuel your focus.

5. Exercise your mind
Regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping releases brain chemicals key for memory, concentration and mental sharpness by boosting the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Further, physical activity stimulates endorphins (happy hormones), providing an instant mood lift. If you can’t wrestle yourself out of bed in the morning, opt for a lunchtime gym session or plan a ‘walk and talk’ meeting, instead of a sit-down coffee catch up.

6. Feed your focus
If you want to fire on all cylinders throughout the day, then you need to eat regular, balanced meals. Certain foods that can boost concentration are: blueberries, green tea, avocados, leafy greens, fatty fish, flax seeds, nuts and, most important of all, water (to stay hydrated). Avoid being caught empty-handed during a busy work day, and plan ahead your snacks and lunch so you avoid running on empty.

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