We all have had days where we can’t seem to stay on task. The days where we can’t seem to stay motivated to get our tasks done. Oftentimes it can be because we just have too much on our minds, too many responsibilities in front of us and we are focusing on way too many things at one time.
Whether it’s because we are tired, or we are lacking motivation, distracted, or possibly something else entirely, our inability to focus hampers our productivity at work and it turn this can hurt our chances at that next promotion.
However, you can take a few simple steps to help stay focused and land that next opportunity based on your current job performance. Here are 5 simple tips that science has found to improve your focus.
- STOP Multitasking
What?! Stop multitasking, stop my productivity? Yes, try to focus on doing one task well at a time. Doing multiple task poorly, or only average, won’t get you noticed. Complete each task the best it can be done.
Multitasking also may hamper your attention span and memory according to a 2009 Stanford study. In a sample of 100 Stanford students, nearly half self-identified as multitaskers. The other half did not. “The test examined attention spans, memory capacity, and ability to switch from one task to the next and the multitaskers performed more poorly on each test,” (Ophir 2009).
- Exercise Regularly
Exercise isn’t only great for your body. It promotes mental health as well, which in turn promotes better memory and concentration. In fact, many scientists believe exercise may help stimulate the brain to help, rewire memory circuits to improve their functioning.
- Make a To-Do List
Creating a to-do lists will help you prioritize what tasks you need to get done first, but it will also serve to help you find what was not completed.
Believe it or not, keeping a record of all the things you still need to do can help you stay focused on the upcoming tasks. If you do not keep a list, your incomplete work can eat away at your concentration. This is something called the Zeigarnik Effect, which is our ability to remember incomplete tasks instead of completed ones, causing us stress.
- Take Breaks!
Whether it’s watching a video online, taking a walk around the office, or chatting with a cubicle mate about something other than work, it is important to take breaks from our work. In several studies where participants were asked to perform a task for an hour, and half were allowed two breaks, while the other half had to work straight through…guess what happened?
You got it, those who were allowed the breaks during that hour performed better for the entire time whereas those who weren’t offered a break performed worse.
- Separate Work from Home
It is vital for your mental health to try to keep your work at work. Coming home and worrying about work on your commute home, and while you are home can lead to stress on you and stress in your home life. Make the effort to separate yourself from your work when you are away from it. Be in the moment. Taking time away from it will help you stay focused on the task when the time comes.
~Sean Hogan has coached hockey at the international and collegiate levels for over ten years. He has spoken at numerous events about culture building, goal setting and healthy lifestyles. He holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Recreation and Sports Science with an emphasis on Coaching Education from OHIO University.
Ophir, E. (2009, April 1). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903620106