Distractions are the death of productivity. From slowing down work to completely shutting it down in its tracks, there are many ways to draw attention away from what needs to be done. Distractions come in many forms, ranging from checking email every five minutes to thinking about events unrelated to the job at hand. While difficult at times, it is essential to focus mental energy and block out the issues enticing the brain for attention. To boost productivity, regardless of the task, here are seven practical ways to focus mental energy.
1. Begin in a Quiet Place
Noise is the ultimate distraction. To begin focusing mental energy, it is necessary to cut out all the noise pollution. Whether it is noisy coworkers or the jabbering of talking heads on TV, setting up shop in a quiet place is a must. Exercising this step may require noise-canceling headphones and non-distracting music (such as something without lyrics), but it is the first step towards focusing mental energy on what needs to be accomplished.
2. Shut Down Social Media
Social media and email are great ways to stay connected with the world. However, these are some of the biggest distractors in the modern workplace. There is a reason why so many companies now block access to social media accounts while at the office. Even if someone only spends five minutes at a time on these services, constantly checking social media accounts takes an individual out of their mindset. Due to this, the best way to avoid these distractions and to focus mental energy on work is to shut down the social services altogether. This doesn’t mean delete accounts or anything that drastic, but turning off notifications while working and not navigating over to the sites is necessary.
For individuals who leave their Web browsers open to conduct research, the social media accounts should remain off and no secondary tabs created. By cutting out major distractions, it becomes far easier to focus mental energy.
3. Stay Hydrated
Many people will automatically pick up their morning caffeine before going into work. Caffeine does release neuroactive amino acids, which help boost mental clarity and focus, but consuming too much can lead to increased heart rate, making someone jittery. What is more important than morning caffeine is to stay hydrated. Drink a full 16 oz of water right after you wake up, perhaps with some lemon. This will wake up your digestive system and well as your brain. Then keep a water bottle at your work station to keep hydrating throughout the day.
In addition, avoid sugary drinks. Sugar most definitely has an adverse effect and it should be avoided to maintain optimal mental focus. Sugar consumption will only result in a crash later in the day. When a child consumes sugar, they have instant energy due to the calories found in the sugar. However, once these calories are burned up, it causes the body to slow down and “crash.” Also, sugary drinks are only empty calories that add up to a few hundred additional calories every day, which equate to several gained pounds a month. So, skipping out on the sugar not only helps with an improvement in mental focus and productivity, but it helps avoid health problems later down the road.
4. Avoid Feeling Sleepy
Feeling tired is a major mental drain. This is because instead of focusing in on work, the body and mind focus on not falling asleep. This alone serves as a major distraction. However, how can someone avoid feeling sleepy, beyond logging a good night’s sleep or a caffeine boost in the morning? It comes down to temperature and food.
Many people have an optimal working temperature. When the temperature becomes too warm, they may begin to feel sleepy. This is a common problem for drivers during the winter months. When the vehicle’s heat is turned on, the warm air can serve as the catalyst to feeling drowsy while driving. The same happens in the work place. If the temperature is too high, productivity drops as workers feel sleepy. Cutting the temperature down a few degrees could make all the difference.
Try this: stand up and move around every hour. Moving your body regularly will help keep oxygen circulating to the brain which will help you keep mental focus for a full 8-hour work day. Use the bathroom, walk to the drinking fountain, make copies, talk to a coworker—be creative, but not matter what, just move regularly.
The second concern is food. Typically, a drop in productivity occurs immediately following lunch. This is both due to needing the time to focus back on the task at hand, and due to what some individual eats. Carbohydrates are often seen as the culprit to this lack of productivity. Most people have experienced eating a heavy lunch of pasta, pizza, a snack cake or something similar, only to feel completely exhausted and in need of a nap shortly thereafter. The need of sleep stems from the consumption not simply from carbs, but from “simple carbs.”
The body needs calories for energy. Calories generally come from three energy groups: protein, carbs, and fats. There are fewer calories per gram of protein, slightly more calories per gram of carbs, and more calories per gram of fat. So, specifically consuming carbs does not directly make the body tired. It is the kind of carbs that causes the body to feel tired while draining productivity and mental focus.
Simple carbs are sugar. Over-consumption of simple carbs causes the body’s insulin level to spike, which in turn forces other organs of the body to compensate for this. All this internal activity results in the body feeling tired and zapped of energy. Some forms of simple carbs include baked goods, white bread, pasta, cereal and anything with (high) fructose corn syrup.
Instead, consuming complex carbohydrates has the opposite effect and can help improve energy levels and mental focus. Complex carbs include 100% whole wheat bread, beans, legumes, nuts, and fruits. By ditching simple carbohydrates and focusing on the complex offering, an individual will feel more alert with the ability to focus their energy on work. For business owners, this is why having healthy options in vending machines is essential. When offering vending machines full of candy bars, potato chips, sodas and others, it essentially provides employees items that will drop their motivation, productivity, and mental focus. Increasing healthy, complex carb options instead boosts mental focus and productivity.
5. De-Clutter the Brain
With so much floating around in a person’s head, it is difficult to focus on anything. Due to this, the more clutter that is removed, the easier it is to focus. For starters, if there are meetings or events coming up, writing this information down and putting it into a schedule allows the person to no longer concern themselves with remembering it. Creating to-do-lists also helps with this. Basically, the less a person must remember and focus their thoughts on, the fewer mental distractions they have. That is why a trusty pen and paper can still be one of the best ways to declutter the brain.
Even after decluttering the mind, there will still be events, conversations, and ideas constantly bouncing around a person’s brain. From relationship issues to worrying about the future, it can prove difficult to turn it all off sometimes. This is where meditation comes in. Meditation helps remove distractions from the mind and teaches a person to clear thoughts and focus. Meditation also helps with stress, anxiety, anger and a host of other problems.
How can someone unfamiliar with meditation begin? There are likely classes offered in the area through the local recreational center. The service Meetup.com is great for providing information on local classes and events as well. Also, there are plenty of available podcasts for meditation, and guided meditation videos on YouTube can walk a person through varying forms of meditation.
7. Go Minimal
Minimalism is the practice of de-cluttering every non-essential item from a given space. The idea goes much further than this, but for improving mental focus this is the tent pole idea of minimalism. Through objects come distractions. With fewer distractions, the brain is forced to focus. It is why having a cleared desk can improve focus. For anyone struggling with staying on task and focusing on their work, clearing out all unnecessary items from the office, home and their life in general, can help. In this train of thought, if it isn’t necessary, it is unnecessary and a possible distraction.
Boosting mental focus is essential to building productivity and accomplishing more both at work and at home. There are many ways to improve mental focus, ranging from ridding the body of food that may cause sleepiness to decluttering the mind and forcing the brain to focus. By taking advantage of these seven tips, it is possible to see an instant improvement in a person’s capability of focusing on their work.
What do you think is the biggest distraction causing you to lose focus? What methods do you use to focus