- It can be difficult to stay focused at work, whether you’re working from home, the office or another location
- General background noise, sleep deprivation, a lack of regular exercise, health conditions and too much work can all lead to a lack of concentration
- Improving your general mood and health can help to boost your productivity – you could try to get better quality sleep, take more exercise and eat better to boost your brain power
- There are also things you can implement during the working day to improve your focus, such as wearing earplugs if you suffer from misophonia, blocking out meeting-free time in your calendar, and prioritizing your tasks
Whether you work from home, in an office, or on-site at a different location, it can be difficult to stay focused at work, for a variety of reasons.
Maybe you suffer from a concentration-inhibiting condition like ADHD or ADD, or perhaps there’s simply a lot going on in your work location like:
- Loud children when you’re trying to WFH
- Musicians as neighbors
- Co-workers who are constantly on the phone
- Phone notifications
- Work-related stress
- Lots of background noise or music
- Anxiety or depression
It’s safe to say that putting all that aside and focusing on your work is something that we’d all love to be able to do more often, and for longer. But it’s often easier said than done.
Luckily, we’re here to help, with our top tips on how to stay focused at work. If you want to know how to improve concentration for a more productive working day, keep reading!
Why do I struggle to stay focused at work?
There are two main factors that affect our ability to stay focused and concentrate at work: internal and external.
Internal factors include physical, mental or emotional states that can impact our ability to stay productive at work.
Physical factors that can inhibit your ability to stay productive at work include things like being over-tired or being hungry.
Getting plenty of high-quality sleep (it’s generally recommended that adults get eight hours of sleep per night) is proven to improve concentration and attention – as well as your problem-solving skills, memory, judgment and creativity.
If you don’t get adequate sleep, you run the risk of short-term cognitive impairment. That could mean you struggle to pay attention throughout the day, meaning you struggle to concentrate and have trouble remembering things – not to mention that your mood will be impacted, and you could find yourself very grumpy.
If you have ADHD or ADD, this could also affect your ability to pay attention at work. People with ADHD can be restless or fidgety. They may also have trouble concentrating, especially if there’s noise in the office workplace. That means, if you have ADHD or ADD, you’ll need to find out how to improve concentration and focus at work, whether you work from a home office on your own, or in an open plan space with other people.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can affect your ability to concentrate in general, and work is no exception.
Employees with depression may be present in the workplace, but not really performing as they’re not focused, or feel disengaged with the work. It’s best to let your employer know if there are any particular aspects of work that you struggle with, and they may be able to make adjustments such as flexible working arrangements.
Many aspects of the modern world, like social media, hamper our ability to concentrate. The fast-paced nature and instant gratification of social media has reduced our attention spans. We’re always looking for the next dopamine hit, meaning we’re easily distracted from the things that really matter.
If you keep your phone on the desk at work, the constant notifications popping up make it difficult to resist the temptation of checking your phone – and that means you can easily lose 15 minutes on Instagram here, and 20 minutes on TikTok there. Over the course of the working day, it all adds up.
External factors, on the other hand, are work-related stresses that are outside of your control, or – at least – are harder to manage. That could include:
- Too many meetings
- A loud workplace
- Trying to multitask
- Poor lighting
- Uncomfortable seating
- A workplace that’s too hot or too cold
- Not having the right tools to do you job
- A lack of information about tasks
- Poor time management
What behaviors are signs that you are losing focus?
If your focus at work is suffering, it could manifest in a variety of different ways. You might find that you:
- Aren’t performing at your peak
- Feel more tired than usual
- Lack energy
- Feel sluggish
- Struggle to perform normal, everyday tasks
- Aren’t listening properly
- Feel restless
- Struggle to remember things
- Feel like you have brain fog
- Are making careless mistakes
- Find decision making difficult
- Are missing deadlines
- Forget where things are
If any of these sound familiar to you, it may be a sign that you need to have a look at some of the areas in your life that could be affecting your ability to stay focused. Whether it’s a lack of sleep, medical conditions, or an overly busy calendar, there are always things you can do to learn how to improve your focus and stay productive at work.
How to improve memory and concentration
Sometimes, improving your focus at work means looking at the general lifestyle factors that could be impacting it. If you focus on how to improve brain concentration in general, then it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll also reap the benefits in the workplace.
There are plenty of studies that show losing focus is a clear side effect of being dehydrated. Dehydration symptoms like mood, fatigue, and headaches, in turn, can lead to lapses in focus.
Have a bottle of water with you at all times and keep sipping throughout the day. This should help you to stay more alert, improve your short-term memory, and keep you focused on the task at hand.
Get more exercise
This is a no-brainer. Countless studies have shown regular exercise has profound results when it comes to the ability to focus on a given task. Even as little as 15 minutes of exercise can improve your concentration and memory, thanks to the mood-regulating hormones endorphin and serotonin.
When you exercise more, although it can sound counter-intuitive, you’ll actually have more energy – not less.
Get quality sleep
The quality of your sleep and rest is crucial when it comes to performance during the day, but a lot of people struggle to sleep well – meaning that many of us are performing sub-optimally every day without really knowing it.
If you live in a noisy city, close to an airport or are simply sensitive to environmental noises, you’ll probably wake up multiple times a night. These breaks in your sleep can dramatically impact the quality of your sleep, meaning that even if you get eight hours a night, they might not be particularly restful.
Using a pair of earplugs at night, like the Loop Quiet, reduce noise that disturb your sleep with up to 27dB of noise reduction. They’re made from soft-touch silicone so they’re super comfortable to wear all night long.
Mindfulness and meditation can be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety while improving your ability to concentrate and learn.
It can be hard to quiet your mind if you’re new to meditation, so you might like to use a guided meditation app to stop your mind from wandering.
Alternatively, you could try a moving meditation, mindful movement like yoga, or a daily journaling practice. Taking some time each day to jot down what’s on your mind can help you to clarify your thoughts and feelings, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
You might also find it easier to work through your problems – both in your private life and at work.
If you’ve ever skipped breakfast before a meeting, you’ll know that it’s hard to stay focused when you’re hungry. Hunger can lead to fatigue and brain fog, leading your concentration to dip throughout the day.
You can boost your brain power by eating regularly and eating well. A diet rich in the right nutrients can help you to stay alert. Try to eat three solid meals a day as well as healthy snacks that won’t send you into a sugar slump – that means no reaching for the cookie jar at 3pm. Try grabbing an apple and peanut butter or a handful of almonds to keep you going instead.
How to improve focus and concentration at work
Once you’ve implemented the above tips, you should be well on your way to staying more focused at work. But there are also lots of things you can do during the working day to improve your concentration. Here are a few of our favorite productivity tips at work.
1. Eliminate distractions
If you remove distractions from your workplace, it removes the temptation. And when it comes to distractions during the working day, there’s none more alluring than the pull of your mobile phone.
Limiting distractions, then, could mean keeping your phone in another room, or using apps that limit the amount of time you can spend on social media.
You could also try setting your status on apps like Slack and Teams to ‘do not disturb’, and turning notifications off so that you’re not distracted by messages popping up on your screen when you’re trying to immerse yourself in deep work.
2. Try earplugs
If you find the hustle and bustle around you a distraction, you might suffer from misophonia: a sensitivity to sounds. It could be the sound of someone eating or breathing loudly, the noise of a colleague tapping on their keyboard, or a repetitive motion like someone tapping their foot or fidgeting.
Misophonia can make you feel anxious or uncomfortable, or it could even provoke feelings of anger and disgust – all of which, naturally, make it difficult to concentrate. If you suffer from misophonia at work and need a way of blocking out noisy coworkers, you may want to give earplugs a go.
Earplugs like Loop Experience help to filter out noise without blocking it out completely. That means you can still have conversations with your colleagues and be aware of everything that’s happening around you, without being distracted by annoying sounds.
3. Prioritize your tasks
If you have lots of tasks due, it can be difficult to know where to start – which can lead to overwhelm and procrastination.
It’s a good idea, then, to prioritize your tasks by importance so you know what you need to focus on first. List out all of your tasks, then divide them into tasks that are urgent and those that are important.
Urgent tasks are those that need immediate attention – for example, you’ll miss a deadline if you don’t complete them by the end of the day. Important tasks are those that aren’t as time sensitive, and could be done tomorrow or later in the week instead of today, or those that could be delegated instead.
Focus on completing your urgent tasks first, during your highest energy period – that will usually be in the morning, but you may find you have more energy in the late mornings or afternoons. That leaves you to work on tasks that don’t require such intense focus when you have less energy.
You might want to try using the 1-3-5 rule. That means you focus on accomplishing one big thing each day, three medium-sized tasks, and five little ones. If you have one long, to-do list, you may end up becoming disheartened or overwhelmed as it seems never-ending. You’re never going to be able to accomplish everything in one day, as time is limited. Breaking your to-do list down into these nine items makes your to-do list a whole lot more achievable. It helps you to prioritize tasks, and you’ll feel satisfied at the end of the day once you’ve managed to work through them all.
4. Block out your calendar
If you often have back-to-back meetings, or people frequently drop by your desk for unscheduled tasks, you may struggle to get anything done. That’s because when you’re interrupted, studies have shown that it takes 23 minutes for you to refocus on the original task.
You may find it easier to keep your focus if you block out no meeting hours in your calendar. That means you can focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by other people’s needs.
5. Plan your day
Instead of blindly going from task to task, make sure that you always know what you’ll be working on next by planning out your day, hour by hour. You can write this down in a notebook or, if you’re a visual person, block your tasks for the day out in your calendar.
This means that you’ll always know what task you need to work on next, and it’ll give you a realistic idea of how much you can fit into the day.
6. Try Pomodoro
There are lots of different time management techniques that you can try, but one that’s particularly useful for keeping your focus is the Pomodoro Technique.
It’s a way of chunking out your time so that you focus on a task for 25 minutes before taking a break for 5 minutes. You can use that time to grab a drink, stretch your legs or simply rest your eyes by looking away from your screen, before returning to your desk for another 25-minute period of focused work. Five minutes is all you need to rest and refocus your brain.
These short bursts of productivity can make it easier to complete tasks as there’s a time limit on getting things done, while helping you to avoid distractions - after all, we can all go 25 minutes without checking our phone, right?
7. Take regular breaks
Even if you don’t use the Pomodoro Technique, it’s still important to take regular breaks. Trying to push through to work for long periods of time tends to be counterproductive, as you’ll end up feeling tired and distracted.
Instead, try to take 15-minute breaks every so often. Getting outside is a great way to refocus your brain and relax your mind, helping you to feel revitalized when you return to your desk.
Work better, every day
From regular exercise and better sleep to improve your general mood, to earplugs and time management solutions to ensure you stay more focused at work, our work productivity tips are sure to make every work day easier. Whether you’re working from home, in the office, from a cafe, or on site at another location, implementing these changes to the way you work could result in big changes to your performance.
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