I don’t know about you, but I have some days at work when I am so “in the zone” that I accomplish the majority of my tasks before lunch, and then other days when I seem to spend the entire eight hours just spinning my wheels, going nowhere.
I really enjoy the first kind of day because I feel so organized and accomplished. The second kind of day feels like it will never end, and even though I may be more or less wasting my time chitchatting (which sounds like fun) the hours drag by, leaving me exhausted, especially when I know in my heart I’ll have to make up tomorrow for what I failed to do today.
The work atmosphere is beyond my control, of course. I can’t do anything about angry clients who come in and make a distracting fuss, or about days when the phone won’t stop ringing or when the office is crowded with home-based employees who have dropped in to have some camaraderie for a change. But there are certain things that ARE within our own control, so we all should take advantage of the following hacks that have been scientifically proven to help us stay focused on the job.
- Eat a breakfast that releases glucose slowly. Honestly, nutrition overwhelms me so much that I think my brain shuts down and refuses to keep straight what I’m supposed to eat and what I’m not. I could have guessed doughnuts were a bad idea, but turns out that pretzels and popcorn are too, and many a time I’ve been known to get them out of the vending machine thinking I was doing OK. I’m sorry but I am just not up for eggs or fruit in the morning. So if you’re like me and your breakfast has to be something non-perishable that you keep in your desk, oatmeal it is.
- Stop trying to multitask. I’m not going to say you can’t do several things at once. It’s just that you won’t do any of them very well. Your attention can only be on one or the other, so decide which task you’re going to accomplish next and shut down the others. You may not be allowed to ignore your phone, but you’re probably able to shut down your email for blocks of time. Even if you check it once per hour, that’s better than once every ten seconds!
- Clean off your work area. Science has shown that the stimulation of having too much stuff in sight is stressful and distracting. Piles of stuff everywhere are pointless. Have the thing that you’re working on within reach, and put everything else away. Its time will come.
- Choose your music. Science has shown that your ability to focus is improved by listening to music of your choice. Some of the most miserable hours I have ever spent at work have been caused by having to listen to music I hated, hour after hour. You may have no control over the music that’s played at work, but you can probably drown it out with a discreet set of earplugs and music that you like better.