No matter what responsibilities your job requires, you have probably struggled with maintaining focus at some point or another. Don’t feel too bad if you have this problem; even employees with stellar work ethics can find it difficult to concentrate on their daily tasks. If you have trouble with keeping your eye on the ball, it might be necessary to modify and adjust your workplace habits.
Why the Mind Wanders
An inability to consistently focus can be a frustrating character flaw, especially when you don’t know what is causing it. Fortunately, medical science has unearthed some reasons as to why the mind loses concentration. One or more of the following explanations might just explain why you can’t seem to get things done at the office.
You’re a Committed Multitasker – With the advent of email, text messaging and other new forms of technology, the term “multitasking” has become a common phrase in the modern office environment. To those not familiar with this term (all four of you), “multitasking” refers to the practice of attempting to accomplish two or more tasks simultaneously, such as reading an email while answering a phone call.
Theoretically, this strategy should allow employees to be twice as efficient. In the real world, workers who try to juggle two tasks at the same time often perform both poorly. This is because our brains are best equipped to handle one task at a time. Consequentially, all of those text messages and visits to your email account (not to mention those pit stops at various social media sites) wind up distracting you from your spreadsheet. By ignoring your cell phone and closing unnecessary web page tabs, you might find yourself blowing through work with a vengeance.
You’re Overweight – We could write a whole series of articles on the health risks of being overweight, but we’ll stick to just a paragraph. While excess poundage can wreak havoc with your cardiovascular system and blood sugar levels, it can also make your memory much cloudier. Studies have linked extra weight to poorer memories in women.
You Don’t Get Enough Sleep – As anyone trying to function on short sleep can tell you, a lack of shuteye can make it near impossible to focus on your job. This link, which is fairly obvious even to those with no medical background, has recently been reinforced by scientific research. According to a study produced by Harvard Medical School, a chemical named adenosine triphosphate (ATP) allows cells to utilize the energy produced by nutrients inside the body. The amount of ATP in the brain spikes upward during sleep. Essentially, the relationship between ATP and focus goes something like this – the less sleep you get, the less ATP you have, the worse your concentration is the next day.
You Don’t Work Out – Exercise just doesn’t tone your physique; it can also sharpen your mental capabilities as well. A groundbreaking study from the Salk Institute found that regular physical activity stimulates blood flow the hippocampus, the part of the brain tasked with storing and recalling memories.
Improving Your Focus
Now we get to the meat of the story. As with many other personal shortcomings, an inability to consistently focus on important tasks is a flaw that can be rectified. If your mind tends to stray at work (or has even begun to wander while reading this article), try implementing the following tips:
Hit the Ground Running – It can be tough to jump right into your office routine. Many workers, loathe to start a draining eight hour shift, try to ease into their workday by goofing off on their favorite web sites. Often times, this strategy backfires, making it even harder for employees to actually start working. A better approach would be to start knocking off items on your to-do list right from the get go.
Focus on One Thing at a Time – Perhaps some especially cerebral workers can handle multitasking, but many others simply cannot. Instead, put those emails and text messages to the side for a while you go about your work. It could also be beneficial to shut off the text notification feature on your mobile phone.
Nip Troublesome Tasks In the Bud – There is a good chance that your job requires you to perform certain tasks that you don’t especially care for. Many people tend to put off such assignments as long as possible. Of course, this only exacerbates the problem, as the employee is now forced to complete an undesirable task in a limited amount of time. Taking care of these chores early in the game not only reduces stress, but can make it easier to focus on what needs to be done.
Take Notes – It’s not uncommon for employees to be bombarded with various requests and assignments from superiors throughout the day. While some people can mentally store all of this incoming information without fail, others can easily lose track of the ever-growling list of chores. Carrying a pen and notepad around might work wonders for your job performance and workplace efficiency. For those who are more tech-savvy, modern smartphones can be used for storing and displaying important notes.
Get Rid of Desk Clutter– It’s not too hard to imagine what the desk of a poorly organized worker looks like – months-old files, folders and other documents accumulating everywhere, with no discernable rhyme or reason. Not only is such clutter aesthetically unappealing, but it can make staying focused all the more difficult. When you get a chance, try giving your desktop a much-needed spring cleaning.
Don’t be a Night Owl – It’s probably a bit redundant to bring this up, but you’re not doing your body any favors by skimping on sleep. Work can be challenging enough without fighting off the urge to take an early afternoon cat nap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.