How to improve your focus at work

The desire for employees to be more focused and productive at work is nothing new. But in the age of smartphones and social media, there seem to be more distractions competing for our attention than ever before. So how can we enjoy greater productivity with fewer interruptions? Here are a few tips to help you eliminate common workplace distractions and increase mental focus.

Log out of your email for a set time each day

Often, seeing a new message hit our inbox can pull us away from the task at hand as we feel compelled to view the unread email. But this habit only erodes our focus and productivity. Try logging out of your email for 30-60 minutes every morning or afternoon to focus on high-priority tasks and evaluate the difference it makes in your daily productivity.

Avoid social media during work hours

Much like email, social media updates are a common source of workplace interruption. Signing off your social networking accounts during work hours will eliminate what has become one of the biggest enemies of employee productivity.

Set your cell phone to “airplane mode”

If you were to track the things responsible for pulling you away from your work during a one-week period, chances are good that your cell phone would emerge as one of the top culprits of distraction. Whether you’re checking your email, looking up the score of last night’s game, or texting friends, your cell phone can significantly reduce your productivity.

While there are many professional cases in which you may not be able to set your phone to “airplane mode”—perhaps your employer provides you with a mobile phone and requires you to be accessible at all times during the work day—if you are able to do your job without the use of your personal cell phone, try eliminating this distraction from your day and see how it improves your focus.

Take short breaks throughout the day

Have you ever noticed how it can be difficult to maintain focus on a task after you’ve been at it for a long time? This loss of focus over time is known as “vigilance decrement,” and it’s a normal response for our brains to have when faced with long projects. University of Illinois Psychologist Alejandro Lleras led a research study that suggests taking “brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.” “We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” explains Lleras.

One strategy for incorporating short, regular breaks into your work day is to follow the “50/10 rule.” The 50/10 rule means that out of every hour, you work uninterrupted for 50 minutes. Then, you take a ten-minute break before repeating the cycle.

Power your brain with the right foods

Giving your brain the proper nutrients is essential to improving your cognitive function. Doctors recommend eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to boost brain performance. Wild-caught salmon, nuts, avocados, and chia seeds are great sources of the healthy fats our brains need. Other foods known to improve brain function include blueberries, black beans, licorice tea, beets, coconut oil, and broccoli.

Other Ways to Improve Your Focus

Here are some additional tips for improving your focus and productivity at work.

  • Start your day off with 20-30 minutes of exercise
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night
  • Declutter your work space
  • Tackle your most daunting tasks first
  • Break down large projects into more manageable chunks
  • Make to-do lists
  • Set the thermostat between 68 and 77 degrees

Looking for additional help to improve your concentration at work? Check with your EAP provider to find out what resources are available to you through your employee assistance program. Mazzitti and Sullivan EAP members can view their employee benefits by logging in here or by contacting us anytime, 24/7.