How to Stay Focused for Peak Productivity
8 min read
Feeling distracted and unable to stay on task? Maybe even experiencing a bit of brain fog? You’re not alone. One of the biggest struggles we face, especially in the age of remote work is staying focused. Distractions are around every corner and it’s easy to feel as if the odds are stacked against you and your prized productivity. Don’t throw in the towel though. Here are 16 tips to help you stay focused and productive.
1. Prioritize Your Tasks
Prioritizing your tasks is an important way to help ensure that you are getting things done in an appropriate order so that everything can be completed by its anticipated deadline. Before starting your workday, ask yourself “What do I need to get done today?” weight out the difficulty, time needed and deadlines to make a plan of action. This will prevent you from wasting time later as you try to come up with what to do next and create an opportunity to get distracted. By having a plan of action, you can move seamlessly from one task to another while maintaining focus. You can keep track using post its, a text document or one of the many popular productivity apps for smartphones.
2. Avoid Multitasking
Despite what you may think, multitasking can cause tasks to take longer to complete, and you’re more likely to end up making mistakes while doing them. Try to focus on finishing one project at a time before moving on to any other projects to avoid these pitfalls.
A great tip to avoid multitasking is to make a list of all the things you need to get done. This allows you to do one thing at a time and see the progress you are making. Not only that but having a written plan is said to help you be more productive.
3. Set SMART goals
If you feel overwhelmed by an important project’s size or complexity, consider trying to break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. This can be done using the SMART formula, which can help you plan your workday and set goals for the future.
SMART stands for the following:
What, specifically, needs to be accomplished? How many steps does it include, and how involved is the project supposed to be?
How are you tracking your progress in completing the tasks?
Is what you’re trying to achieve realistic?
How does the project fit in with your overall plans or goals?
When is the due date for the project? Will you be able to complete it by that deadline?
4. Group Similar Tasks
Different tasks require different ways of thinking. You can lose productivity and focus by switching back and forth between different types of tasks. Instead, group similar tasks together also known as “time chunking” in order to get the most out of your limited time. On the other hand, if you have a mix of creative and admin work, sometimes mixing it up a little gives you time to recharge your creative juices.
5. Take Breaks (Pomodoro Method)
For a lot of you out there asking how to stay focused, you might really be wondering how to get more work done. Interestingly staying focused over an extended period, doesn’t mean plugging away every second. Many find increased productivity with the Pomodoro method
Simply follow the steps below to get more work done over the course of a day.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and work
- Take a five-minute break once the timer goes off
- Set it again and keep working
- Do this for four rounds and then take a more extended break (between 20 and 30 minutes)
6. Tackle Difficult Tasks First (Don’t Procrastinate)
As much as you may want to avoid tedious or just more complex work and set it aside for later, it’s better to just rip off the bandaid and tackle these challenging tasks first. Getting this work done first thing while you’re fresh and most productive will prevent you from struggling and losing focus while trying to get these things done at the end of the day.
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7. Say NO to Distractions
Staying focused means of course not getting distracted. While you can’t eliminate every possible distraction, a few easy steps can prevent the majority within your control. Here are some quick tips to prevent most distractions:
- Move to a secluded, quiet area
- Turn off all phone notifications, or better yet, turn your phone off altogether
- Tell anyone who is in your vicinity that you need to not be distracted for a while
- Close the door to prevent people and pets from interrupting you
- Don’t check any social media accounts
- Close all unnecessary websites, apps, or programs that aren’t essential to the work you are doing
8. Drink Caffeine In Moderation
Drinking coffee and other caffeinated drinks in moderation can help keep you awake as you work. And, according to a 2010 study undertaken by the National Library of Medicine, small doses of caffeine can have a positive impact on one’s ability to focus on tasks. Drinking too much caffeine, however, can end up causing feelings of anxiety or nervousness, which will negatively impact your ability to focus on what needs to be done. A good rule of thumb is to drink your caffeine in small doses throughout the morning and then stop around lunch.
9. Eat Brain-Healthy Foods
Keep your body filled and your mind working in tip top shape by sticking to brain foods to fill you with energy and help you stay focused on your daily tasks. Harvard Medical School has specifically recommended these “best brain foods” to help you stay focused:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Tea and coffee (in moderation)
- Fatty fish
The brain is an organ that relies on oxygen and adequate circulation like any other in your body. Regular exercise promotes healthy circulation and gets oxygen pumping throughout your body. Check out this article for more info on different types of exercise and how they benefit your body.
11. Brain Training
Practice mindfulness and avoid letting your thoughts wander. Recognize the moments when your attention starts to shift somewhere else and return your focus to the task at hand. This will begin to train your brain over time to be more mindful of what is going on and what it’s doing. Practicing breathing techniques and yoga can also help with this.
12. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is critical in allowing you to remain focused on a project, especially for extended periods. Trying to accomplish any task without enough proper sleep is much less effective, and you’re much more likely to make mistakes when doing this.
Tips to Get Better Sleep
- Stick to a sleep schedule and avoid napping if possible
- Stay away from caffeine especially after 1:00 pm
- Limit alcohol intake
- Create an ideal sleeping environment
- Reduce blue light exposure (from screens) before bed
13. Listen to the Right Music
The right music will depend on you and what helps you stay focused. North Central University has a short article here with different findings about how music can affect your focus. The takeaway from that article you might be looking for is that classical music can improve your mood and productivity. More recently, people are really enjoying the viral hit that is the Lofi Hip Hop Beats to Study/Relax to on the LoFi girl YouTube Stream.
14. Create The Perfect Workspace
Having a specially dedicated workspace for your projects can be a great way to help eliminate distractions. Pick a designated place that is secluded and quiet, and arrange a desk with everything you need to get work done (and nothing more).
This spot should be specifically designated for work and shouldn’t contain any clutter or objects not directly related to the tasks you are trying to accomplish. It can be beneficial to set up this workspace in the corner of a room facing a wall that isn’t near any windows.
15. Look At A Far Away Object Intermittently
Taking an occasional moment to look at objects that aren’t directly in front of you can help to maintain eye comfort. Our eyes were developed to switch between focusing on objects at different distances so starting at a static monitor can cause eye strain and headaches. Looking at a distant object now and then will help you to stay focused on your work for longer overall.
Meditation can help you remain calm and focused, allowing you to work effectively on your projects. It can also help you overcome any other distractions that you could not get rid of before you started working for the day.
There isn’t a solution to be a focused robot for every single second, but these tips will help you to maintain better focus and get more done over the course of the day. Do you have a tip that’s not on this list? Share it with us below!
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Disclaimer: The Best in Nature blog is written for informational purposes and not to be taken as medical advice. If you are worried about your immediate health, please seek the help of a medical professional.