At the end of the day, it is really frustrating to realize that you have done nothing significant. Your to-do list is still as long as when you started this morning, if not longer. Time was not the problem but how it was squandered by unnecessary distractions. Here are some simple tips on how to stay focused and be productive:
- Keep a plan of action ready.
Start the day with a clear idea of what you will accomplish for the day. However, you should prepare your to-do list the night before so you do not start your new day still planning your schedule — that is a waste of time. Your list should only include those tasks that are do-able for that day. Prioritize them according to their importance. Tackling first those requiring longer time to accomplish is advisable while you are still at the peak of your energy. However, you have to “listen” to your circadian body clock, too. Based on this, each one has his own period of the day when he/she is most energized, and not necessarily in the morning. Adjust your tasks accordingly.
Keep the top of your desk free of unnecessary gadgets or objects that can temp you to tinker with. In most cases, you only need your computer. The blinking signal light of your phone or the ticking of a desk clock may distract your focus. The flow of air direct to your face from a nearby air-condition unit or its gentle humming sound may lull you to sleep. Adjusting its louver to another direction may help.
As regards the people around you, you may put up a “Do not disturb” sign to discourage unnecessary intrusions. A hushing signal with a smile towards noisy co-workers may work to have some peace. Earplugs prominently displayed or headphones are also handy to subtly convey your need for quiet.
- Listen to music
Research confirms that music makes you smarter. Listening to music can actually make you learn better. Music is one of the few activities that involve using the whole brain. It can benefit not only for learning language, improving memory and focusing attention, but also for physical coordination and development. Furthermore, studies show that the power of music to affect memory is quite intriguing. Mozart’s music and baroque music, with a 60 beats per minute beat pattern, activates the left and right brain that causes it to be more capable of processing information.
It really does not matter what movements you choose (such as doing simple exercises) just as long as they make your heart pump a little faster. Exercise reduces stress and proven to trigger the release of the hormones dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These chemicals are known to contribute in the motivation of the brain and raise the feeling of well-being and happiness in individuals.
- Do not multitask
Perhaps your brain may be able to switch tasks at a rapid pace but it is impossible for it to process several tasks simultaneously, it simply is not wired that way. It has to switch focus every time it works on every task so it eventually end up confused, its wiring entangled to be of any use. The sage Confucius described it best when he said, “He who chases two rabbits catches none”.
When we decide that a particular task has to be finished at a definite time, our mind automatically programs itself to adjust to the scheduled time. You can prove this theory when an urgent job suddenly pops outs. Despite our preoccupation with other issues at the time, we are still able to complete the unforeseen task in time. Our focus suddenly zeroes in to the emergency and moves the other issues to the back of our brain for later attention. This being our natural reaction, we can then set shorter deadlines to our tasks to facilitate their early completion, thus avoiding delays.
- Adjust the illumination of the workplace
It has long been known that light exerts powerful effects on the brain and on our well-being. Light is not only required for vision but is also essential for a wide range of “non-visual” functions including synchronization of our biological clock to the 24h day-night cycle. Light also conveys a powerful stimulating signal for human alertness and cognition and has been routinely employed to improve performance. Researchers from the University of Surrey and the University of Liege have found new evidence that light administered during the night immediately reduces sleepiness and boosts human brain function.
Since the right amount of light will put the brain in its most alert and focused state, proper lighting up your workplace will help increase your focus and attention to your tasks.
Prepare a reward for yourself for every accomplishment you achieved. This will help you stay motivated and focused on the task at hand. A night out with friends, going to the theatre, or ordering for your favourite pizza at the end of your workday is enough motivator to keep you focused on your work during the day.
- Keep tab of your progress
In our desire get over all our tasks, we tend to rush things. We seldom, if ever, bother to review our progress. Being aware of how we are doing will help us stay focused on the task instead of just prodding on blindly. We can analyze our rate of doing things and how much effort do we still need to exert to finish the job — these require our focus so we can make adjustments in our plan if needed.
- Take power naps
Some may consider taking a short nap after a meal a waste of time. But this ‘power nap’ is actually an effective energy booster. A short refreshing snooze will clear your mind, wipe off the drowsiness caused by a meal, and sharpen your brain to focus and get more things done.
It may sound ironic but in order to maintain your focus for a longer time on what you are doing, try to un-focus occasionally by doing these tips. They can help clear your mind to help you work more effectively.