How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 4)

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 4)

stay-focusedThis is my last installment to this month’s series of articles that talk about tips on how to stay focused at work. With small distractions and a lot of ad hoc tasks that gets sent to us within a work day, the challenge is to stay focused all throughout. These 3 tips complete the series. Read on!

  • Establish a favorite focus spot

Our brain operates on 2 systems. Let me try to explain the basics of these 2 systems. System 1 is grounded on involuntary systems. It is a network that is always on and makes automatic decisions for us. Like how we turn our heads when someone calls our name out, or how we pull our hand back when we touch hot surfaces. System 2 runs the voluntary responses  Based on suggestions from system 1, it processes information and makes decisions. It also chooses where we direct our attention.

When work gets a little too repetitive, we often struggle to concentrate. It might feel daunting to even start work. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to begin. But if you are lucky enough to find a nice quiet spot where you get all your brain work done, then please, stick to this spot. It runs on the premise that there are things you can train your brain to do  automatically. Having a favorite focus spot eliminates the need to waste time choosing where to work. It puts you on automatic mode and tells your brain that “this is a place where I can do efficient work.” You automatically get into the mindset of focusing on the task at hand.

  • Devote specific hours to tasks

Have you ever worked a 12 hour shift? How did you feel after that? I bet your answer is…TIRED. Understandably, it would be very hard to focus if you are tired. So try to keep your work within the limits of a normal work day, that’s 8-9 hours. Don’t forget to take regular breaks to boost your concentration and improve your focus.

Not only does the length of time you work affect your focus, but the timing does as well. Your body clock is a factor on how well you could focus on work. So try to understand your circadian rhythm. Morning larks obviously have no problems performing their best work in the morning. And night owls are at their best and most efficient when working at night.

  • Embrace boredom

When you’re supposed to be taking a break, avoid keeping yourself distracted by different forms of stimuli (yes, games and social media count). You are just fooling yourself with more stimulation disguised as relaxing activities. This might become a habit as you need more and more activities (like games or social media) to sustain you during what is supposed to be your down time. Breaks are important in restoring your focus and improving your concentration. How about we all embrace doing nothing for a change?

There you have it! 15 tips on how to stay focused at work.  I hope you found this series helpful! Tell us what works for you in the comments. We’d love to hear about your experiences. As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!

 

Written by Jaie O.- The Help

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 3)

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 3)

6-steps-to-stay-focused-at-work-2Last week was yet another productive work week, thanks to our tips on staying focused at work and a few extra tricks for boosting productivity from last month’s series.  This week, I  want to share with you a few more tips on how to stay focused at work.

  • Find a quiet place

In an article published by Scientific America, a study shows that “Background or Low-Level noise in the home, work or school often disrupts people’s concentration. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, ambient noise also affects people’s health by increasing general stress levels and aggravating stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, peptic ulcers and migraine headaches. Continued exposure does not lead to habituation; in fact, the effects worsen.”

Anyone familiar with cortisol? Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is normally released by the body during times of stress. Cortisol is not the enemy, Cortisol actually helps us deal with stress by regulating unnecessary functions, like reproduction and the immune system, in order to allow the body to refocus all energies toward dealing whatever is causing us stress at the moment. But if the body produces too much, that causes all kinds of trouble. So best to avoid noise and try to work in a quiet place, especially if the task calls for absolute concentration.

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule

Here’s how it works: Stare at a distant object that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. What this does is refocus your eyes and clears your head. Trust me, this will come in handy when you’ve already been staring at your computer screen for hours at a time. Before your eyes glaze over from tiredness, try this nifty little exercise and rest your tired eyes.

Get a good night’s sleep

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are so many i can’t even begin to tell you how important being well rested is. Not all of us have the luxury of getting enough sleep thoug. I’ve written about the challenges of getting enough sleep, some myths, and how to get enough sleep. Read about it here, here, and here.

If there’s ever a major culprit for lack of focus, it would be not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation impairs our ability to focus and to learn. Sleep is important to make memory “stick” so that we can recall the information when we need it. Lack of sleep obliterates the three most important functions we need to focus and recall information.

  • Work offline

I’m not talking about working without an internet connection. That would be counter productive. What I’m saying is to avoid time waster and social media distractions. Remember when we talked about multitasking as actually being detrimental instead of being a good thing. So, switching from social media to your task at hand is actually multi tasking. It takes your focus off the immediate work,  and part of your attention stays with the distraction instead of the task.

Next week will be the last of this series of tips to help you stay focused at work. If you want to share any tips we haven’t discussed yet, feel free to share them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you! As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!

 

 

Written by Jaie O.- The Help

 

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 2)

How to Stay Focused On Work (Part 2)

how-to-stay-focused-all-dayLast week, we kicked off the month with a few tips and tricks to improve focus at work. Here are a few more tips to improve concentration and help us become our best possible version at work.

  • Try some caffeine

I love that internet meme that says: “But first, Coffee” It kind of summarizes the start of my day. Most of us need that caffeine kick to jump start our day and help inject a little personality into ourselves. Otherwise, we’d be a bunch of zombies trying to start work in hopeless need of brains.

But more kickstarting our day coffee can do so much more. Did you know that caffeine can improve mental focus and increase concentration. It’s like a shot of adrenalin. It gives you a quick boost of extra energy. The key (as with everything else in life) is moderation. With coffee, DOSE is important. Bet you didn’t know that the less caffeine you consume, the better it works? Your rain receptors respond normally to caffeine – the more you drink it, the more your body gets used to it. The effect gets less overtime. This is call attenuation. Economists will understand this as diminishing returns. So, save caffeine for when you need it. And remember that everything you take too much of has a negative effect.

  • Take breaks

Ok listen. Let’s get one thing clear. You are NOT too busy to take breaks. Nobody is too busy to take breaks. I sometimes find myself wondering why some people think that being constantly busy is an awesome sign that they are being productive. I think the opposite is true. If you don’t have time to take breaks, then you are not being efficient aren’t you? Breaks are meant to super charge us and revitalize us. It gives us second wind and gives us time to recalibrate our focus.

Scientific research actually backs this up. It’s a universal truth that if you spend a long time doing the same task, chances are, you begin to lose your focus after a while. It’s like when you focus your attention on a stationary object and everything else disappears from view, taking breaks allows us to stay focused on things that need our full attention.

  • Keep work at work

Keeping work at work can be quite a problem for those who work from home. Office workers can always train themselves to NOT take any work home (unless absolutely necessary) but when you work from HOME, you have no choice in the matter. However there are ways to psychologically condition yourself. First is to have a home office. I understand that we can’t all have that perfect home office…or a spare room for that matter to use as a home office. But if you can carve out a designated area in your home to use as a home office, then you can get into the mindset that work stays at work. Yo can boost your productivity further by keeping that area uncluttered.

  • Train your brain

Some of us play games during our breaks to keep ourselves entertained. While Pokemon Go is a great option, why not use this downtime to improve your focus. Games like CogniFit, Elevate, Lumosity, Mindnode, and Brain Traning: Focus are just some mobile apps that can help you improve your focus while having fun. These apps are available in iOS and Google Play.

I hope you find these tips useful. If you have some tips for us, we’d love for you to share them in the comments. As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!

 

 

Written by Jaie O.- The Help

How To Stay Focused On Work (Part 1)

How To Stay Focused On Work (Part 1)

ways-to-stay-focusedHappy Labor Day weekend everyone! September is a celebration of the many invaluable contributions that workers have made to the growth of companies, industries, and countries. Not only do we work for our families, but our work contributes to company growth, and in a much larger scale, industry growth and nation building. So to honor the hardworking employees and workers, we’ll kick off this month with the first article of a series of Ways to Stay Focused. Here are the first few tips:

  • Minimize multitasking

Minimize multitasking or stop altogether! You think you’re being more productive by juggling multiple tasks at the same time but really, you’re NOT. A study published in Psychology today says that you lose up to 40% of your productivity by multitasking. That’s because you are not really multitasking but switching from task to task. In the time it takes to switch from one task to another is really what eats through your productive hours.

Here’s the deal, psychology research shows that people can only focus on one cognitive task at a time. This means you can only focus on one mental activity at a time. If it involves brain work, you can’t juggle two things at once. So focus your brain power on your most important task to  stimulate your brain. The rest will be easy peasy.

  • Meditate

Now is the time to learn how to meditate. If you haven’t started yet, you can read about it here. Try to incorporate meditation breaks into your workday. There are many benefits to it and you’ll feel less overwhelmed. Taking meditation breaks improves our memory retention, increases our focus, reduces our stress levels and stabilizes our emotional responses, gives our brain true rest, and improves our brain power.

  • Exercise regularly

Ah, the many benefits of exercise! It not only improves how you look and feel physically but also does wonders to improve your concentration. Chemicals get released into our brain that improve its retention and focus capacity. A study conducted at the University of Illinois shows evidence that students who exercise moderately before taking a test that measured attention spans performed better than students who didn’t exercise. What happens is this: exercise primarily helps improve focus by improving our brain’s ability to ignore distractions. In this era of a thousand and one social media platforms and digital distractions, that super power is very valuable.

  • Make a to-do list

No office worker can live without a To-Do list. So I’m sure you don’t need a lecture on the merits of keeping a To-Do list to keep yourself focused on what need to get done by the end of the day. But you can incorporate Productivity Boosting Techniques to your list making in order to supercharge your productivity I’ve written about some techniques previously. Try the different techniques discussed last month like the GTD method, Eat the Frog, and The Action method.

There you have it! Some tips to improve your focus at work. Stay tuned for more tips. If you have some tips on staying focused at work, we’d love to hear about them in the comments? As always, remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!

 

 

Written by Jaie O.- The Help

 

The Best Way Is Sometimes The Simplest Way

The Best Way Is Sometimes The Simplest Way

the-action-method-1-728This month’s post all have one common denominator. They all focus on Productivity Boosting Techniques that help teach us refine our work habits and employ techniques to help us work more efficiently. So far, I’ve discussed the benefits of decluttering your workspace, using the Get Things Done or GTD method, the very fun, time based Pomodoro Technique, and the quirkily named Eat the Frog method of boosting productivity. For the last post in our Productivity Boosting Techniques for this month, I’ll talk about how sometimes, the best tricks are the most simple ones.

I know that by now we all have our routines and personal techniques of organizing tasks and keeping on top of work. We start the week with a concrete plan and a list of what we should be working on for each day. But as the week progresses, ad hoc tasks tend to creep in. Sometimes, we find ourselves with work piled up. This is when the amount of work gets too overwhelming. We tend to lose our focus and resort to just “winging it.” This means that,  somewhere along the way (and in between that pile of work), we tend to miss deadlines or miss important tasks. We may feel that the only way to get ourselves out of the funk is to clear out all the work and start at the beginning to get ourselves re-organized.

Sometimes, going back to basic is the best way to address overwhelming tasks in order to regain focus. And that’s just what the Action method teaches us. In the book “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky, he teaches us that the best methods for managing projects are simple and easy to perform. The idea behind the Action method is to break down a project into simple, intuitive components.

Ready to know how it works? Here’s what you need to do:

The Action method operates on one simple premise: that everything is a project. That monthly report you are working on is a project, so is organizing your kitchen. Once you get the hang of thinking that everything is a project, you can start identifying and breaking it down into it’s basic components. Then, all you have to do is to imagine these components as items that you can place into “buckets”.

The next step is to organize these components into the following buckets:

  1. Action Steps: Action Steps are precise and explicit tasks that help you make progress towards completing the project. They are concrete, actionable items: things that you can do something about immediately or within a specific time-frame. Take the kitchen organizing example: organizing the kitchen pantry, clearing out the cabinets under the sink, and cleaning the countertops are all examples of action steps.
  2. References: This is a list of any project related info or resources that you need to get tasks done. They could be sketches, manuals, notes, website links or anything that are readily accessible for you to refer to in relation to your project.
  3. Backburners: backburner items are things that don’t need to be done right away. They are things that you don’t have to action immediately but would have to be cleared out of the queue someday. In short, they are low priority tasks. In our kitchen organizing example, it could be: buy more bins, replace countertop with marble, or replace kitchen fixtures.

With this, I conclude our Productivity Boosting Techniques series for the month. I’d love to know which productivity boosting technique is your favorite. Let me know what works for you! As usual remember to: Stay Humble, Hustle Hard. Good luck!

 

 

Written by Jaie O.- The Help