You find it hard to stay focused at work and you can’t concentrate. Your mind wanders like a drunken sailor and it’s tough to get meaningful work done.
Don’t feel too bad, though, the average person spends 46.5% of their waking hours the same way: daydreaming.
This blog will teach you how to stay focused at work. We’ll talk about the benefits of focus, what causes a wandering mind, and five tips to increase concentration while working.
The Benefits of Focus
Focus-schmocus, what’s the big hullabaloo? You get along just fine the way you are, right?
Maybe, but increasing your ability to concentrate won’t hurt. In fact, there are actually a few proven and substantial benefits.
When you learn how to stay focused at work, you’ll have more:
Want to be that “ray of sunshine” around the office? The kind of person who just seems to radiate happiness from their desk or cubicle. It’s not as hard as you might think. Just learn how to stay focused at work.
An unfocused mind is much more susceptible to negative thoughts, which makes total sense. If you let your mind constantly wander, it’s bound to dwell on the gloomy bits of being alive now and again.
By building your concentration skills, you’ll be better equipped to “put bad thoughts away”, when they surface. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Improved focus is a learned skill. By practicing it, you CAN improve your ability to concentrate. It will take effort, but so does just about every other skill out there.
If you want to become an accomplished athlete, a qualified musician, or experienced chef; you must practice. Sure, some folks are born with incredible abilities. But even these lucky few must develop their raw talent before they use it to shock and awe the world.
As you practice focus, you’ll improve your personal self-discipline in two ways: First, you’ll be able to concentrate your mind much more effectively. This, in and of itself, is a strong display of willpower.
Secondly, the simple act of consistently practicing focus will set a precedent, making other tasks — tasks that require self-discipline — easier to accomplish. Because you’ve set your mind to something else and seen success. Make sense?
Focused people are more successful. Again, it makes perfect sense. If you’re happy, you’ll work harder and more productively. If you have amazing self-discipline, you’ll be able to push through the mundane aspects of your career. The ones nobody likes doing, but are really important.
Not to mention, increased concentration will allow you to focus on your goals and see them to completion, rather than jumping from one idea to the next on a whim. A condition known as “shiny object syndrome“. And yes, SOS is a real thing.
Focus has many benefits. But boosted levels of happiness, self-discipline, and success win the prize (at least in our book) for the most important.
What Causes a Wandering Mind?
Want to know how to stay focused at work? Well buckle up, we’re about to get brainy. Like, literally… We’re going to start talking about the brain.
But first we should mention that letting your mind wander, daydreaming as it were, isn’t always a bad thing. It becomes a problem when it detracts for your work and quality of life. Okay, let’s dive into the causes behind a wandering mind.
In all honesty, the exact reasons our minds wander isn’t fully understood. What researchers do understand, however, is a brain function known as the default mode network (DMN).
The DMN is a system of connecting regions inside the human brain. They tend to increase in activity when our minds aren’t focused on any specific task — AKA they’re the section of the mind that’s firing on all cylinders when we daydream.
The key to increased focus is gaining power over the DMN. Those with extraordinary concentration abilities are able to quickly recognize when their default mode network has taken hold, and return their attention to the task at hand.
So if that’s the leading theory behind mind wandering, how can you, the dedicated professional that you are, gain mastery over your DMN and learn how to stay focused at work? We’re so glad you asked! We have a few tactics just for you:
5 Tips to Stay Focused at Work
You’ve heard about the benefits to increased focus levels. If we’ve done our job right, you’re pretty psyched to improve your concentration. We’ve also glossed over the reason your mind tends to wander. Thanks DMN…
Let’s cover the five best ways to answer the question, “how to stay focused at work?”
1. Commit to Daily Meditation
Meditation has been gaining in popularity lately. Many of the world’s biggest ballers — from Arianna Huffington (founder of Huffpost), to Ray Dalio (founder of the world’s largest hedge fund), to Jerry Seinfeld (famed comedian and actor) — regularly practice it.
Yet it still remains a mystery to most people. Many think its some mystical art full of “woo woos” and “weird spirituality”. Their loss! Meditation has numerous benefits, one of which, is a more focused mind.
Think of it like this: if you want to improve your physical fitness, you go to the gym. You exercise your muscles to make them bigger and stronger. The same principles apply to your mind. To improve focus you need to exercise your brain. Specific kinds of meditation will help you do this.
Additionally, a consistent commitment to meditation can also reduce stress levels and symptoms of burnout, improve sleep habits, and increase a person’s capacity to be compassionate. So those are great benefits too!
2. Physically Remove Distractions
Here’s a super applicable tip: to improve your focus, physically remove distractions from your environment. For example, when working on your next big company project, turn your phone off, and log out of your social media accounts.
Calm down and breathe — we can hear you hyperventilating through your computer screen. Every text and Instagram update will be waiting for you when you’re done working. Promise.
Studies show that it takes the human brain an average of 23 minutes to refocus after being interrupted. If your devices keep sending you notifications throughout the day… Well, let’s just say you won’t be nearly as productive as you could be.
Plus, think of all the extra material you’re giving your DMN to work with! It’s just better to remove distractions and focus on the task at hand. Agreed?
3. Give Your Mind a Break
Researchers have honed in on another concentration secret: brief diversions, or time away from a specific, monotonous task. At the onset, this seems counterintuitive.
Learn how to stay focused at work by focusing less? Exactly!
But upon deeper analysis, it makes sense. Our brains are hardwired to respond to change and tend to treat constant stimulation as unimportant.
Think of the clothes you’re wearing right now. You probably weren’t actively aware that the fabric was touching your skin until we brought your attention to the fact. It’s not that you can’t feel, it’s that your brain has become so used to the sensation, it doesn’t focus on it anymore.
The same thing happens inside that pretty little head of yours. After a while, your mind registers your task as unimportant. The fix? Simply take a break. Studies show that brief diversions allow the mind to regain focus on the objective at hand.
4. Schedule in Time to Daydream
Remember what we said earlier: daydreaming isn’t a bad thing. In fact, in the right situation, letting your mind wander is actually a very positive activity. It improves creativity, empathy, and productivity.
Rather than restricting this important process, schedule it for a more appropriate time.
Fantasizing about the future or reminiscing on the past won’t help you get your work done more efficiently. They’ll actually hinder the process. So put those far out thoughts away when you sit down at your desk.
But what about your lunch break? Or your free time in the evening?
You have our permission to dream on!
Take a trip to la-la land. Enjoy getting lost in the muse. You’ll likely be better for it.
5. Regularly Practice Focus
Lastly, if you really want to learn how to stay focused at work, you have to commit to practicing concentration regularly.
As we mentioned earlier, this is a skill that can be learned and developed — just like a virtuoso musician or star athlete. Sure, for some people, the act of concentration comes much more naturally. But there is hope for the rest of us! It just takes a bit more effort.
So remind yourself regularly to focus. Use the tactics outlined in this blog to keep you on track. When you find yourself becoming distracted, encourage your brain to stay present and concentrate on the task at hand.
With practice, we have no doubt that you can learn how to stay focused at work and be a concentration master.
Focus Like You Mean It
You made it all the way to the end of this blog post. Congrats, it seems your focus is already improving! Now take this momentum and ride it as far as it will go. When the road to improved concentration seems daunting, remember what you learned in this post.
Increased focus can help you become happier, more self-disciplined, and more successful. Those are all amazing reasons to keep pushing through when the going gets tough.
Speaking of tough goings, combat them with the five tactics we just outlined: commit to daily meditation, physically remove distractions, give your mind a break, schedule time to daydream, and practice focusing regularly.
Think you can do that?
Then you’re well on your way to learning how to stay focused at work. Kiss those distractions goodbye, friend. They won’t hold you back for much longer!