How To Improve Your Focus at Work in 9 Ways (With Tips)
Updated August 17, 2022
Published February 4, 2020
Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.
Focus refers to the ability to concentrate on a specific task or subject and maintain attention and focus until it's complete. The ability to focus for extended periods of time can allow you to complete your work in an efficient and accurate manner. Reviewing strategies for improving your focus may help you become more productive in the workplace and accomplish more tasks, which can help you progress in your career more quickly.
In this article, we describe some benefits of improving your focus, explain how to improve your focus in nine steps and offer tips for doing so.
Benefits of improving your focus
Being able to focus on one task or subject for an extended period of time can enhance your overall productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Learning how to direct and maintain your focus and concentration can also prove to be beneficial in other aspects of your life. Here are a few important benefits of improving your focus:
Reduces your stress levels: By making an effort to improve your concentration, you can reduce your concerns about being able to complete tasks and focus on what's most important. When you're focused, you can complete more tasks in a shorter amount of time.
Helps you avoid making mistakes: Improving your focus can help you avoid making mistakes in your work, allowing you to improve the overall quality of the work you produce. When you're more focused, you can complete your tasks with fewer mistakes and may even have more time to review your work.
Assists you in improving your thinking: Trying to complete multiple tasks at once can make it more difficult to think creatively and develop the best possible solutions. Focusing on a single task at a time can help you think about the steps to take in more detail and devise more effective solutions.
How to improve your focus at work
Improving your focus and concentration requires regular practice. You can use the following strategies to improve your focus and increase your productivity at work:
1. Identify the current state of your focus
Before you work on improving your ability to focus, take some time to identify your current work habits. If you regularly allow distractions to take you away from work or if you often lose track of your progress, your capacity to focus is probably low. You can also set a timer as you work on a certain task. As soon as you find yourself distracted from the task, check the timer to see how much time has passed. That will give you a baseline of how long you usually concentrate on a task before losing focus.
2. Limit or remove distractions
Limiting or removing distractions in your workspace can help improve your ability to focus. Turn off the television and avoid checking your social media. Consider putting your phone away for a designated period of time, or only check on emails and calls marked urgent. In addition, set clear times for when colleagues or employees can approach you with questions or conversations. This can help prevent you from becoming distracted by a casual chat while you're completing a task. If you work remotely, place a sign on your door letting your family or housemates know that you're busy with your work.
If you regularly find yourself distracted by the clutter in your office or on your desk, set aside five minutes each morning to tidy up your workspace. File away papers, throw away any trash and make your work area as clean and comfortable as possible. Less clutter can allow you to spend more time focusing on your work, rather than cleaning your workspace.
3. Increase your focus slowly
Set realistic goals for improving your focus so you can eventually work toward larger goals. For example, if you currently can only concentrate for five minutes before becoming distracted, aim to work for seven minutes. Set a timer and don't stop working until it goes off. Once you can work for seven minutes, slowly increase it to 10 minutes. Gradually improving your focus can help prevent feelings of frustration if you lose some of your progress.
4. Concentrate on one task at a time
Multitasking is often a primary contributor to a lack of focus and concentration in the workplace. While it may seem as if you can get more done if you do multiple things at once, you may find that focusing your time on a single task allows you to reduce errors and improve the quality of your work. Concentrating on one task at a time can help you become more productive and can enable you to complete each task with a higher level of accuracy and efficiency.
5. Take scheduled breaks
Schedule small breaks each day to give your mind a chance to rest and reset. It can also help you avoid becoming overwhelmed. For example, every hour you could take a five- to 10-minute break to go for a walk or get a drink of water. Set your timer and don't allow yourself to take longer than five to 10 minutes at a time. This can allow you to take the break you need while also ensuring that you don't become distracted and end up taking too long of a break.
6. Assess and adjust your stimulation level
If you find yourself with a list of tasks that seem boring to you, you might be less likely to exert the concentration necessary to complete them. For more mundane tasks, consider ways to make your to-do list more interesting. For example, you could set a timer and see how quickly you can complete your tasks, and turn them into a game, or you could play soothing music to relax your mind and ease your resistance to the task. The more excited you can get about a task, the more easily you can focus on it.
7. Exercise during the day
Regular physical activity can help you enhance your ability to focus and concentrate by improving the important chemicals in your brain. It can help you feel more relaxed and motivated by increasing your energy levels throughout the day, in addition to your attention span. During one of your breaks, consider going for a walk or a jog outside of the office or exercise in your office's gym, if it has one. If you work remotely, you could walk around your neighborhood. If you don't have a lot of time for breaks, consider exercising at your desk.
Spending time in nature can also help you increase your focus and productivity by changing your physical environment. If it's possible, consider taking a walk in a nearby park near your office. Fresh air allows you to feel more energized and increases your oxygen intake, which allows you to enhance your focus.
8. Prioritize your tasks
Before you start each day, spend some time deciding which tasks you want to complete first. Consider prioritizing the harder tasks that you know are likely to take you longer to complete. This can help you focus on what really matters, so you exert the right amount of effort to finish each of your daily tasks on time. In addition, consider organizing your more extensive tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. For example, if one of your tasks is to create a presentation, you could first create an outline of what to include in it.
9. Create a distraction to-do list
Consider the unimportant tasks that might distract you from your work during the day, such as checking the weather or your social media posts. These types of tasks can negatively affect your focus and make focusing on your work more challenging. Keep a piece of paper nearby and every time you feel the urge to participate in an unimportant task, write it down. Then, when you're done with your primary task, you can decide if the items on the list are important enough to complete.
Tips for improving your focus at work
Here are some additional tips for how you can improve your focus and become more productive:
Engage in meditation
Regular meditation has the potential to improve your ability to focus throughout the day. Before you start your work each day, spend a few minutes meditating in a place that's calm and quiet. Consider timing your meditation sessions. Using an app might help you better manage your sessions and retain your concentration levels.
Read a book
Spending time reading a book outside of work can help improve your ability to concentrate. By sitting down and concentrating on one book for a certain period of time, you can teach your brain how to focus on a single task. Consider assigning yourself a certain number of chapters or pages to read each day until you finish the book.
Get plenty of sleep
Getting an adequate number of hours of sleep each night can help you better focus on your tasks without feeling tired. Most working professionals require seven to nine hours of sleep each night to concentrate well during the day. Try to establish a habit of logging in enough hours of sleep each night so that you can feel energized during the day. Set your alarm before you go to sleep and make an effort to go to bed at the same time each night and reduce distractions during the evening hours.
Change your eating habits
Changing your eating habits may help you improve your concentration and avoid feeling hungry throughout the day. Consider eating meals that have a high nutritional value rather than convenient meals that contain food with little nutrition. Try to avoid eating a lot of sugar, as sugary foods can make you feel more tired, even if they provide you with a temporary burst of energy. In addition, try to eat three meals each day so you can avoid becoming distracted by hunger when you're trying to complete a task.
Listen to music
Listening to music, nature sounds or white noise might help you increase your focus and overall concentration, especially if you work in a busy office environment. To avoid becoming distracted, consider listening to instrumental songs without lyrics at a manageable volume. In addition, choose neutral music, rather than music you either strongly dislike or enjoy.
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