10 TIPS ON HOW TO STAY FOCUSED THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE DAY
It’s 1 o’clock. You still have 4 hours of work to get done. You’re on your 3rd cup of coffee but by this point the caffeine begins to lose its effect. You can feel your mind and body becoming dull as you become more lethargic. You try your best to maintain focus but you can feel the fatigue slowing setting in.
You realize at this point that the most productive hours of your day are behind you. Before you know it, it’s time for you to go home and you have barely managed to get anything done during the second half of the day.
Many of us have been in very similar situations. Staying focused can be extremely difficult at times, especially for tasks that are boring or repetitive.
Luckily, there are some tactics you can use to combat this. In today’s post, I will be discussing 10 tips on how to stay focused throughout the entire day.
1. Get adequate rest
This one comes first because it is one of the most important.
It seems pretty obvious but the average American doesn’t sleep as much or as well as they should each night. As you probably already know, a lack of sleep can make it damn near impossible to stay focused.
Although this problem can be easy to recognize, it can be much harder to fix. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Remove tech from your sleeping environment. This means you should give yourself a break from cell phones, TVs, laptops, etc. for at least an hour before you go to sleep. You can always keep your cellphone on a dresser away from your bed to avoid the temptation of checking it.
- Only use your bed for sleeping (and sex). I used to be terrible about laying in bed to do all kinds of stuff like scrolling through social media but ever since I starting using my bed exclusively for sleep I’ve been able to fall asleep much faster.
- Consider blackout curtains. If you have bothersome lights outside your window, this can be a great way to help you sleep better.
- Avoid naps. Naps can make it harder to fall asleep when it’s time to at the end of the night.
- If possible, create a schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is perhaps the most effective way to get a better night’s sleep as your body becomes used to the routine.
- Reading a book or meditating before bed is a great way to clear your mind of distractions from the day and fall out faster.
2. Analyze your environment
When is the last time you took a look at your work environment? Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a TV or other device in your office that prevents you from getting work done?
- Is your workplace located in a place where people are constantly stopping to talk to you?
- Does your work environment lack comfort and functionality?
Creating an environment that is comfortable and that removes distractions is absolutely critical for staying focused.
Another thing to consider is whether or not your environment has everything you need to complete your work. Having to get up continually to grab something is a distraction in itself; staying prepared can prevent this.
Take a look around; what elements of your environment produce distractions and how can you remove them? How can you make your environment more comfortable and functional?
3. Remove internal distractions
Of course, distractions from our environment only make up a portion of our distractions. Sometimes the distractions that cause us to lose focus are internal.
The first step is to identify what is causing your internal distraction. Once identified, you can begin working on a solution.
Internal distractions can come in many forms; hunger, fatigue anxiety, boredom, stress, and so on.
Some things are simple to resolve. For hunger, eat something. Stress on the other hand requires some more steps.
For more complicated things such as stress or anxiety, I do what is known as “self-talk”. This is a sort of quick meditation before I begin my task where I close my eyes and I clear my mind of any internal distractions.
If there are any internal conflicts that are too big to tackle in a short time, I write them down on a notepad somewhere and tell myself I will deal with them afterward.
Writing things down is a way to take them off your mind. Often times when something is constantly buzzing around in our heads it’s because it’s something we are trying to not forget; by writing down whatever it is that is causing your mind to race, you can ensure it won’t be forgotten.
We can also reduce our mental burden by creating to-do lists that prioritize tasks.
4. Prioritize your tasks
Completing difficult and important tasks often requires the highest level of concentration. If we try to complete these tasks later in the day when we are no longer able to stay focused, it is easy to get frustrated and run into a wall.
Instead of just completing tasks in a random order, complete the most difficult and important tasks that require the most attention first while you have the most mental energy.
Save easier, less important tasks for halfway through the day when you aren’t as sharp.
Prioritizing and organizing tasks, whether on a calendar or to-do list, is a great way to reduce anxiety, keep your mind clear, and accomplish more.
This leads us into our next point:
5. Plan out your day the night before
Planning out your day can take up time and drain precious mental energy which can stifle your ability to stay focused.
30 minutes of planning at the beginning of your day is 30 minutes worth of work you could have done at the peak of your mental capacity.
By writing out your to-do list the night before, you are removing much of the anxiety that comes from not having your day planned out.
As an added benefit, this can also help you sleep better because you won’t be trying to remember everything you need to do tomorrow instead of sleeping.
Having your day planned out before you get your morning coffee works wonders. But, perhaps, your morning coffee has been the issue all along:
6. Check your caffeine intake
Take this one from me. A few years ago RedBull could have sponsored me with how much I drank their products.
Caffeine can improve your ability to stay focused for a short period of time but, after excessive use, can actually be detrimental to your ability to concentrate.
Things such as caffeine should be reserved for moments when they are really needed. This way you don’t become dependent on them and when you actually need them they still work.
Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that tricks our brain into not being tired. Our bodies build up a tolerance to caffeine much like with other drugs. Large amounts consumed frequently lessen the effects of it and can cause dependence.
I used caffeine as a crutch to make up for my poor sleep schedule, lack of exercise, and shitty diet. This leads me to my next point:
7. Check your diet
There is a reason that we don’t run our cars using moonshine. Sure, it’s possible, but it won’t get you nearly as far. (Can you tell I’m from the south with that analogy?)
The same goes for the food we eat; food is the fuel that runs our brains and bodies. Without the proper fuel, we can never hope to run at full efficiency.
Eating better really isn’t as hard as it seems. It may require you to brush up on your cooking skills or do some meal planning, but it isn’t rocket science.
Just eat green stuff more often, eat less processed foods, and lower your portions just a little.
In addition to a good diet, good fitness levels will also help you ensure you have more energy throughout the day.
8. Check your fitness level
Exercise is important for maintaining general health and well-being.
By keeping your fitness levels up, you are allowing your body to work at maximum efficiency; this includes your mind and therefore your ability to stay focused.
Exercise has been shown to increase the levels of endorphins and dopamine in our bodies; two hormones responsible for mood stability and happiness. It has also been shown to decrease the levels of hormones responsible for stress such as cortisol.
It also increases the levels of hormones such as serotonin and norepinephrine. These hormones are known to accelerate information processing.
Just as we rest in between sets, we also should rest our mind from time to time.
9. Take breaks often
The mind is like a muscle. Just like a muscle, we need to give it time to rest. Hourly breaks are a great way to do this.
Get up, walk around, stretch and go outside for a breath of fresh air. Doing this helps prevent mental burnout.
If your work involves looking at a computer screen for hours on end, the results could be even worse. Prolonged sitting and excessive screen time can lead to eyestrain, neck/back pain, and headaches.
Getting up and taking a quick walk allows you to change your setting for a few moments and refresh your mind.
If you are still having trouble focusing, consider the last point:
10. Keep the bigger picture in mind
Close your eyes and take a moment to visualize where you want to be a year from now.
What do you want to improve? Where do you want to be in your life? More importantly, how are your actions today going to get you there?
Ideally, each and every action you take should bring you closer to your long term goals. If they aren’t, you seriously need to question why you are doing them.
Focusing on long term goals/changes you want to make in your life and relating them to your everyday actions is a great way to stay on task.
This is how many great people stay motivated through tough situations. An athlete trains day in and day out for weeks, months, and years to prepare for an event. They can stay focused by imagining their moment of glory. You can do the same.