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Published on January 11, 2021

8 Simple Ways To Be Mindful At Work For Better Focus

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8 Simple Ways To Be Mindful At Work For Better Focus

It’s easy to get caught up in the world around us—to react to events without thinking about what they mean to us, to judge others without a thought about what may be happening in their world, and to allow distractions to keep us from doing what we should be doing At that moment. It’s this way of reacting to events and situations that lead to many people being stressed out, overwhelmed, and busy.

Becoming more mindful at work means we step back and take a few minutes when events happen and analyze their meaning to us at the moment. It means we don’t react immediately. Instead, we pause, consider the situation, and then act.

A simple example of this can be seen every day. We notice an elderly person struggling to carry a heavy box or shopping bag up a flight of stairs and yet, so many people walk by lost in their own world of stress and worry without even noticing. A mindful person would be immediately aware of the struggling person and stop and offer help because they are aware of their surroundings at the moment and not lost in the past or future.

One of the benefits of being more mindful is that it can help us to be more focused on our work. It can help us ignore distractions and focus on what’s important and not get lost in the trivialities that often lead to that unproductive feeling of being busy and overwhelmed.

By being more aware of our surroundings and knowing what we are trying to accomplish each day, we can evaluate new inputs—whether they are gossiping colleagues or office emergencies—and decide whether they deserve our full attention or not.

How do we take the practice of mindfulness and apply it to our lives? Here are 8 simple ways you can use to become more mindful at work and help you better focus.

1. Start With a Plan

Most of the reasons why we find it difficult to focus while at work is because we do not start the day with a plan. When you do not have a plan for the day, you are going to be influenced by events and any distractions that come your way.

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Being more mindful at work means knowing what you want to accomplish for the day and having a plan to make it happen. But more importantly, it means you have taken some time to think about what is important (and what is not) and evaluate what needs to happen to get the important things done.

Now, your plan for the day does not need to be detailed. It’s simply asking, “what do I want to accomplish today?” That could be to finish a report you have been laboring over for a few weeks. It could be to deliver an outstanding presentation or resolve an issue with a difficult customer.

The key is stepping back at the end of the day and asking yourself what you want to get done tomorrow and writing it down somewhere you will see the next day when you start your work.

2. Begin the Day With a Review of Your Plan

Part of becoming more mindful at work is being aware of what you are trying to accomplish and focusing your energies on accomplishing it. One way to do this is to take the plan you made the previous day, look at it, and visualize completing your plan.

This only takes a few minutes, but you would want to do it in a quiet place, reviewing your list, closing your eyes, and, for a few minutes, imagining yourself completing those tasks. Imagine how you will feel once you have finished and then, slowly opening your eyes and starting the day.

3. Have a Daily Routine to Start the Day

There is a lot written about morning and evening routines, and there’s a good reason. When you begin and end the day in the same way, you put yourself in the right frame of mind to begin and end your day.

Being more mindful at work is all about being more aware of yourself and others and having a set of daily routines that will put you in the right “state” to be aware of what is going on around you. Routines help you be more aware of how you are feeling. You will notice this if you are feeling stressed or tired, and you can ask yourself why you feel that way. You notice differences in the way you feel.

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For example, if you start the day with exercise and you notice you are not putting in as much effort as you normally do, you can ask yourself: why? Are you tired? Are you stressed? Is there something on your mind? Asking these questions allows you to be more mindful about your physical and mental condition and you can then take steps to rectify whatever it is that is bothering you.

4. Do One Thing at a Time

By now, you should have realized that ‘multitasking’ is a myth and does not work.[1] When we multitask, we are not really doing two things simultaneously. What we are doing is task-switching, which means our brain is moving from one focus to another at high speed. This is an incredibly inefficient way of working and rapidly leads to tiredness, an inability to focus for long periods of time, and a reduction in our willpower.

Multitasking also means we stop being present because we are trying to focus on too many things at once and when that happens, we are likely to miss important details and make mistakes. Instead, take one piece of work and work on that to the exclusion of everything else. Don’t have multiple windows open on your computer, and only have the window you need to do the work you have chosen at that particular time.

Once you finish that work, take a short break—move—and when you return to your place of work, start the next item you want to work on. When you get into this practice, you will soon find yourself becoming more focused and more mindful about what you are doing.

5. Close Down Email and Other Forms of Communication

If you really want to become more mindful at work, you need to do whatever it takes to reduce your distractions. This means turning off notifications and only opening your email and other communication tools when you have decided you want to work on your communications.

One thing we need to understand is that if there really was something urgent and that required our attention immediately, nobody would use email or Slack to tell you. They would either walk over to your workstation or phone you. If your house was on fire, your neighbor would not email or Slack message you to tell you. They would use a more immediate form of communication.

The same applies to your work. Stop worrying about angry bosses and upset clients. They are very rare and remember, you are employed to do your work, not to be the fastest at responding to messages and emails. If an issue was genuinely urgent, you would quickly hear about it.

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6. Give Yourself Some Alone Time Every Day

The world is very distracting and demanding. If it is not our work colleagues and customers, it is an advertisement and NEWS that are trying to get our attention and cause us to react in positive and negative ways.

With all these distractions, it is very hard to get a moment of peace, and yet, if you want to be better focused, you need some time each day for quiet reflection away from all those demands and noise.

Fifteen to twenty minutes alone in a quiet room—or better yet, in nature—will give you the time to reflect, to turn off, and enjoy the peace around you. Doing this will help you become more aware of what is going on around you and how you are feeling and brings some much-needed perspective to your life.

7. Listen

And when I say “listen,” I mean truly listen. Too often, we are not really listening. Instead, we are thinking of the next thing to say or being judgmental about what the other person is saying. Stop this. It does you no good and is not helpful to the person you are talking with or yourself.

When you stop judging and start listening, you will soon see another perspective. You may not agree with that perspective or opinion, but remember that is all it is—a perspective or opinion. You are not duty-bound to agree with them or change another person’s viewpoint, but you will find yourself better understanding why a person thinks that way if you stop trying to change their opinions and instead, listen to what they have to say.

I know this is hard to do because we naturally want other people to agree with our view of the world. But part of what makes humans so unique is we all have a different view of the world, and that is what makes us special. It would not be a nice world if everyone shared the same view of the world and events.

8. Practice Meditation

Giving yourself some time to meditate each day will help you become more mindful and more focused. Meditation is a form of training for the mind to stop thinking and just be.

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Meditating each day does not have to be done for long. I’ve always found ten minutes every day works for me. Others prefer to do two sessions a day fifteen to twenty minutes in the morning and evening.

How long and how frequently you meditate is not relevant. Just doing a few minutes each day will help improve your focus. By training your mind to stop and just focus on your breathing or the sound of the refrigerator,+ you develop a powerful ability to focus.

Final Thoughts

It can be very difficult to focus on the “always-on” world we live in today. But if you want to perform at your very best and be more mindful at work, be aware of the needs of the people around you, and live a fulfilled, stress-free life.

Becoming more mindful about yourself and others is a great way to become more focused, less stressed, and ultimately, a lot happier.

More Tips on How to Be More Mindful at Work

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2021

10 Reasons Why You Have Trouble Concentrating (and Their Solutions)

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10 Reasons Why You Have Trouble Concentrating (and Their Solutions)

What were you doing when this article caught your eye? Chances are, you were having trouble concentrating on another project.

Even before COVID-19, balancing your work, family, and social life made concentrating a challenge. These days, it can seem downright impossible.

Don’t let a little bad news—or good fun—break your focus. Here is a simple guide and tips to help you concentrate better.

Signs of Trouble Concentrating

Signs and symptoms of not concentrating vary from person to person. However, what we can experience are:

  • Have a struggling working memory. You don’t know what occurred not that long ago;
  • Trouble sitting still;
  • Not being able to think clearly;
  • You frequently lose things or can’t remember where things were placed;
  • Have an inability to make decisions or perform complicated tasks;
  • Unable to focus
  • Lacking physical or mental energy
  • Constantly and consistently making mistakes even if you don’t mean to.

When it comes to difficulty concentrating, you may notice these symptoms occur at various points for people. Some people need to be in certain settings for these symptoms to happen. For others, it can be during a certain time of day.

10 Most Common Causes of Trouble Concentrating

Here’re 12 most common reasons why you have trouble concentration, and the fixes for each of them.

1. Digital Distractions

Right now, do a little experiment. Pull up your browser history, hit Ctrl+H, and see where you’ve been all day. Frightening, right?

You jumped in and out of email. You bounced from social media to digital publication and back again. Oh, and look at those half-dozen retail sites you scrolled through looking for a new pair of shoes.

Then, there’s your smartphone. Every few seconds, you get a new notification from Twitter, Instagram, or CNN. Each time, your eyes dart from your computer screen to your phone. You’d hate to miss something, right?

The Fix: Schedule Your Day

While a little flexibility is important, you should set aside a period of time for tasks you know you’ll need to complete.

Schedule time to:

  • Read and respond to work emails
  • Make headway on your top two or three work projects
  • Engage in professional development
  • Do household chores
  • Help the kids with homework
  • Run that Zoom tutorial with your partner again

Leave short gaps in between as buffer times in case something goes over the intended time. Everyone needs to unwind with a good distraction now and again.

The key is controlling when you do so, rather than letting it control you.

2. Daydreams and Memories

Remember that little café where your spouse proposed to you 15 years ago? Wouldn’t your dining room look great with the same little tables and subway tile on the floor?

Everyone loses themselves in daydreams and memories sometimes. Your mind wanders to the future or the past because those places are more pleasant than what you’re handling at that time. This causes you to have trouble concentrating on what you need to focus on.

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Nonetheless, you have a deadline to meet, so how can you keep yourself focused when you have trouble concentrating?

The Fix: Stay in the Present

Daydreaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Imagination can provide a spark of creative genius or visualization of what you want in life. You just need to do it when it makes sense, not when you should be focusing on work.

Stay in the present by keeping your daily to-do list on your desk. When your mind starts to drift, pull yourself back to what’s right in front of you. Ground yourself by focusing on something real, like your breath, before turning your attention back to the task at hand.

With that said, make time to let your mind wander on occasion. Allow yourself the luxury of dreaming when it’s not pulling you away from something you need to get done.

3. Headaches

While you might be able to power through mild ones, a splitting migraine can destroy any hope you have of concentrating for a period of time.

Headaches and migraines are caused by a wide range of issues, including stress, sleep deprivation, diet, eyestrain, and medications[1]. Throw a global pandemic on top, and it’s no wonder your head is pounding.

The Fix: Use Your Head

Like that bottle of hand sanitizer, keep your headache and migraine medications on hand at all times. If getting to the pharmacy is a challenge these days, migraine services like Nurx can diagnose you and deliver medication to your door.

If your headache isn’t severe, try a medication-free approach. Some people find relief simply from drinking water, applying a cold compress, or inhaling essential oils.

4. Racing Thoughts

When is that project due? I’ve got to get something for Jane’s baby shower. I’m almost out of shampoo. I need those audit figures. What do I make for dinner tonight?

Does that scenario sound familiar? When you get busy, you suddenly remember five other items that you need to do or think about.

All of this can be so distracting that you’re unable to keep up and have difficulty concentrating.

The Fix: Meditate and Be Mindful

If you’re like most people, your mind is lost in thought 47% of the time, causing concentration problems. [2]

Meditation is a great way to clear the clutter, restore cognitive functioning, and focus on the present.

The good news is that meditating is easy.

Simply sit somewhere comfortable, take off your shoes, and set a timer for ten minutes. Then, just focus on your breathing.

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Don’t try to control it; simply notice your inhales and exhales, and let thoughts pass unjudged.

Mindfulness meditation, described above, is just one type. Mantra and movement meditations are also popular. Figure out what works for you, and keep those racing thoughts at bay.

5. Unresolved Issues and Arguments

Life is messy, and if you’re like me, one of the greatest concentration killers is unresolved disputes and arguments.

Maybe you argued with your partner last night. Perhaps you both went to bed angry, and it’s been bothering you all morning.

Or maybe you’re fed up with a co-worker who always talks louder than is necessary because they want everyone to hear about their latest date.

Your anger and annoyance might be well placed, but it doesn’t help to linger on these things. Your brain cells are better used for something else.

The Fix: Get Some Closure

Instead of leaving an argument up in the air, try to solve it. Stick to the point, stay calm, listen, and bring the disagreement to some sort of resolution.

If a co-worker does something to irritate you enough to interfere with your ability to concentrate, pull them aside and tell them. Be rational—not angry—and try to understand what might motivate their actions.

Otherwise, nothing is going to change, including the fact that you’re having difficulty concentrating.

6. Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation isn’t just a health issue. It also hinders your ability to concentrate during waking hours.

There are medical reasons for poor sleep too. Diabetes, sleep apnea, respiratory issues, cardiovascular disease, generalized anxiety disorder and neurological disorders.

For those, you need to seek medical advice and treatment.

But for most people, poor sleep is the result of mental health struggles and anxiety about all kinds of things. Finances, kids, parents, or maybe that job change you’ve been considering.

You have a lot on your mind, and this causes you to have trouble concentrating.

The Fix: Have Some Sweet Dreams

Losing as few as 16 minutes of sleep can throw you off your game the next day. Getting to sleep might be as easy as changing your mattress or your pillow, but the bigger culprit is your routine. Key steps include to help restore cognitive functioning are:

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  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including on weekends.
  • Control your exposure to light at night, including smartphones and computer screens. Use that time to confront those weighty things on your mind by making a list of concerns or updating your to-do list.
  • Avoid overeating. Large meals close to bed can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine. Both substances interrupt your natural sleep cycle.
  • When you do lie down, turn off the lights and close your eyes. Take some deep breaths, and drift into dreamland.

7. Lack of Exercise

Exercise lands at the bottom of the to-do list for many people. When they run out of time, they skip it. But they pay the price later in the form of their concentration.

Even moderate, regular physical activity benefits your physical health, improves your sleep, lessens anxiety, and increases mental acuity.

If you aren’t making time for exercise during the day, you’re hurting your ability to stay focused.

The Fix: Get Moving

Not everyone is an athlete, and not everyone wants to work out under the scrutiny of their fellow gym-goers. And that’s okay.

At the end of the day, what matters is sustainability.

Rather than launch into that soon-to-fail New Year’s resolution approach to exercise, start with literal small steps, like walking the dog or taking the stairs.

If it only takes you five minutes to eat that protein bar at your desk, use the rest of your lunch break to take a walk. Even if it’s around the block, you’ll come back feeling refreshed.

8. Boredom

If you’re bored with a work project, it’s easy to fall victim to even the smallest distraction. The same can happen when not enjoying what you’re doing too.

Boredom is the starting point that can spiral out of control easily. It leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to fatigue, which leads to scrolling through your Facebook feed for hours, killing your ability to focus.

Depression and boredom are tightly linked too so boredom could be a sign of something deeper.

The Fix: Get a Fresh Perspective

The pandemic has put a stranglehold on our social lives. Despite the restrictions on seeing other people and going out in public, you need to find a way to put the “social” back in your life.

Work-life balance is important, especially under these circumstances.

Even if you’re not comfortable with eating at a restaurant or visiting Grandma, there are things you can do. Zoom and Facetime are good options, but you might also think about having a couple of friends over on your patio while maintaining social distance.

Keep it short so no one even has to use your bathroom.

And about that boring work project? Tweak your attitude by thinking about how it will benefit your client.

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Find a way to make it fun, perhaps by discussing it with colleagues who make you laugh. You can check out more ways to make boring work interesting in the following video:

If all else fails, just muscle through it. Mark it off your list, and move on to something more engaging.

9. Excess Stress

The pandemic, politics, the economy, what’s happening in the news, your work, and more can be big points of stress. In some cases they are manageable.

But there are some days where you can’t help but worry and get stressed out about these things.

I understand that, however, it’s also a lifestyle choice for you to be getting stressed out about those things.

The Fix: Destressing

Stressing out over those things will not only cause a decrease in cognitive functioning and concentration but is also the starting point for other problems listed in this post.

To solve this, learning to destress in various ways will help out a lot. These methods include:

  • Making it a rule to stress out about things you can control rather than worry about what you can’t control.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Give yourself a break
  • Talk to other people about your worries
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol and instead, find some other way to unwind

10. Lack Of Nutrients Or Hunger

Finally, the last reason you can’t concentrate is maybe you’re not getting the right nutrients or not eating enough, to begin with.

Lack of nutrition is very common since people can get distracted by other things that they forget to eat. That or they only grab small snacks and aren’t getting the nutrients they need.

The Fix: Eat Better And Healthier

It’s vital that you’re eating properly and that you’re getting the right nutrients in your body. Vitamins like D3 and B12 help out a lot and can be taken as supplements.

In terms of actual foods, blueberries, green tea, avocadoes, fish, water, dark chocolate, flax seeds, and nuts are all proven to help with focus and concentration.

Beyond that, ensure you are eating enough at each meal and that you are eating consistently over the course of the day.

Though it’s not very common, you may also have trouble concentrating due to chronic conditions. Difficulty concentrating is a side effect of:

When Should You Seek Help?

Looking for help should be a priority if you:

  • Haven’t been diagnosed with any of the cognitive functioning disorders mentioned above and you’ve tried several of those methods mentioned above to fix difficulty concentrating;
  • Experienced loss of consciousness, severe chest pains, severe headaches, sudden and unexplained working memory loss;
  • Unusual feelings of tiredness;
  • Trouble sleeping;
  • Or seeing a decline in performance in work or school.

The Bottom Line

Concentration requires a lot of energy, motivation, and focus. That’s why most people have trouble concentrating. When there are all sorts of sounds, lights, and people competing for your attention, that combination can be elusive.

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Do your best to remove distractions, clear your mind, and take care of yourself. Those work projects will practically check themselves off once you get into a groove.

More to Help You Concentrate

Featured photo credit: Rabie Madaci via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Headache: When to worry, what to do
[2] Columbia University: How Meditation Can Help You Focus
[3] Mayo Clinic: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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