If you’ve ever had one of those 40-plus hour-long work weeks, you know exactly how draining they can be. After enough time, every task feels like it takes an eternity to complete, and it’s easy for the mind to wander. Maintaining your focus, however, is critical to doing your job right. The issue then becomes, how best do you improve your focus even when mental fatigue sets in? Here are some strategies that can help you stay focused, even as the work week drags on.
1. Take Breaks Regularly
Working for 8, 10, or 12 hours straight (or more) can be a grind. While most companies are legally required to offer employees breaks, sometimes those aren’t enough to keep you feeling mentally refreshed. So make sure you take the initiative to give yourself breaks on a regular basis. Even tiny breaks can make a difference. Spend 5 minutes to take a brief walk. Take a moment to get a breath of fresh air. Every little bit helps. Companies should support these types of breaks as well. In a 2016 Business Advantage Survey from Staples, more than half (52 percent) of respondents said that an employer who encouraged breaks significantly helped them to avoid burnout.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Nap
Taking breaks is great and all, but what about taking a nap? Of course, this doesn’t mean taking a 2-hour siesta, but a brief 15-minute map can do wonders to help you stay focused and improve your productivity. NASA ran experiments on taking short naps at work and found them to be extremely helpful. Many companies soon adopted this strategy. Zappos, for example, has a nap room in their Las Vegas headquarters, complete with recliners, a couch, and more. As one representative explains, “It was born from our focus on employee happiness and wellness. We know how much sleep impacts well-being.”
3. Treat Your Mind and Body Right
It’s harder to focus if you’re unhealthy. That’s why you should make sure to always eat a healthy diet to ensure both good physical conditioning and mental clarity. One growing field focused on this idea is nootropics, something that might sound new to you. As the Neurohacker Collective puts it, nootropics “consist of supplements and substances which enhance your cognition, in particular when it comes to motivation, creativity, memory, and other executive functions.” Drinking energy drinks and caffeine pills may provide a temporary boost, but nootropics looks at long-term benefits for mental and physical health. By following these guidelines and practices, you may be able to improve your focus.
4. Avoid Distractions
One of the most basic ways to stay focused is simply to avoid distractions. You know what distracts you the most. If there’s a particular website that you tend to spend a lot of time on, don’t visit it while you’re on the clock. If you keep getting text messages, turn off your phone. Even unnecessary or long meetings can be a distraction, and many companies have found ways to minimize them so employees can get back to work. In a TED Talk, thought leader Nilofer Merchant suggested adopting walking meetings as a way to shorten meeting times. This involves going for a walk while discussing business. Not only does it help people get to the point, but it helps you stay healthy.
5. Prioritize Your Tasks
Another way for you to keep focused is to create a to-do list and place the most important tasks you need to accomplish first. This can help you concentrate on those items that need the most attention. Checking off items on a to-do list can also serve as a helpful motivating tactic, pushing you forward to get to the next item on the list. Some companies have even adopted policies that involve motivating employees to get stuff done. For example, Cargill Inc., a food producer and distributor, established a new Everyday Performance Management System which involves encouraging workers daily while giving constructive feedback with an emphasis on looking ahead rather than reviewing past actions. With that type of policy, along with the right incentives, it’s easy to see how workers will be able to stay focused and prioritize their tasks.