Most work days, I have a pretty tough time staying focused. My mind starts wandering, I’ll feel antsy, unmotivated, or – more often – my autopilot will take over, I’ll type youtube.com into the address bar and find myself 15 minutes into some random video (thanks YouTube premium 😅).
There’s nothing wrong with doing these things, but when I get distracted from my work too often, I don’t get much done, and that makes me feel shitty.
Here are a few methods that I use to help focus on the task at hand, or at least to improve my state of mind. However, for any of these things to work, I need to acknowledge when I’m feeling less than ideal, and decide to fix it!
- Exercise! I need a lot of exercise, and if it’s been more than a day since I’ve done a good workout, I start to feel restless and have trouble focusing. Even though it feels like I should just bang my head harder on the task at hand, the best thing to do in this situation is usually to do some exercise. Even a quick set of push ups can help here. I also have a balance beam in my office that is pretty fun – bonus: my balance has really been improving!
- Switch tasks. If I’m feeling really unstoked on my current task, switching to something different can help to break that mindset. For example, if I’m not excited about coding, I could try working on that documentation I’ve been putting off completing.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique. If my mind is wandering, starting a timer for 20 minutes can help. It’s not fool proof, but telling myself that I’m just going to do 20 minutes on a single task can help me to focus.
- Make Slack less distracting. Some days can be especially loud on Slack, and I find it hard not to immediately read every new thing that comes up. In addition, I’ll find my self Cmd-Tabbing basically just to do give my brain something to think about other than the problem at hand, and then getting sucked in. Treating Slack more like email can help to curb this. I like to turn on Do Not Disturb mode to avoid interruptions, and minimize the window to make it harder to Cmd-tab over to Slack by force of habit.
- Take a break or a nap! I need at least 7 hours of sleep, but 8 is ideal. If I get less sleep than that for some reason, I’ll usually have trouble concentrating on anything after like 12pm. Taking a 20 minute power nap can help a bit with this. I try not to nap after 4pm, but I don’t really have any good reason for that, and maybe another threshold time could be better.
- Go outside! Lack of fresh air can creep up on me, and whenever I take the time to even just stand in the open door and breath in the fresh air, it relaxes me.