A productive day often makes us feel more successful. Some days, that happens easily and all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. On other days, a brain fog settles in and we just can’t seem to get anything done.
The ability to concentrate on tasks can impact our quality of life, said Melanie Wood, a health coach with PATH (Personalized Approach to Health), Baptist Health’s Employer Wellness Solution.
“Without focus, we miss out on all the intentional things we meant to do with our day,” Wood said. “We bring our work home with us, and that can interrupt our family life or time we could be spending with other people we care about.”
What can be done then, to tame a wandering mind? Wood suggested these tips to keep your thinking sharp:
- Work with, not against, your circadian rhythms. Everyone’s biological clock is wired to be more alert during certain times of the day. Some people concentrate best in the morning. Others feel sluggish until midday. Some people do their most creative work at night. Juggle your tasks, if possible, and schedule the most demanding ones for the time of day when you feel the most alert. “Afternoons are the worst time for me,” Wood said. “I’ll save that time for mundane tasks, like following up on everyday tasks, cleaning up the clutter from my desk or preparing for the next day’s events"
- Exercise. It boosts your health and makes you feel more awake and alert. Short outdoor walks can provide a refreshing, mind-clearing break. If you’re a person who feels restless when you sit all day, exercise can help you burn off that extra energy.
- Eat healthy and drink plenty of water. It’s especially important during the workweek to focus on a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins that will keep your body feeling well. “If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, you don’t want to get bogged down with bread, pasta and a lot of other carbohydrates that drain your energy,” said Wood.
- Get enough sleep. It’s a better fix than three cups of coffee in the morning, and one that comes without jitters. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. “Even if you're not sleeping the whole time, you’ll still improve your health by lying in bed, focusing on deep breathing and letting your body rest,” Wood said.
- Make a plan. Lay out the next day’s priorities before you leave work at night or when you return in the morning. “When we know exactly how we are going to use our time for the day, we’re less distracted.” Wood said.
- Limit multitasking. Multitasking can make us feel busy, but it actually makes us less productive, according to research. “You forget what you were doing,” Wood said. “And then, it takes time to just get your thoughts back onto the original task.”
- Block all distractions. Set your phone and smartwatch to Do Not Disturb. Same thing for text messages and other notifications on your computer. “Honestly, all of that stuff can wait,” Wood said. “Otherwise, we spend the whole day preoccupied.”
- When stuck, take a short break. It may seem counterintuitive, but a short break shifts your environment and can help your brain reset. Then, you can return to your task with a renewed focus.