How can I improve my focus?

There are a few things you can do every day to improve your focus.

  • Jumpstart your body. Give yourself an energy boost by following a simple morning routine of 2 steps:
    • Make an easy breakfast that will keep you full for a few hours and will boost your energy levels. Here’s a super simple idea: layer a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon granola or oats, 1 cup fresh fruit (banana, berries, papaya, mango, apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit), and 1 spoonful of nuts (walnuts are excellent brain food; almonds; cashews; hazelnuts; sprouted pumpkin seeds; Brazil nuts). It takes 5-10 minutes at most, and it is fuel for your brain.
    • Get moving! Some form of exercise, even if it is targeted and short, helps the body wake up and prepare for the day ahead. Pick an activity you enjoy doing, or choose something entirely new to give yourself an additional challenge early in the day. Your mini-workout can be as short as 10 minutes (a morning yoga routine or a set of hindu pushups or sun salutation poses) or just a bit longer session of 20-30 minute (a quick power walk through the neighborhood, a run, a pilates session or a session of squats, lunges, pushups, etc.).
  • Prepare for your work ahead of time. Before starting your workday, make sure you have everything ready for the tasks you’ll need to complete. You can gather these materials the night before so that you don’t waste any time in the morning looking for them. This applies to reference materials (bookmark them in your browser or write notes that you’ll have handy on your desk), a checklist of tasks you need to complete during the day, a bottle of water at your desk, an energy snack (power bar or a cupful of walnuts, almonds, dates, figs, raisins).
  • Improve your time management technique. When you’re ready to start work, use a timer to divide up your day into manageable increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. You can set the timer to 30 or 60 minute blocks, for example. You can also try the Pomodoro technique which consists of 25 minute blocks of time, followed by 5 minute breaks. When you’re done with one segment, step away from your desk, and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest: take a 5 minute walk, look out the window, stretch your body, grab a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Stay away from distractions. Distractions negatively impact your focus and ability to do deep work, so you need to make a conscious effort to avoid them as much as possible. To do this successfully, you will need to (a) invest in a good quality set of noise canceling headphones, especially if you work in an open office environment, (b) set your phone to Airplane mode, (c) set expectations with others by letting them know you won’t be available in the next hour or two (which also means staying away from idle chatter at a coworker’s desk), and (d) avoid browsing the Internet, reading the daily news or checking your social media feed; do these activities later in the day after you’re done with your work.
  • Be smarter about email. Reading email is distracting, prevents you from focusing, and can make you feel overwhelmed because you are thinking of all the different things you may need to do. Check your email twice a day, instead of reading each incoming email every few minutes. Don’t let other people manage your day; you should own it. Instead of being reactive (i.e. responding to others’ questions and giving feedback on what they need), focus on being proactive (do your deep work early in the day, when your brain is most rested, and focus on what your priorities are).
  • Go to bed a little earlier than usual. It can be only 30 minutes earlier, but you will find it beneficial because (a) you give your brain as well as your body a little extra boost to get a good night’s rest, and (b) you will find it a bit easier to wake up at your usual time (or even earlier) instead of having to hit the snooze button on your alarm yet again. To get into this nighttime routine, set a bedtime alarm on your cell phone to go off 30 minutes before you need to go to bed, signaling to your body that it’s time to unwind.
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