5 Ways To Harness Focus & Boost Productivity
We all experience periods of time where we struggle to focus and our productivity levels drop. This lull can be brought on by many factors such as mental fatigue, stress, taking on too much, or not finding our daily activities challenging enough. The good news is there are quite a few ways to mentally re-engage with our to-do lists and get more done.
1- Get Physical
Sitting at a desk for hours at a time signals for our body to go into rest mode. And while we may still be using our brain to complete our work tasks, the truth is being stationary makes the brain sluggish. When we find our attention wandering, one quick fix is to get the body moving.
Stand up, stretch, go for a quick walk. These physical activities wake up our body, increasing blood flow and oxygen which then stimulate our brain. The movement gives us a burst of energy, which heightens our concentration and tightens our ability to focus. Movement also helps improve our mood by releasing endorphins and other feel-good hormones. This boost also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, alleviating any mental blocks we may have had while working.
2- Challenge The Brain
There are plenty of studies showing that engaging in mentally challenging games such as crossword puzzles, sudoku, chess, or word searches not only exercises the brain but gives us a boost in concentration and focus. In fact, playing these games for fifteen minutes a day has shown a significant increase in processing speed, working memory, and problem-solving skills. All of which work to boost our productivity throughout the day.
When we play games that require concentration and strategy to solve, we actually grow new dendrites, the ends of neural nerve cells that support our synaptic connections. This means our processing speeds and neural communication improve. They can also increase the grey matter in the hippocampus, improving memory.
3- Change The Scenery
In the same way sitting still puts our body and mind in rest mode, staying in the same place can do the same. Looking at the same environment hour after hour, day after day stops challenging our brain, and it can begin to tune out. Working in a new environment activates our brain again. Things such as minor changes in lighting and having a different view while we’re working wake our brains back up and improve our concentration.
Of course, our environment can also keep our brain in overdrive. If we’re surrounded by distractions such as too much clutter or an overstimulating room, our brain has a difficult time focusing on a single task as it never stops scanning and finding new things to pay attention to. In this case, moving to a quieter room or organizing our desk can significantly improve our ability to focus.
4- Listen To Podcasts
Another way to challenge and exercise our brain is to learn something new or build on our current skill set. When it comes to the workplace, listening to podcasts by people in our industry is a great way to do just that. These narratives are an excellent opportunity to learn something new, keep up on trends within our field, and increase our knowledge base.
When we listen to podcasts, our entire brain lights up. As we focus on the words, blood flow to our brain increases and we grow neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. They also stimulate multiple areas in the brain, creating mental images and boosting our active listening, which helps hone our focus and boost our concentration.
5- Read A Book
While listening to a podcast is one way to exercise the brain and learn something new, reading can stimulate the brain in entirely different ways. This is particularly true if we open a novel as opposed to reading a technical journal.
When we read a novel, the connectivity in our brains are heightened. Not only that, our brain stays in that heightened state after we put the book down. We grow white matter as we read and long narratives are one of the best ways to build long-term working memory. And processing these narrative stories increases the length of our attention span and improves our problem-solving abilities.
While it’s normal to experience a lack of focus or a decline in productivity from time to time, we don’t want to stay there. By understanding how to energize our brain, we can use daily habits to keep us active and engaged. Knowing how to harness our focus will not only increase our productivity throughout our day but will help us unlock our truly limitless potential.