From Charity Job by Emma Begg
A lack of focus at work can lead to all sorts of problems, including adding extra stress and time pressures to your day that you just don’t need. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Maybe you’ve just finished up an especially busy week, or maybe you just got back from a lovely, sun-soaked holiday. The trick is getting back into the right rhythm and routine.
You may feel like you need to cram as much work into your day as possible to achieve all your goals, but this approach can actually be detrimental to the quality of your work. It can lead to tiring your brain, meaning that if even if you’re working tirelessly, your brain isn’t giving the task its full attention.
So how do you combat the mid-week or late afternoon blues for a positive and productive workday? Let’s take a closer look.
Remember, it’s OK to take breaks
With tasks piling up and dozens of emails to respond to, we can easily go several hours without getting up from our seats. Before you know it, the workday is over and you’ve spent 90% of your day staring at your computer screen. According to the Independent, office workers spend 1,700 hours a year in front of a computer. That’s 1,700 hours of strained eyes and bad posture. No wonder it’s so easy to let your mind wander.
That’s why breaks are so important. They allow you to step away from your working space and ease your mind. Take a walk around the office, spend ten minutes of your lunch break outside, or get up to make a cup of tea every now and again. Little actions like these may seem small, but they help to give your brain a break and mean you’ll go back to the task with a clearer mind, ready to re-focus.
By the same token, try to avoid taking your lunch at your desk. Even though you are having a break, staying in your direct work environment will make your brain feel like it’s still going. Trying to work during your lunch will mean it takes twice as long to complete tasks. And no one wants their sandwich filling falling in their keyboard.
Learn to balance your workload
Like lists? Great! The power of the to-do-list is often underrated. According to psychologist Art Markman, there are three psychological benefits to drawing up a list of tasks:
- Writing things down makes you remember them better
- Planning turns abstract goals into concrete work
- It’s a useful exercise for fighting the interruptions that will inevitably come up
In other words, being more organised means you’re not letting other tasks get in the way of the big picture things you need to get done.
‘For most people, the challenge at work isn’t keeping busy hour by hour or day to day, it’s making sure we get the big-picture projects done that make work fulfilling. Even if your agenda changes in practice as you work toward your objective, the process of thinking ahead about the steps involved can help prime you to do the work ahead.’
Lists are useful because they help you pace yourself and make sure you’re allowing enough time for each task. It’s a good idea to break big projects down into smaller chunks, making it more manageable. Plus, you’ll feel great as you tick off the various tasks that you have completed. When you’re scheduling your day, don’t forget to include those all in important breaks!
Remember, your work comes first. That is what you’re there to do, so don’t help other people with their tasks unless you’re confident that you have left yourself enough time to complete your own. Similarly, when you’re on your breaks, try to clear your mind, and avoid filling it up with lots of unnecessary information that will distract you later.
Give yourself a digital detox
Often distracted by notifications popping up on your phone screen? You’ll be far more productive if you put your phone on flight mode during the working day. If you’re like most people, your phone has become a modern-day safety blanket. You turn to it when you’re stressed or when you’re bored. On average, we spend 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on our phones, and the top 20% of smartphone users generally have a daily screen time of over 4.5 hours. The quick text, tweet and Instagram checks can add up, especially during a busy work day. And you don’t want to let a cute cat video distract you from the work at hand.
The same goes for your work computer. Sometimes we try to do too much, focusing on several projects at the same time to get things done faster, but this often splits our focus and ultimately slows us down. Try to stick to one browser, which only has work-related information on it. You’ll save loads of time, and can check out your Facebook News Feed on your way home after a successful day in the office.
One last piece of advice…
Remember that the way you spend your mornings can also affect how productive you are in the office. Try not to leave at the last possible moment, or skip breakfast. Feeling rushed can mean you spend the first 10-15 minutes of your working day trying to organise yourself or feeling flustered. Taking an extra half hour before you leave the house to enjoy a great breakfast and even watch an episode of your favourite TV show can be the perfect way to set yourself up for the day. You’ll also start feeling energised and optimistic.
Product and Marketing Manager at CharityConnect. Love learning about new technology and helping to create a culture of collaboration over at www.charityconnect.co.uk