Everyone has experienced it at one point or another – an all-nighter working on a big paper or a jam-packed day at work. Often it can be difficult to maintain focus and productivity when working for long periods of time, which can drastically affect your work! Here are some practical tips to help you stay focused (and awake) next time you’re pushing yourself to your work limit.
Take small (but frequent) breaks
The average human brain has a very limited attention span of approximately 30 minutes. This window is constantly shrinking due to our dependence on technology, and increased need for stimulation.
In order to stay within the ideal attention span window, taking frequent breaks to help your mind reset is a must. Taking a short 5-minute break every half hour is proven to help concentration, even if taking a break from working seems counterintuitive. Try setting a timer in frequent intervals to remind yourself to take a small break from working.
Your brain experiences two different types of attention, voluntary, and stimulus-driven focus. The first is a strong concentration on a continuous task, like a difficult problem, or a mind-intensive job. The second is a sudden concentration on an outside stimulus, for example, a loud noise, or your phone vibrating. In order to work productively, one must maintain voluntary focus for as long as possible.
If you’re able to remove the stimuli that lead to distraction, you will work much better and more efficiently. Try putting your phone on airplane mode (or leave it in another room altogether), wearing headphones while working, and working in a quiet room.
Have a snack
Your brain consumes approximately 20% of the calories you intake on a daily basis, so a long work session burns a lot of calories! In order to maintain prime brain function, you must eat healthy and filling foods. Try snacking on some protein-filled foods like nuts or hummus on your break to keep your energy up, and your brain focused!
Make a to-do list
If you have a slew of tasks to complete, it can often seem like they are consuming you, which can cause anxiety, and lead to unproductiveness. Making a to-do list prevents this, as it helps organize your thoughts, and prioritize tasks. You won’t have to stop and think about the next thing to do, because it will be right there on your list!
Have a bit of caffeine
Looking to avoid that 2 p.m. crash? Having a small amount of caffeine mid-day helps to increase alertness and productivity. Just make sure that you don’t have too much, as it can give you the caffeine jitters, which decreases concentration.
Listen to some instrumental music
Music has been documented to help with productivity, memory and focus. Make sure you’re listening to music that won’t be distracting – avoid anything too loud or heavy beats. Music without words is best, as words often distract your brain from your task at hand. Try listening to some classical, or instrumental versions of your favourite songs – just don’t jam too hard!
Work at regular times
We all know the human brain functions best on a regular schedule. That’s why we sleep, wake and eat at regular intervals. If you work in regular time periods, your brain will take less time adjusting to your task, and you will be much more productive, more quickly.
Choose a time to work every day, say between 10 a.m and 2 p.m. that fits your schedule, and you will find that you will stay on task much better, and finish faster!
Hopefully, these tips will help next time you need to be productive. Working efficiently is difficult, but by staying in your own zone, and maintaining good work habits, no task is too big. Good luck with whatever you need to accomplish – it’s time to get crackin’!