How to maintain your focus to stay productive all day long

Everyone has one of those days. After a productive start, you begin to lose your focus. No matter how hard you work, you can't seem to complete any of your tasks. Your mind is aimless and you really just want to go home. But there are ways to stay productive and happy all day long. Here are a few tips to help you maintain your focus even after the post-lunch crash.

First, prioritize your tasks

There's a difference between being busy and being productive. Take a hard look at your task list for the day and mark at least three crucial tasks that must be completed that day. Everything else can wait. Focus your energy on these important tasks first. Don't bog down your morning by going through your email. The brain usually has a lot more energy early in the morning than later in the day. Use this energy to complete your more complex and important tasks.

If you want a boost of enthusiasm in the morning, work on an important task you can finish quickly. Checking off one of your big tasks within the first couple hours of the work day will propel you forward. Personally, I like being able to tell myself that I finished a big goal well before 11 a.m. I'm sure you will too. Finishing an important, but quick task first thing in the morning will give you the motivation you need to keep going through your list.

Set aside time for short mental breaks

The human brain just isn't built to focus on one thing for too long. It might seem counterintuitive, but giving yourself a break every now and then will actually improve your productivity. Still, be careful. Try to avoid activities that will suck you in during your mental breaks. The last thing you need is more distraction. To help enforce your breaks, try using the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes and get to work. After those 25 minutes, set yourself up for a 5 minute break. And repeat until your task is done. These are the traditional times for the Pomodoro Technique, but you can adjust them to any length you want. Maybe you'd rather work for 50 minutes and then have a 10 minute break.

However you do it, make sure you're only focused on the task at hand while you're working. This method works best when you follow the rules to the letter. With Pomodoro, you're not thinking about how big or insurmountable your task is. Instead, you're focusing on how much work you can get done in the allotted time. This shift in your mental approach will help you get a lot more work done. If you're looking for maximum productivity, there are even Pomodoro timer apps that let you input a task list.

Get a change of scenery

As the day wears on, your productivity will wane. This is especially true right after lunch. To gain a boost of energy and focus, change your scenery. While you might need to work through lunch sometimes, it's always a great idea to leave the office to eat. Even if it's just for 30 minutes, taking time away from your work will leave you more energized when you come back to your desk.

As the afternoon wears on, you might need a change of scenery to re-focus. If it's an option, move from your desk to a common area in your office. You can also re-arrange your workstation. Try facing a different direction or putting up some posters. Work while standing up instead of sitting. Whatever you can do to have some difference in how or where you're working will help reinvigorate your brain.

Try listening to music

If the ambient noise of your office is too distracting or too quiet, go ahead and put on some music. Studies show that listening to music while working can actually boost focus. But you still want to set some limits. If people in your office need to speak with you often, don't have your headphones on all day long. Instead, set aside a couple short periods to listen. Also, make sure to select your music choice carefully. You don't want to end up adding to your distractions. Usually, instrumental or orchestral pieces will work better than songs with lyrics. And it's probably a good idea to check with your manager or boss before breaking out your earbuds.

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