5 scientifically-proven ways to stay focused

With so many distractions preventing you from actually doing your job, it can seem impossible to stay focused for the whole day.

Of course, you could always delete social media, leave your phone at home, ignore your colleagues and become a social recluse, but those methods aren’t scientifically proven to help with concentration as these five are.

1. Listen to music – that you like

Does music help you focus or distract you further? According to research it helps…but only if you like what you’re listening to. The research found that a circuit important for internally focused thoughts, known as the default mode network, was most connected when participants were listening to music they preferred.

Whereas, when participants listened to songs they didn’t like, there was no improvement in focus. So if someones playing music you can’t stand, get noise-canceling headphones and play your own.

2. Eat food – that releases glucose slowly

Glucose keeps our brains awake and alert, but only if it’s the right kind of sugar. Processed foods like pretzels, popcorn or doughnuts will cause a sharp rise and decline in your blood sugar levels, only keeping you alert for a few minutes.

What you need is some slow-release carbs to hand to keep your blood sugar stable and your brain alert for longer. Non-starchy vegetables like spinach, kale, tomatoes, cucumber and sweet potatoes are great for keeping you focused at work. Nuts and nut butter, steel-cut oats and quinoa will also help you to have a productive day.

3. Avoid email for dedicated periods

It may seem as though you’re being productive, but being constantly connected to your inbox may impair your focus.

Research found that spending time away from email significantly improves worker’s ability to focus. Results showed that without the distraction of email, people multi-tasked less and focused for longer on a single task. Participants in the study were also found to be less stressed in the periods without email.

Obviously, we can’t just disconnect ourselves from clients, customers, employers and colleagues, so instead, sign out of your email at certain times each day to help improve your focus.

4. Take brief mental breaks

Though it may seem counterproductive, taking brief mental breaks will significantly increase your ability to stay focused on a task, a study found. It’s especially important to deactivate and reactivate from your goals when you have a lengthy task to take care of.

Try to give yourself short breaks throughout the day, whether it’s to get a drink, catch up with a colleague, or briefly check your email.

5. Meditate regularly

Buddhist meditation can improve a person’s ability to be attentive and to focus for a long time on a task. A study found that people who trained in meditation could control their brain, effectively minimising distractions and reducing the likelihood of those distractions diverting your attention.

Integrate regular meditation into your life — you can even practice mindfulness at work.