Much like Adam and Eve, when it comes to distractions at work, the modern man usually points the finger at Apple Inc. Technology has lowered our attention span and made it difficult for us to focus on our tasks. However, blaming technological distraction for all your problems might be, get this, distracting you from the real reason you can’t focus on your tasks. Having unhealthy habits or medical conditions reduces your overall concentration level and productivity. Much like your cache folder, you should review your lifestyles every now and then to see if you can modify some behaviors to reach your optimized performance.
Getting your beauty sleep is probably the most important thing you could do to improve your brain function. When you sleep well at night, you let your body and mind recuperate and recharge for another day of hardly work. On the other hand, insufficient or interrupted sleep means you’ll be feeling drowsy at work and constantly nodding off. Struggling to stay awake adds to the list of things you’d prefer to do, slowing you down and hindering concentration.
Moreover, poor sleep results in impaired cognitive function, meaning your brain will be too tired to perform complex tasks, remember things, solve problems, and pass sound judgment. Studies show that pulling an all-nighter is bound to affect your mood as well. Disrupted emotional response impairs your ability to process the emotional side of the information you receive when analyzing a problem or learning something. As a result, you won’t be able to think clearly and process the data.
Since the brain can’t catch a break, those nifty neurons become overworked and exhausted. Eventually, lack of sleep could kill off those precious brain cells. In other words, not getting enough rest could literally lower your IQ. In the long term, poor sleep can lead to overall cognitive decline leaving you with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Much like a machine, your brain needs fuel to function correctly. If your body doesn’t receive nutrients, your brain will start eating itself, not unlike the mythical snake. If you starve yourself or have a restricted, unhealthy diet, half of your attention will be focused on all the delicious food you want to eat because your body needs it.
The nutrients that enter your body when you eat healthy meals stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Natural compounds such as flavonoids found in fruits, vegetables, grains, tea, wine, etc., help improve cognitive functions.
Remember eating fast food might satiate your stomach, but it doesn’t do much for your brain. Since fast food and other unhealthy meals lack the nutrients needed for the brain cells to do their magic, you’ll end up craving snacks that are damaging to your health.
Drinking enough water is fundamental to staying focused. If you find drinking eight cups of water every day absurd and prefer coffee or energy drinks, then prepare to be backstabbed! 85% of your brain is water. So, what are you doing by refusing to stay hydrated? That’s right; you are denying your brain its source of energy. Water is the most efficient source that provides the brain with the necessary electrical energy. Therefore, dehydration is a driving factor causing impaired brain function and distraction.
Apparently, “mens sana in corpore sano” which is more commonly referred to as “healthy body, healthy mind” (yeah, we know Latin), with all of its well-known exceptions, has something to it. The mind and the body are closely linked, so strengthening one requires taking care of the other. Studies show that exercising improves cognitive performance and brain function. After engaging in physical activity, your brain releases certain hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These hormones enhance attention and help you reach a general state of happiness and focus. Scientists believe exercising produces similar results to taking ADHD medicine.
Furthermore, exercising helps reduce stress, which will, in turn, improve your concentration. When you turn into a frazzled ball of stress and anxiety, your muscles tense up, and your body becomes stiff. Exercising helps release the tension and gets you back on track.
Another reason why you keep getting distracted might be confusion. It’s easy to get frustrated and burn your whole office space when you don’t know what to do and where to begin, but it’s generally not recommended, considering you work at home. Being overwhelmed could be caused by a lack of precise planning. Introducing discipline to your workplace by having a clear idea of your tasks and the order of things will drag you out of the cluster and make you productive again. You can start by doing the easy tasks to get your motor running or by completing a demanding task to get rid of that cloud of stress and negativity over your head.
If what you are doing is (to put it in your own words) “boring,” you’ll try to distract yourself with the most trivial issues. Procrastination is a helpful tool that allows you to put off doing the things you don’t like, ultimately avoiding the unpleasant feelings it creates for a while.
On the contrary, you feel energized and confident when you do something you’re interested in or like. This positive mindset helps you concentrate better and improve your performance. You can be the motivational poster you always wanted, and the favorable feedback you’ll receive from this improvement puts you in a productivity loop and removes unwanted distractions.
Unfortunately, not all of us get to do what we like, but you can always find something you like about what you are doing, such as the money you are making. However, for your own sake, you can make things more interesting by gamifying your tasks. You can trick yourself by rewarding yourself with a piece of healthy vegetables whenever you finish a task.
Our personal issues and overall emotional state directly affect our concentration and attention span. We can’t check in our thoughts and feelings at the door and proceed to work with zero concerns. If you’re experiencing tension in your private life or expecting some news, you’re likely to have difficulty focusing on your tasks. In short, the more emotionally unstable you are, the less likely it is for you to be your best version.
Receiving good or bad news at work can be detrimental to your concentration and productivity levels. For instance, getting notified of a family member’s sudden decline in health will have you constantly worrying unless you don’t like them. It’s easy to see how that would disturb your concentration. On the other hand, receiving good news, like that long-awaited phone call from your bank that says you’ve won a car, will cause a sudden increase in adrenaline levels. Consequently, you’re going to feel anxious and jittery, making you unable to focus on your work.
Those who fail to maintain a healthy work-life balance are likely to suffer from brain fog. The term refers to experiencing a lack of mental clarity, so it feels like there’s a thick fog in your skull. It can also lead to forgetfulness, confusion, and hindered learning abilities.
Overworking causes an imbalance in your hormone levels and increases your blood pressure. Excessive work leads to higher cortisol levels which is the primary stress hormone. Studies also show that those who work more than 40 hours a week have a higher chance of developing coronary heart disease.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. If you’re overworking, other than not having a personal life, you are not getting enough sleep, eating well, or exercising regularly. These bad habits don’t even make you look cool and can lead to several other issues that can adversely impact your concentration.
Anxiety consumes so much of a person’s mental energy that they don’t have much left to dedicate to their tasks. When you’re anxious, your mind starts focusing on everything you don’t want to focus on, pushing your work projects aside. Severe anxiety should be diagnosed and treated so you can experience a higher level of concentration to get more tasks to worry about.
Different anxiety disorders manifest themselves in diverse, colorful ways. However, the symptoms generally include:
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Restlessness and uneasiness
- Heart pounding
- Making frequent mistakes
- Having trouble sleeping
- Unexplained pains in different body parts (head and stomach)
Losing focus is almost always listed as a symptom of depression. Depression interferes with having a sense of purpose which is imperative for concentration. It can be hard to dedicate your attention to completing a task when you can’t see the point. Depression also interrupts processing speed and causes memory loss. So, you’ll have to spend more time absorbing new information, and you’ll forget them sooner than the average person.
Symptoms usually include:
- Persistent feeling of sadness
- Loss of interest
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling irritable
- Being hopeless and lack of joy
- Thinking about self-harm
The most famous disorder associated with lack of focus is ADHD. People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder find it challenging to concentrate on a task and catch themselves constantly distracted by different things. This condition can also lead to a lack of motivation and heightened anxiety, disrupting productivity and concentration.
Symptoms might include:
- Excessive physical movement (fidgeting all the time!)
- Difficulty remaining focused on one task
- Difficulty listening to other people or waiting their turn
- Short attention span
- Mood swings and irritability