5 Ways to Boost Productivity & Get Focused at Work

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Languishing at work? Here are five easy ways to get motivated, regain focus, and boost your productivity.

If you feel a bit foggy and distracted these days, you’re not alone. Science may even have a reason for it: You need not have contracted and recovered from COVID-19 to have what neurologists are calling it COVID “brain fog.” So if you’re finding yourself overbooked, overwhelmed, or digitally fatigued, don’t be hard on yourself. There are things you can do to bounce back.

Here are five easy-to-implement steps to clear the haze, boost productivity, and feel motivated again.

1. Stay hydrated.

Don’t forget: Your mental health is directly affected by your physical state. As neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier explains, “We’re woefully under-hydrated. If somebody has brain fog, I’ll have them drink at least half their body’s weight in ounces of water. The Institute of Medicine actually recommends drinking 3.7 liters of fluid per day for men and 2.7 liters of fluid per day for women. Something as simple as making sure you get the appropriate amount of water can improve your mental and physical state.”

So if you’re feeling sluggish, worn down, or full of brain fog, check what you’re putting into your body. Up your water intake, and while you’re at it, fuel your body with healthy snacks and meals.

2. Declutter your mind.

Sure, it’s important to create a to-do list of tasks, but when you’ve got a lot on your mind, it can be difficult to even determine what is (and what isn’t) a priority. Try a brain dump: Grab a blank piece of paper, a pen, and jot down anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re mixing home tasks and hobbies with your professional duties. Get everything out and on the page. You can organize it later — but you’ve taken a great first step.

3. Try a change of scenery.

Feeling creative stagnant? Experiencing that widely shared feeling of pandemic languishing? Good news: Location variety inspires creativity, and it’s also proven to help you feel motivated and focused on the task at hand. If you’re starting to feel stuck, get up and move around: Stretch. Visit a colleague. Move from a sitting position to a standing desk. Take a brisk walk around the block. If you’re feeling isolated or just plain bored of where you’re working lately, try an entirely different workspace.

4. Ask for help when you need it.

Struggling with scheduling or project management? Your coworkers, industry friends and coworking peers may be just as good (if not better) a resources as any app you could download for task management. Tap an organized colleague who can help you look at your deadlines and create strategies or systems for moving forward. A fresh set of eyes could make all the difference.

5. Cut out distractions.

How many tabs are open in your browser? What about the notifications on your phone? Distractions are everywhere. Tuning them out can add minutes — and uninterrupted blocks of time to focus — to your otherwise cluttered workday. When you need to focus, consider silencing (or eliminating altogether) pop-up notifications and committing to checking email hourly or every half hour instead of constantly. If you’re worried you won’t follow through, apps or web extensions like StayFocused or WorkTime might help keep you on task. When you hit a wall, hit the reset button: Take a break, take a stretch, or go fill up that water glass and get a breath of fresh air before you dive back in.