Students are well aware they need to focus in order to get good grades. Working adults don’t share that incentive, which can lead to lower productivity in the office. With school years far in the past, many adults lose touch with the drive to get work done and set goals for themselves.
Focus isn’t a skill reserved for the classroom, though. Working adults can learn a thing or two from students on how to stay focused in the workplace. Below are students’ top tips for improving focus that you can apply to all areas of your life.
Give your brain the fuel it needs
Both students and working adults need a healthy breakfast to stay alert throughout the day. Avoid breakfast foods loaded with sugar, since they’ll crash your energy levels shortly after walking into the office. Protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy that can boost focus and memory. Try scrambled eggs, oatmeal topped with berries or nut butter on whole wheat toast.
Any student will say it’s hard to focus on an empty stomach. The same goes for work—you’re trying to get those reports done, but all you can think about is the gnawing in your gut. Healthy snacks filled with fiber and protein will keep hunger at bay until your lunch break. Fiber makes you feel full for longer, and lean proteins are better fuel for the brain than sugary treats. Grab a handful of almonds or go for an apple if you need to satisfy that sweet tooth.
Drinking water is essential to stay focused, too! Fatigue, dizziness and lack of focus are all symptoms associated with not drinking enough water. Keep a water bottle on your desk and refill it multiple times a day. Drinking plenty of water will make it easier to concentrate on your work.
Take regular movement breaks
When your focus begins to slip, a quick movement break can help reset your mind. Students get up and walk to their locker between classes, and young kids get their energy out on the playtime during recess. Look for ways to get up and move throughout the work day, whether that’s using the restroom or visiting the water cooler. Prioritize regular breaks from work, even during your busiest days. Just a few minutes away from your desk can improve focus and productivity.
You could even incorporate simple exercises designed for a cubicle-sized space. There are plenty of exercises that are easy enough for almost anyone and require zero equipment. Get up from your chair to march in place or lightly stretch the body. Some exercises can also improve posture, such as torso twists and lat pulldowns. A quick and simple workout will awaken the mind and help you cross items off that to-do list.
Boost energy without the caffeine
Some students in high school and college rely on caffeinated beverages to stay awake during class, but they know how hard those caffeine crashes hit! Similarly, working adults may find it difficult to push through their afternoon slump without pouring a third cup of coffee. Stay alert without caffeine by substituting it with maca or ginseng. These plants improve alertness and concentration without the impending energy crash. Brew a cup of ginseng tea or blend maca powder into your morning smoothie.
You can also boost your natural energy levels by getting enough sleep. Help your body regulate its sleep cycle by going to bed at the same time every night. A consistent bedtime makes it easier to fall and stay asleep. You’ll enjoy better sleep quality, which gives you the energy to focus at work without multiple cups of coffee.
Create a distraction-free zone
Many students are tempted to look at their phones during class. Similar distractions are present at work, especially if you sit in front of a computer all day. Thankfully, there are downloadable apps designed to curb distracting habits and help you get more work done. These apps give you points based on how long you go without unlocking your phone. The longer you go, the more points you get. Some even allow you to redeem points for retail coupons and discounts!
Your surrounding environment also influences your ability to focus. For students, sitting at the front of the room improves focus because they’re closer to the professor. Optimize your workspace by sitting near coworkers who will keep you on track. If you find other people distracting, put on headphones or move to a quiet spot where no one’s around.
Whether you’re a student or employee, focus is crucial for achieving both academic and professional goals. It’s a lifelong skill that requires ongoing practice—not to mention sleep, exercise and healthy food. The most successful students have found ways to boost their focus, and working adults can apply those lessons to the workplace.