Between text messages dinging, Facebook alerting you that your college roommate is expecting, and team members popping into your office, it can be tough to focus. When you’ve got an important task to get done, you might feel as if you need to relocate to a deserted island (with no cell reception) just to make a dent in it!
But before you go booking a one-way flight to no man’s land to get some work done, try these nine unusual tactics to break free from distractions and get in the focus zone.
Get A Pre-Game Song
Olympian Michael Phelps famously listens to rap music to get in the zone before a big race. MMA fighters make their entrance into the ring as their signature song blares in the arena.
Music is a powerful tool for getting into a desired mindset; it’s been shown to create a “highly focused learning state” in which our concentration, attention and memory are heightened.
Pick a song you love and make it your “focus song.” Each time you’re about to tackle a major task, jam out to your song for a minute or two while envisioning the task successfully completed.
Do A Set Of Jumping Jacks
When you’re feeling lethargic, it’s tempting to reach for the second (or third, or sixth) cup of coffee. But did you know aerobic exercise can be just as effective as caffeine at giving your brain a pick-me-up?
Get your heart rate pumping and the blood flowing to your cranium by doing a set of 30 jumping jacks. You’ll shake off sleepiness and generate a burst of energy you can ride while you tackle your to-do’s.
Put Your Phone In A Drawer On The Other Side Of The Building
It’s hands-down the biggest productivity killer: your smartphone. Even when you put it on silent, it sneakily displays those banner notifications that still manage to steal your attention away from whatever you’re working on.
To avoid falling into the notification-checking trap, remove the temptation from the equation entirely. Put your smartphone in a drawer clear on the other side of the house or office. Set a timer for one hour from now (or an alternative increment of time that works best for you) and don’t check your phone until you hear the timer go off.
You can even build up your resistance to smartphone fever by gradually increasing the length of time you keep your phone in the drawer. You’ll be amazed how much more you get done.
Ever notice how you instinctively reach for your phone while you’re waiting in line or open a new browser tab to check Facebook while another page is loading? In our ever-connected world, we’ve grown accustomed to constant stimulation—it’s like an itch our brain wants us to scratch.
Author Olivia Fox Cabane writes about how to train your brain to accomplish your goals. As she explained to the Huffington Post, “if we’re not stimulated after a short period of time, we look around for something that will do the job. This is true whether we’re reading a dull news story or involved in a conversation.”
Hence, your urge to reach for your phone and start perusing your inbox.
Instead of getting completely sidetracked from what you’re working on when you feel the stimulation itch, Cabane says we can scratch it in a different way. Give your body a less distracting form of stimulation by wiggling your toes, reaching overhead for a big stretch, or simply shifting your focus away from your computer monitor to look out the window for a few seconds.
Choose Yellow Décor
Believe it or not, a thoughtfully designed office has been linked to greater work efficiency than a plain one. You can take this unexpected décor advantage one step further by choosing accouterments of a specific hue: yellow.
The color yellow has been shown in studies to stimulate greater concentration and alertness than other shades. So, try affixing a poster with a pop of yellow over your workstation or placing a pot of sunny marigolds on your desk.
Take A Shot
When distraction hits, fuel inspiration by taking a shot—of the vinegar variety, that is. Many people swear by downing a healthy gulp of the stuff first thing in the morning to jump-start their metabolism and cleanse their system (see some apple cider vinegar testimonials here and here, for example).
While the scientific jury is still out on the actual link between apple cider vinegar and any true health benefits, one thing’s for sure: it shocks your system. Similar to biting into a lemon or taking a cold shower, it instantly stimulates your senses and puts you in alert mode.
Experts say since apple cider vinegar is so acidic, drinking it straight may cause damage to your tooth enamel or esophagus. Instead, mix one to two tablespoons to eight ounces of water and down the mixture.
Change Your Font
If your work is conducted primarily via computer, chances are you spend a lot of time in your word processor or Excel. And, chances are you use the same font for every. single. thing.
It’s been proven that our brains respond positively to change. Give your eyes and your mind a fresh perspective by switching up your font. If it’s creativity you need, try an out-of-the-box typeface you’d never normally use (just don’t forget to switch the document back to something professional before sending it out into the world!).
If it’s speed you need, the old standby Times New Roman is your BFF. Though it gets a bad rap among design circles, this font has been shown to be one of the easiest and fastest to read because of its familiarity.
Suck On A Peppermint
Just as can use music to stimulate your productivity, you can use taste, too.
Peppermint flavoring has been shown by multiple studies to boost cognition, improve problem solving and aid our memory. Some schools have even taken to giving students peppermints before standardized tests.
Pop one into your mouth while tackling a task. At the very least, you’ll have fresh breath!
Stick To The Plan
Last but certainly not least, make a plan and stick to it. If you allocate 60 minutes to work on a task, work on it for 60 minutes—no if’s, and’s or but’s!
Making and following a plan is a proven way to get more done, even more so when you write the plan down, so jot down a few notes about what you’re hoping to accomplish, then get to work.
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