How to stay focused at work

There are two aspects to deal with when it comes to focus at work. First you have to get focused, and then you have to keep up that focus through your workday. Here are some great ways to do both and improve your focus throughout the day.

Eat a good breakfast

Millions of Americans skip breakfast even though everybody knows it’s the most important meal of the day. Going without a good breakfast can lead to problems focusing at work. A slice of toast and a banana isn’t good enough.

Your body needs a good dose of protein in the morning in order to function properly. Eating protein will help you feel full longer, which can help you stay focused since you won’t be distracted by feeling hungry and wanting to snack. Eating sources of protein, such as eggs, in the morning can also help you maintain a healthy weight, as this can reduce your snack cravings.

Plan ahead

Make a detailed plan for the tasks you need to complete and a time frame for completing them. Prioritize the list, putting the most important ones at the top. Set up your list so you can only see the tasks you need to complete for one day. Put the rest of the week out of sight while you work. It can be distracting when you can’t help but notice all the work that you need to do by Friday.

Make sure your list is realistic, or you may find that the added pressure of an overwhelming to-do list is actually a distraction. It’s counterproductive to allow an excessive task list weigh you down. You can end up spending time looking at the list and thinking about how you’ll even get everything done by the end of the day. These kinds of negative thoughts take away from your ability to stay focused.


A few minutes of meditation can help get you in the right frame of mind. Before you start your day, spend a few minutes clearing your mind.

Focus only on your breathing, and when thoughts creep into your mind, just push them back out so you can stay clear. Clarity and relaxation are the goals here. You can realize some substantial benefits in a short meditation session, especially if you do it every day. Just five minutes of meditation can boost your ability to focus during your workday.

Get rid of clutter

Clutter is a major distraction to most people, so before you start work, give your desk some attention. Put away anything that isn’t necessary for the tasks you have to complete.

If your inbox is bothering you because it’s so full and you keep glancing over at it in worry, put it away. Simply put it out of sight for the time being while you make some progress on your current project. File things away or make neat stacks of accumulated paperwork.

Have a drink

Some caffeine in the form of a cup of coffee or tea can help you get started, since it stimulates your brain. Don’t rely on highly caffeinated energy drink concoctions, though, as these over-the-top beverages can be harmful to your heart and kidneys. They’re especially harmful when consumed regularly, and they can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure. These beverages can take away from your ability to focus at work because they can make you feel wired and fidgety.

Along with your coffee, be sure to drink a glass of water, which can help you focus and think more clearly. Researchers at the University of East London found that drinking a glass of water can help your brain work 14 percent faster. Be sure to have a bottle of water at your desk to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Staying focused at work

Once you’ve found a way to focus, you need to keep it going. Here are some surefire ways to stay focused at work.

Break up tasks

Break up larger tasks into steps. It’s encouraging to complete items on your list, and by giving yourself a deconstructed versions of complex tasks, you can help keep your focus up. Each smaller task you complete will give you a sense of accomplishment that your brain thrives on, helping you maintain a positive outlook, which in turn will help you stay focused.

Stick to the script

Once you’ve made a to-do list, make sure you stick to it. It’s easy to find additional tasks that you’ll need to complete as a result of the tasks you’re working on, but don’t think about those for the moment. Trust that you made a good list in the first place and that completing those tasks will keep you on track.

Put everything else on hold in your mind and only allow yourself to work on the items on your list. If you find that you really want to do something less taxing, that probably means it’s time for a short break.

Give yourself a treat

Treats work with humans just as well as they do with pets. When you complete a major task or a set of tasks, you can reward yourself with a treat. Maybe it’s a cookie or maybe it’s a sushi dinner at your favorite spot. It depends on your situation, but try to assign rewards that are commensurate with the required tasks. Positive reinforcement techniques are easy ways to help you stay focused throughout your work day.

Get rid of distractions

Work offline as much as possible so you can avoid the temptation to wander onto social media. Aside from being a time-waster, sometimes the information you find on social media can have a negative effect on your mood. It really isn’t going to matter if you like a photo now or after work.

Try not to check your email more than once per hour, and don’t get distracted by non-urgent messages when you do check it. Keep your inbox prioritized and be sure to archive any emails that you don’t need.

Keep your computer desktop organized so you don’t end up wasting time trying to find what you need. Keep all the files for each project stored in clearly labeled folders.

Wear headphones

Here’s a funny little trick that can do wonders for your productivity: put on headphones. If you work in a shared office space with coworkers who have a tendency to interrupt your flow by stopping by your desk, try wearing headphones.

Whether or not you’re actually listening to music, wearing headphones is a way to let people know that you don’t want to talk or you aren’t available for an interruption. This trick works so well that putting on headphones can turn into a personal ritual that tells your mind that it’s time to get to work. Once you take the headphones off, you signal your brain that it’s time to stop working.

Take a break

Depending on your workplace, frequent breaks can be frowned upon. However, you can actually get more done when you take breaks. Short breaks help you avoid burnout and keep your brain working better throughout the day. Studies show that taking a break once per hour helps you perform better simply by giving you a chance to renew your energy and refresh your outlook on the task at hand.

If you can’t leave your desk once per hour without looking like you’re slacking off, find a break ritual that you can do at your desk. You can stretch your legs and arms, close your eyes for a minute or two, meditate, or eat a piece of fruit.

Go for a quick stroll

Taking a quick walk outside the office without your phone can help increase productivity. Your brain needs a rest, and a short walk will go a long way toward renewing your ability to focus and lifting your mood.

People who spend more time walking score higher on cognitive function tests. Even five minutes a day can do wonders for your ability to get your work done.

Start using these easy tips for how to stay focused at work, and you can have a happier, healthier, more productive workday.

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