3 Ways to Stay Focused

Outsmart an unproductive day

Photo: Woman writing in journal at a desk

Can’t concentrate? On those off days when your workflow just won’t jive, try these tips.
1. Clear your desk
Pretend that your workspace is your mind. That messy desk piled high with papers, like a brain cluttered with thoughts, can create cognitive overload, which means your mind is too stimulated to concentrate. You’ll focus more on the task at hand and less on the mess around you when your space is clutter-free.
2. Listen to the right music and sounds
Studies show that moderate background noises improve mental performance. Researchers found that a mix of calm and commotion, like the noises in a café, facilitates creative thinking. If you’re stuck at a desk, try Coffitivity, which streams ambient “café” noise so you can tune in to those creative juices. If you’re listening to music, avoid any fast and loud tunes. They can disrupt reading comprehension, so stick with the mellow stuff. 
3. Clock in when you surf the net
Multitasking hurts your ability to focus, especially if you’re clicking around the web while you work (cute puppies, Pinterest boards, it’s tough to resist!). Instead of letting distraction get the best of you, set a timer to give yourself two 10-minute slots to browse freely during your workday. You may find you don’t need to look at that cat video, after all.
While certain sounds and spaces can help you concentrate, remember that healthy habits are also key. A bad night’s sleep can mess with your workflow, so use  our guide to falling asleep, sans stress.