Have you found yourself hitting periods of time when you struggling to focus on your work?
In conversation after conversation lately, people keep telling me how hard it has become to focus.
I hear them berate themselves for not getting enough done. For not working fast enough. For not doing more.
I get it. I’ve done it too.
The reality is that there is A LOT going on. A lot that can pull our attention away for our intentions. We are processing a lot. It’s only normal that our ability to focus may suffer at times.
What I most commonly hear during these conversations is people reflecting on what they are going to do to become more disciplined, more hardworking, more dedicated.
They’ve read a brand new book on productivity that promises to find them 5 hours in their week. They’ve devised a brand new state of the art schedule complete with timers and reminders that will keep them on task. They’re found an accountability partner to keep them committed to their goals.
And while none of these strategies are inherently wrong, they aren’t necessarily getting to the root of the problem.
When our brain is telling us it needs a break, it’s because it needs a break. Devising strategies to work harder is rarely the way to go.
What if, instead of fighting for more productivity, we learned to maximize productivity by following the natural rhythms of our brain?
When you’re struggling to focus, there’s a reason why. Your brain has hit its maximum ability to maintain attention in the moment. This will fluctuate from person to person and over time, depending on what is going on in our lives.
If you find yourself struggling to pay attention or being less effective than usual, it simply doesn’t work to just push through. Forcing yourself, trying to just pay attention harder… it’s simply not how the brain is structured.
You’ll simply end up working longer hours to get less done.
Try this instead. Notice the productivity funk and use it as a sign that your brain needs a change.
Instead of pushing through, do something else for a few minutes. Try getting up and going for a five-minute walk. Go get a drink of cold water. Turn on some music and get up and move for a few minutes. Do something that will reenergize you. Stepping away and giving your brain a change is what will help you to naturally regain focus.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to step away from your work for an hour or two. There are obvious expectations on what you need to get done in your work day. However, you’ll find that by investing in five-minutes brain breaks, your focus will return much more quickly than by simply teling yourself that you need to work harder.
Those five minutes will pay off in higher focus and productivity for the rest of the hour and will leave you feeling less frustrated and more energized.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about your favourite 5-minute brain break and the impact it has had on your life.
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