Can’t Seem to Focus? Here’s How to Refocus Your Energy at the Office

August 16th, 2019

The summer is here, and the weather is sunny and beautiful…outside of your office window. Everyone seems to be having fun except for you, and all the fun and inspiration seem to be happening somewhere outside of your cubicle. In fact, what may have started as a mild tendency toward daydreaming and distraction have now become genuinely concerning, since you’re staring to space on your deadlines and you sometimes complete two solid hours of work in an eight-hour day. What should you do? Try these small but helpful moves.

Get up and walk away, literally.

Forcing yourself to stay in the chair and stare at your work won’t do the trick. It may actually have the opposite effect. Why? Because the mind is just like a person, and if you force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, it will stiffen and rebel. And when this happens, if you’re a healthy, well-rounded person like most of us, the contest will not be equal. The mind will win. Decisively. So don’t go to war with it; instead, meet it halfway. Show your restless mind some respect and consideration, and later it will show the same consideration to you. Tell your boss or teammate (or whoever needs to know) that you are getting up for a while. Then get up. Don’t come back for 30 minutes.

Don’t worry about wasting time.

If you walk away from your desk for 30 minutes to make peace with your restless mind, you may fear you’re “wasting” those 30 minutes. But you aren’t. If you sat there for a half hour, glued idly to your chair, determined to engage in a losing internal wrestling match, you would truly have wasted the time. A short walk will return you to your seat rested and ready to actually do some work, for real.

Try to remember the big picture.

Let’s say you have to complete and file 30 tedious forms before the day ends. You’re unfocused and you’ve lost interest in this task, but it needs to be done. Try backing up and remembering what these forms are really for, who needs them processed, and why. Do they affect real people’s lives in a meaningful way? Recalling that meaning can help you focus and commit to the task until it’s over.

Break your big task down into smaller tasks.

When your chores seem overwhelming and your heart has punched its time card and headed home for the day (but your body still has to stay for five more hours), make this challenge a little easier by breaking it down into baby steps. Get through three of those baby steps, then stop and assess. Then go for three more. Then stop again. Keep doing this until the work is behind you.

For more on how to move forward with your day even when you’re struggling to focus, contact the workplace and career management experts at PSU.

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