Workers these days are more stressed out than ever before, and this stress isn’t doing us any favors.
Stress negatively affects nearly all aspects of our job performance, including time management, relationships with clients and coworkers, physical health, and focus.
While there are a number of effects that come with chronic workplace stress, there are also a number of things you can do to minimize stress and improve your focus and performance at work. Start by implementing the five simple strategies listed below.
1. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking might seem like a good idea initially — after all, aren’t you getting more done in a shorter period of time? In reality, though, multitasking has been shown to make us less productive.
This is because, when we’re constantly switching from task to task, we tend to deal with more mental blocks.
Multitasking can also lower your IQ — something your boss definitely doesn’t want to see happen. One study even found that the average adult who multitasked experienced a decrease in their IQ of fifteen points — this brought their IQ down to that of an eight-year-old child!
Instead of multitasking, prioritize your schedule so that every hour (or half-hour) is dedicated to one specific task. When that period is over, you can move on to the next project and give that one your full attention.
2. Take Regular Movement Breaks
It might also seem like gluing yourself to your desk chair is the best approach to staying focused and productive. Staying sedentary for hours at a time isn’t going to do your work performance any favors, though.
The longer you sit, the more likely you are to experience neck, shoulder, and back pain. This chronic tension places a lot of physical stress on the body, which isn’t good for your productivity or your general health.
Getting up and moving more throughout the day will help you reduce stress. It’ll also get your blood flowing and increase the production of endorphins, which are essential for a positive mood. You might also feel more creative after taking a quick break.
Every hour, try to take 5-10 minutes to step away from the computer and go for a quick walk or do some stretches. To see even better results, try to get outside — or at least look out the window — for these breaks. Fresh air and sunshine can boost your focus and productivity even more.
Meditation can increase brain volume and make it easy for you to reduce stress, focus, and be more productive throughout the day.
The great thing about meditation is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. There’s no fancy equipment necessary. Simply set a timer for five minutes (or less when you’re just getting started), sit comfortably in a relatively quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath.
Having a hard time staying focused while you meditate? That’s okay — as long you eventually come back to your breath, you’re doing it right.
That being said, there are some things you can do to enhance your focus and reap more benefits of meditation. For example, you can try listening to isochronic tones (sounds specifically produced to alter your mood or mindstate) to help you keep your attention on one specific thing.
You can also download meditation apps that offer guided meditations. These can be great when you need a little extra guidance and help staying present.
4. Don’t Over-Caffeinate
Caffeine can boost cognitive performance and make it easier for you to focus and stay on task while you’re at work. But, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Being over-caffeinated can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night. When your sleep suffers, you’ll have a harder time focusing at work the next day.
Overdoing it on caffeine can also increase feelings of stress and anxiety in certain individuals. If you feel like you’re always on edge and have a habit of reaching for the coffee pot throughout the day, your caffeine habit could be making your problems worse.
Try to cut off caffeine by three or four in the afternoon. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, meaning you’ll still experience some of its effects five or six hours after your last cup. If you drink your last cup by three or four, you should be able to fall asleep at nine or ten at night without any problems.
5. Eat Stress-Reducing Foods
Finally, make sure you’re consuming a diet that is made up primarily of foods that have been shown to reduce stress and boost focus.
These foods are very different from the foods that we typically reach for when we’re feeling stressed. Rather than eating high-carb, high-sugar foods and drinks like doughnuts, muffins, sugary sodas, or energy drinks, focus on fueling your body with high-quality, nutrient-dense foods.
Some good ones to keep in rotation include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught fish and eggs
Keep these foods on hand so that you won’t be tempted to run to the vending machine when stress starts to creep up on you.
If you want to feel less stressed and have an easier time staying focused, these tips can help. Start implementing them today, and you’ll be amazed at how much your work performance improves.