20 Ways to stay focused at work (+ instant hacks)

Marija Kojic

Last updated on: September 1, 2022

Staying focused at work can be as much of a hassle as keeping your focus while working from home — you’ll likely have to deal with chatty colleagues, less comfort, and constant meetings that’ll take away from the time you could be spending on priority tasks instead.

When it comes to the best ways to stay focused at work, you’ll need to make some changes in your personal workstation, tweak work (and life) habits, streamline your schedule, as well as avoid common work distractions.

To help you in your quest for finding focus, in this blog post, we’ll do the following:

  • Talk about why you can’t focus at work, 
  • Give you 20 effective tips that will help you improve your concentration, and 
  • Provide some handy instant focusing techniques.
How to stay focused at work - cover

Why can’t I focus at work?

Whether you work from the comfort of your home or in an actual office, distractions are everywhere — colleagues mumbling on a conference call, doors shutting, constant fidgeting, or a neighbor renovating, kids running through the house — you name it. 

However, external distractions are not the only reasons why you can’t focus on work.

Apart from external distractions that get in the way of finishing work successfully, you have trouble focusing at work because:

  • You waste time on trivial things
  • You don’t get enough sleep
  • You don’t block digital distractions
  • You multitask
  • You live an unhealthy lifestyle
  • You don’t have a workable schedule
  • You struggle with ADHD

Before understanding how to focus better, you first need to figure out which of these concentration killers are the main culprits for your attention deficit.

Problem #1: You waste time on trivial things

“Shall I eat eggs with bacon or ham for breakfast?”

“That light blue sweater doesn’t go well with these black pants. Where did I put my navy blue sweater?”

Thinking about trivial things before you even start your day will burn your brainpower and energy — brain power and energy that you later need for more important decision-making.

Tim Ferriss, an American author and lifestyle guru, emphasizes the importance of “scripted” morning routines in his Morning Routines and Strategies podcast. He says morning routines should be simple and planned ahead so as to “conserve your decision-making”. 

You shouldn’t spend hours trying to decide what to eat or wear. That’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit each day — a black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance sneakers. He had the go-to outfit that he wore all the time to center his decision-making energy on significant things — instead of the trivial ones.

Problem #2: You don’t get enough sleep

One of the main culprits for being unable to focus is sleep deprivation. By sleep deprivation, we mean consecutive days of poor sleep quality or no sleep at all. 

Sleep deprivation also leads to decreased cognitive accuracy and lapses in attention, together with causing other problems, such as: 

What’s worse, due to sleep deprivation, the inability to focus can sneak up on you when you least expect it. So, next time you end up wearing two different socks, or even worse, making a fatal mistake in your business proposal that kills a deal — maybe it’s time to get a good night’s sleep.

Problem #3: You don’t block digital distractions

Cyberloafing is one of the main causes of attention deficit. If you are not familiar with the term cyberloafing — it means using the Internet for personal use (e.g. surfing the Web, using social media, etc.) during office hours.

Cal Newport, a computer science professor and the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says that digital distractions are one of the main focus-killing devices that divert our attention from deep work. 

Newport claims that he didn’t own a smartphone until 2012 and that he never uses the Internet as a resource for getting information and news but gets his print media home-delivered instead.

As a result, within a ten-year period, he managed to:

  • Publish four books, 
  • Earn a Ph.D., and 
  • Get a job as a professor at Georgetown University.

He owes his success to deep work and completely disconnecting from digital distractions.

Newport further explains that being bored can lead us to do something productive and that we shouldn’t use boredom as another excuse for social networking.

Think about all this the next time you grab your phone during work — digital distractions impair your ability to remain focused and ruin your productivity as a result.

Problem #4: You multitask

Switching between tasks or projects has proven to be counterproductive and attention-harming most of the time.

Multitasking results in cognitive overload which later leads to making reckless decisions — and overall chaos. 

When you are constantly shifting your attention between tasks, you need more time to finish them — so you lose focus along the way. You burn your brainpower by taking up numerous tasks and can even experience burnout in the worst-case scenario.

In short — multitasking tears up your mental energy and decreases your productivity as a result.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

To switch between tasks and projects without affecting productivity, check out this article:

Problem #5: You live an unhealthy lifestyle

Together with poor sleep quality, other bad lifestyle choices have negative effects on your focus, including:

  • A sedentary lifestyle, 
  • Eating fast food, 
  • Excessive alcohol use, and 
  • Smoking.

You will barely have any energy to focus on your daily tasks, chores, and similar if you sit on your couch and get fast food delivered to you all the time. After all, you get your energy from nutrient-rich foods and more oxygen to the brain, thanks to being physically active.

Thus, we can’t always blame external distractions for our failures — but need to be aware of the choices we make daily.

Problem #6: You don’t have a workable schedule

If you’re wondering how to improve focus, you might want to review your work schedule.

Being sloppy and disorganized with your workload can interfere with your ability to concentrate.

How does the lack of a clear schedule affect concentration?

Well, if you start your workday without prioritizing your work or defining a work schedule you can stick to — you’ll probably end up scattering your attention and energy in vain.

Just because you think you completed countless activities on a specific day doesn’t mean you were productive — after all, being busy is not the same as being productive.

Not having a workable schedule can lead to directing your most precious resource — your attention — on trivial things, without finding the time to tackle priority tasks.

Problem #7: You struggle with ADHD

If you think that the causes listed above don’t concern you, or you simply didn’t recognize any of those signs in your behavior, maybe there is a deeper underlying problem behind your inability to concentrate. 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — or ADHD — is a mental disorder that doesn’t only affect children but adults as well.

In fact, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the ADHD prevalence rate among adults is 2.5%. Many adults with ADHD are not even aware that they suffer from this disorder.

Some of the adult ADHD symptoms are:

  • Restless leg, squirming, and fidgeting,
  • Talking too much and interrupting others while speaking,
  • Having difficulty waiting, especially in lines,
  • Forgetting daily tasks and chores,
  • Avoid following instructions at work, and
  • Making reckless mistakes at work.

If you recognize any of these signs, perhaps you should reach out to a specialist for help. There is no shame in that. Mental awareness is crucial for our overall health since it provides early support and can result in faster mental health recovery. In the case of ADHD, you can only manage the ADHD symptoms — but there is no permanent cure for ADHD at the moment.

20 Tips on how to focus on work

Now that we’ve established why you can’t concentrate at work, it’s time to go through some practical advice on how to improve concentration.

Here are 20 tips that will show you how to increase focus by altering your work or lifestyle habits, inducing new scheduling methods, avoiding distractions, and much more.

Let’s get started.

Tip #1: (Re-)evaluate your work habits

Before you start blaming others for distracting you and thus making you less productive, think about your work habits and whether they make you productive in the first place:

  • Do you force yourself to get up early in the morning just because that’s what productivity gurus recommend, only to spend the hours before noon drowsy, moody, and unfocused?
  • Do you wake up fully energized, only to immediately focus on frivolous tasks that drain your energy until you have no zest left to finish the project that’s due tomorrow?
  • Do you work for 2 hours in the morning and then go to an early lunch just when you’ve fully immersed yourself in work — to adjust to your colleagues’ schedules?

If your answers are a sad “yes”, then it’s your own work habits you need to re-evaluate and change.

How best to (re-)evaluate your work habits?

A problem with your work habits has a lot to do with how you schedule your day. You may schedule activities too early or too late in relation to your Biological Prime Time, i.e. the time when you’re the most productive:

  • If you’re the most productive later in the afternoon (and you have flexible work hours), try to get to work at a later time — you’ll avoid the dreaded morning drowsiness and ensure a larger number of productive working hours per day.
  • If you’re the most effective early in the morning, schedule your most important activities for this time — you’ll finish your priorities early, and spend the rest of the day working on less urgent activities, thus relieving yourself of unnecessary stress.
  • If your colleagues have different productivity peak hours than you, don’t try to fit in with them no matter what — do your work at your own pace, and try to socialize with colleagues at other times.
Biological Prime Time can vary greatly from one person to another
Biological Prime Time can vary greatly from one person to another

Following a fixed routine is beneficial for productivity. But, you’ll have no benefit from it if it’s the wrong fixed routine — so, work on your current schedules to find ideal times for all your assignments and errands.

To calculate your Biological Prime Time, you can track the time you spend on the same activities in the morning, and in the afternoon — to see when you’re more efficient with said activities.

How to track your biological prime time
How to track your biological prime time

You can do this for all your work activities to create an archive telling you the time of day when you’re the most efficient with a type of task.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip 

If you already know whether you are more productive earlier or later in the day, check out the following guides: 

Tip #2: Create and follow a to-do list

Since we’ve already shown how multitasking is sapping your ability to focus, one of the techniques that can prevent you from switching between tasks is prioritizing your work

Therefore, the first thing you need to do to start your day right is create a to-do list you’ll follow — this way, you’ll know:

  • What you need to do today, and
  • What tasks you need to reserve time on your calendar for.

How best to create and follow a to-do list?

Customize your own to-do lists to your liking — for this purpose, you can use one of our free to-do list templates. Whether for work, school, or even daily chores — create and download your personalized to-do list in PDF format, share it with your colleague in Google Docs, or simply print it out.

When creating your to-do list, make sure you:

  1. List all the tasks you need to do today,
  2. Parse these tasks into smaller subtasks you can keep track of more easily,
  3. Mark all items as urgent/NOT urgent and important/NOT important,
  4. Reshuffle your list to put tasks and subtasks you marked as urgent/important first,
  5. Delegate the tasks and subtasks you’ve marked as urgent/NOT important — delete them from your to-do list, and notify the person you’re delegating to, and
  6. Eliminate tasks you’ve marked as NOT urgent/NOT important — delete them from your to-do list.
The Eisenhower Matrix helps form a to-do list
The Eisenhower Matrix helps form a to-do list

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Read more about the Eisenhower matrix and how to use it to make efficient to-do lists here:

It’s of the utmost importance to prioritize your work when creating to-do lists. Therefore, when you start working, do your urgent/important tasks and subtasks first, and your NOT urgent/important tasks and subtasks second.

Put a checkmark next to each task you finish, as soon as you finish it — watching the number of tasks you’ve finished increase will make you feel more confident to continue working and reach the end of the list as soon as possible.

Example of a to-do list in task management software
Example of a to-do list in task management software

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

To learn more about the importance of prioritizing your workload and how to actually do it, check out this article: 

Tip #3: Work in time blocks

A comprehensive to-do list is the first step to a successful and focused workday — the next step is allocating the items in your to-do lists to specific times of day — i.e. blocks of time.

To work in time blocks means to have every minute you spend at work made transparent — you list all your tasks and subtasks and then assign them to a slot in your calendar.

Time blocking example 1

You have 7 tasks to work on during the span of an 8-hour workday, so you allocate:

  • 60 minutes to each task
  • 5 minutes for breaks between two tasks
  • 30 minutes for a lunch break

In the end, that leaves you with 7 clean hours for your work, plus 55 minutes of break time in total — meaning that time blocking may even let you ease out of your workday 5 minutes earlier.

Time blocking example 2

You have 12 smaller tasks to finish within 6 hours, so you:

  • Allocate 25 minutes to each task
  • Separate tasks with 5-minute breaks

If you stick to this schedule, you’ll find that you have 5.5 hours for the tasks, with as much as 30 minutes for unexpected challenges or a longer break at some point.

Time blocking example
Time blocking example

In any case, that’s the main reason why you should work in time blocks — they rely on simple math — and math always works.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip 

For a more streamlined approach to time blocking your work, check out our templates: 

Tip #4: Timebox your emails and meetings

On average, you spend about 13 hours per week on emails and about 6 hours on meetings — that means you spend almost half of your workweek on routine activities that don’t bring your company any profit.

To minimize the time you spend on these less important activities, you can limit meetings and inbox management by timeboxing your schedule.

As with time blocking, you’ll also need to allocate time to activities — the difference is that:

  • Time blocking implies it’s your goal to find time for these activities.
  • Timeboxing implies it’s your goal to limit the time you’ll spend on these activities.

So, with timeboxing, you’ll be allocating less time to the less important activities.

An example of timeblocking in Clockify
An example of timeboxing in Clockify

How best to timebox emails

For example, you can schedule 15 minutes for managing your inbox every 2–3 hours — start the timer, and once the 15 minutes are up, close your inbox, even if you’re in the middle of writing an email.

After 2–3 hours, it will be time for another email timebox — you’ll then have 15 minutes at the most to continue writing the said email.

How best to timebox meetings

The same is true of meetings. If you have a daily standup meeting every day, allocate 20 minutes to it each day, and close the meeting as soon as the 20 minutes are up.

This way, you’ll ensure you stick to your meeting agenda and keep everyone focused on what they want to say in a straightforward and fast manner.

By timeboxing, you’ll put the time you spend on emails and meetings under control, and save more time and concentration to allocate to more important tasks.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to track your resource allocation:

Tip #5: Define personal deadlines

Sure, you’ll have official deadlines, either set by your supervisor or clients.

But, it’s best if you parse your project into milestones and set personal deadlines for yourself.

This way, you’ll ensure you work your way through the project at a brisk pace and ultimately finish before the client’s/supervisor’s deadline.

How best to define personal deadlines?

So, once you are assigned your share of work on a project, block time in your calendar for your tasks and set a realistic deadline:

  • According to Parkinson’s Law, all your tasks expand to fill the time you’ve allocated to them — so, don’t set a loose deadline.
  • On the other hand, Hofstadter’s Law states that your tasks usually take more time than you originally think — so, don’t be overly optimistic about your deadline either.

The best practice is to set your deadline based on previous experience with the same type of tasks — if you know it takes you 3 hours on average to finish a project proposal, then you should set a deadline of 3 hours each time you write a project proposal.

Sure, sometimes it will take you 5–10 minutes more, sometimes 5–10 minutes less, depending on the scope of the proposal — but, it’s the most precise time estimate for a deadline you’ll ever have.

Tip #6: Make others aware of your schedule

Once you’ve parsed your work, defined your deadlines, and identified your priorities, it’s best to make sure your colleagues are aware of your schedule.

Make others aware of your schedule
Make others aware of your schedule

How best to make others aware of your schedule?

For this purpose, you can take a popular time management game called “Circadian Rhythms” as inspiration and make your schedule public:

  • By hanging a printed version of your schedule for the day/week on the front of your office door, or
  • By sharing your Google Calendar with your colleagues.

As an alternative, you and your colleagues can join the same workspace to track time in a team Dashboard — this way, you’ll all be able to see what everyone is currently working on, and decide whether it’s the right time to interrupt them.

Checking others’ availability in Clockify
Checking others’ availability in Clockify

Tip #7: Take short breaks

It’s even been scientifically proven that breaks are among the most important things that help you focus. They function as controlled distractions from our work, vastly improving our ability to focus.

So, taking regular breaks is important for maintaining focus for longer periods of time — you’ll recharge your energy and increase your alertness levels.

How best to take short breaks?

The previously mentioned research shows that ~50 minutes is the maximum time we can stay completely focused on a task — after that time, our focus slowly dwindles, and we lose the sense of importance tied to a task.

So, make sure to take frequent breaks:

Go outside to take a walk around the block — The fresh air and natural sunlight will help increase your productivity, and even help you sleep longer during the night.

Make yourself a cup of green tea — This type of tea is a superfood filled with antioxidants, minerals, and caffeine perfect to increase your physical performance.

Do some desk stretches — You’ll feel refreshed.

Watch an educational TED video — You’ll distract your mind from a current problem for 5 minutes and learn something new like how sugar affects your brain and why we dream.

Chat with a colleague you rarely see by the water cooler — You’ll get a social boost and refresh your mind.

What’s more, you can make use of the Pomodoro timer that can track time spent on tasks while keeping you focused and improving your productivity altogether. 

Pomodoro method

The Pomodoro technique works on a very simple yet effective principle — you work in 25-minute “pomodoro” intervals separated by short 5-minute breaks. Every five “pomodoros”, take a 20 or 30-minute break.

Afterward, it will be easier to start another focused work session — plus, now you’ll know you have something to look forward to when you start feeling too hazy to continue work.

Tip #8: Turn off notifications in apps

Notifications in apps are useful in general — they tell you when you can update a favorite program with new useful features, or when your colleague has just sent you a new message. 

But, when you’re trying to focus, a message from your colleague telling you about the newest Black Friday deals will only distract you.

How best to turn off notifications in apps?

You can disable notifications on all your devices altogether or disable notifications just for a select number of apps.

Most individual apps have options to disable notifications, so you can do that app by app — for example, you can select the channels you want to get notifications from in the settings of your chat app, or block updates from a certain program you’re looking to uninstall anyway.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip 

Learn about the importance of decluttering your digital workspace here: 

Tip #9: Schedule quiet time

Finding some quiet time when you have to finish an important assignment with flying colors is often a challenge.

So, it’s best that you find a quiet, isolated place where you can go work when you need ultimate focus and zero distractions.

How best to schedule quiet time?

Nowadays, most companies that have official office spaces harbor an open office policy — you all sit and work together, for better or for worse. 

But, most offices still have isolated rooms for meetings and similar activities.

So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed but have an important project proposal to finish:

  • “Book” the conference room for an hour or two at a time when there are no meetings and job interviews planned.
  • Explain to your colleagues that you don’t want to be disturbed during this time.
  • Take your laptop, put on your headphones (if you want a fully immersive effect), and focus all your attention on the task at hand.

As a result, you’ll likely work faster and achieve better-quality results, as well as feel a nice tingle of accomplishment once you re-emerge in the open office with a perfect final product.

Tip #10: Avoid your phone

Your phone is often your biggest obstacle on the road to focus at work. You can use it for phone calls, texting, browsing the Web, posting pics on Instagram, and more — which, in work talk, means that you can use it to waste the time you should be working.

So, if you’re wondering how to increase focus and attention, avoid your phone like the plague during work hours.

How best to avoid your phone?

It’s best to keep your phone on mute at work. This way, you won’t get distracted by notifications about personal emails, texts, phone calls, and news articles delivered directly to your inbox at an alarming (and annoying) rate.

Unfortunately, putting your phone on mute will only get you so far.

You can always reach for it in your pocket and see all these new, shiny notifications any time you want — so, you’ll likely need to turn to more drastic measures to deal with your own lack of self-discipline.

Your best solution is to leave your phone or other devices that you use for cyberloafing at a place you can’t always reach, such as:

  • A locked desk drawer,
  • A hard-to-reach place in your bag,
  • A cabinet in the office kitchen, or
  • The glove department of your car parked 8 stories below and half a mile away.

The more attached to your phone you are, the further away you should leave your phone during work time — this way, you won’t fall into temptation as often. And, if you do, you’ll at least get some fresh air and exercise looking for your car in the parking lot.

Tip #11: Avoid time-consuming websites

Working on the computer for 8 hours per day, also makes it relatively easy to slack off on the computer — you can watch random YouTube videos, scroll your Instagram feed, and aimlessly browse the web. 

Such procrastination can easily lead you to fall out of line with your schedule and work extra hours after hours to make up for the lost time, risking burnout as the final outcome.

How best to avoid time-consuming websites?

Avoiding fun websites such as YouTube is much easier said than done, so, once again, it’s best to turn to an external app to help you block time-consuming websites.

Website blockers such as Cold Turkey for Mac, or FocalFilter for Windows are a good choice — they let you add the URLs of the websites you want to avoid to a blacklist. Consequently, you won’t be able to access them during preset times, or until you whitelist them.

In case you want to have detailed reports on how you spend time throughout your workday, you can automatically track your computer activity to better manage your time. 

This way, you can have a better grasp of how much time you spend on productive work or distractions such as social media, emailing, and similar. Comparing these times will definitely beat the habit of cyberloafing and improve your focus once and for all.

Tip #12: Block noise

You probably already know how this goes — you’re trying to focus on a new work brief, but the noise is overwhelming:

  • One colleague is talking about her apartment redesign.
  • Another colleague is rattling the coffee mugs while loudly discussing yesterday’s football match.
  • The colleague sitting next to you is quietly discussing her upcoming family dinner over the phone — yet you hear every word.

In short, you try to focus, but end up staring out the window waiting for the casual discussions and conversations to end — until you decide to find a way to block the noise.

How best to block noise?

In gist, you can’t make people adjust to your schedule and not talk amongst themselves when it’s convenient for you — but you can block the noise around you with headphones.

Once you put on the headphones, you can play some music — your best choice is a familiar, simple tune you’ve chosen yourself, with no lyrics. 

Mozart is always an excellent choice, but you can also be creative — there are a lot of inspiring (and unusual) choices when it comes to music that boosts productivity.

As an alternative, you can use a noise generator such as MyNoise and listen to the oddly inspiring sound of rain falling over a tent, or the mind-setting sound of the wind blowing over the Irish coast — you’ll have plenty of choices.

Tip #13: Use specialized headphones

Music is a nice choice to block out distracting chatter.

But, what if you’re making an educational video for work and cannot play music with your headphones without having your microphone accidentally record Queen’s greatest hits? 

Or, what if you’re doing client calls for most of the day?

Well, then you’ll need to kick your noise-blocking game up a notch and turn to specialized headphones.

How best to use specialized headphones?

It’s a great idea to invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones — they reduce as much as 70% of noise by using active noise control.

They’re also useful because they almost completely erase lower-frequency sound waves — the same type of sound waves that makes you tired if you’re exposed to them for too long.

However, the only downside to noise-canceling headphones is that they often come with a hefty price tag — but you can usually find some affordable solutions, or borrow a pair from a tech-savvy friend.

Or, you can make a request letter for these headphones at the office, and see whether it gets approved.

Tip #14: Use productivity tools and extensions

Sometimes, you just need a little extra help with staying fully focused on your work — and there are a lot of hands-on tools and extensions that the ever-evolving world of technology has to offer.

The previously mentioned website blockers and time trackers are just the tip of the iceberg — there are various tools that can help you plan your workday and execute work with focus.

How best to use productivity tools and extensions?

To help streamline your workflow, you can use various productivity tools. 

We have covered these tools extensively on our blog, so feel free to check these posts out and learn more about productivity software:

Nowadays, you can find a productivity tracker to help you with every type of activity you have to perform at work, so make your picks and remember — automating the actions can help you decrease stress and finish work faster, on the whole.

Tip #15: Set up a comfortable workstation

You won’t be able to focus properly if your chair and desk are uncomfortable — common problems include backaches, migraines, and increased fatigue.

Moreover, staring at a blank wall surrounded by dim lighting and stuffy air won’t do you any good either.

So, you’ll need to make some adjustments and tweaks to your workstation, for maximum comfort.

How best to set up a comfortable workstation?

If your desk allows no alterations, you’ll have to focus most of your energy on adjusting your chair:

  • Raise or lower the seat pan — so that your feet lay flat on the floor, or the feet rest.
  • Ask your operations manager for computer risers — your screen should either be at or slightly below your eye level.
  • Adjust the back support of your chair — so that you feel comfortable sitting for long periods of time.
  • Adjust the armrests — so that your arms can rest nicely without you hunching your shoulders.

Next, you’ll need to elevate your workspace with the right lighting and some greenery:

  • Bring a small houseplant to put on your desk — plants help relieve stress in the workplace, and you’ll have something to take care of when you need to put your mind off of work.
  • Open the shutters on the windows closest to you — to bring in as much natural light as you can and keep you fresh and alert — if your colleagues protest about this, bring in a small overhead LED lamp you’ll use to emulate natural lighting just for you.

Tip #16: Meditate for 5 minutes

Meditation helps you relax and regain your focus after a stressful work session — you can easily perform it at work whenever you need to organize your thoughts for future work.

In addition, people with ADHD can benefit from a specific mental training practice called mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation can help increase attentional functioning and other cognitive abilities. 

A study aimed at the effects of mindfulness meditation on attention (among people with ADHD) showed that mindfulness meditation:

  • Improved participants’ sustained attention — i.e., the ability to focus on one specific task such as reading a book, watching TV, etc. — by 54.2%, and 
  • Reduced their impulsivity (commission errors such as pressing a control button twice instead of once).

How best to meditate for 5 minutes?

You can meditate at work during short breaks between tasks. This practice can relieve stress at work and help you regain focus, but it can also serve as a great strategy to help people who cope with ADHD. 

A five-minute meditation is easy and efficient if you follow these basic guidelines:

  • Sit on the floor next to your chair or in the conference room.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe deeply, in a rhythmic pattern.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Don’t ignore your thoughts but perceive them as clouds passing by.
  • If you feel anxiety or fear, make a short break and return to your breathing exercises.
  • Perform these meditation exercises for 5 minutes per session.

By the end of each session, you’ll feel refreshed and more likely to focus on the next task on your to-do list. Repeating this practice regularly will help reduce impulsivity and inattention from ADHD.

For longer meditation sessions, you can try a mindful meditation app such as Headspace or listen to YouTube videos that offer short guided meditation.

Tip #17: Stay hydrated

You can’t properly think when you’re thirsty — science shows that even mild dehydration causes mood changes, lower concentration, frequent headaches, anxiety, and fatigue.

So, you’ll need to make the extra effort to drink enough water at work, even if you’re engrossed in your newest project.

How best to stay hydrated?

If you fear you’ll often forget to take a break and pour yourself a glass of water, it’s best that you keep a half-gallon water pitcher at your desk.

You can fill it up when you get to work and make it your goal to drink all of it by the end of the day — this way, you’ll enjoy all the benefits healthy hydration brings, as well as control the amount of water you intake. 

You can even make lemon-infused water, for extra freshness. 

However, if you are the kind of person who simply forgets to drink water regularly, you can set a reminder for yourself as a good trick to stay hydrated.

Tip #18: Eat healthily

You can’t properly think when you’re thirsty, but it’s even worse when you’re hungry — your stomach starts to growl, your sugar levels drop, and you can barely remember what day it is, let alone how to solve that push notification bug you’ve been having lately.

So, you’ll need to take precautions to keep your energy levels high throughout the day.

How best to eat healthily?

Your best start is to pack a healthy, nutrient-rich lunch — e.g. a nutritious sauteed spinach salad or avocado pesto is a good choice. You can also bring a pack of healthy blueberries for dessert.

As an alternative, you can order food to the office together with your colleagues — just make sure you order it on time. So, don’t wait until you’re starving to message your colleagues about who’ll place the group order.

You’ll also need to keep some nutrient-rich snacks at your desk for those unexpected outbursts of hunger — almonds, walnuts, and dark chocolate bars are always an energizing, but healthy choice.

Tip #19: Build a better bedtime routine

We’ve already stated the consequences sleep deprivation can have on work focus earlier in this blog post, and how it can hinder our daily performance. Here, we want to emphasize the importance of having an established bedtime routine. 

Adults aged from 18 to 60 need seven or more hours of night’s sleep while people aged from 61 and over need up to 9 hours of sleep each night. 

Therefore, creating a bedtime routine is one of the best things you can do to get enough sleep — and be energized enough to focus at work.

How best to build a better bedtime routine?

To get enough sleep and stop yawning at work, try incorporating the following tips into your bedtime routine:

✅ Have a regular sleep-wake cycle (for example, go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m.)

✅ Drink a cup of chamomile or lavender tea to calm your mind before you go to bed

✅ Read a book before bed to reduce stress

✅ Always aerate your bedroom during the day or half an hour before you go to sleep

❌ Don’t eat heavy and fatty foods before sleep

❌ Don’t drink caffeinated drinks

❌ Don’t scroll through social media

❌ Don’t chug lots of water to avoid getting up in the middle of the night

Tip #20: Get some exercise during the day

Exercising boosts your energy, gets your blood flowing, and makes you more alert — which are all excellent qualities for focused work. So, it’s a good idea to include an exercise routine at work, at least in some capacity.

Sure, you can’t really bring a treadmill into the office (unless your company has a lax policy about such things) — but, you can introduce exercising on a smaller scale.

How best to get some exercise during the day?

For example, if you have flexible working hours and have a gym near the office, you can parse your day to work/exercise segments:

  • Work for 4 hours in the morning,
  • Hit the gym for 1 hour in the afternoon, and
  • Finish your workday with 4 hours of focused work after the gym.

Alternatively, you can do a series of quick and easy exercises during break time.

For example, you can use water bottles (or bring in your own set of weights) to do a couple of overhead presses or arm curls right at your desk.

You can even take a quick jog around the office building before lunch, to really get your blood flowing.

Quick concentration techniques for instant attention boost

You might be reading this blog post thinking how all of the above advice can help with focus — but it takes time.

If you came here to find out what to do when you can’t focus and you need to focus now, we can also offer some brain hacks on how to concentrate within minutes.

Bear in mind that these might not work for everyone — but considering the fact they virtually take no time, you can give them a try.

Focus hack #1: Try the 5-second rule

The technique, introduced in the eponymous book by Mel Robbins, is as simple as it sounds.

When you can’t make yourself start working on a task, count down from 5 — the moment you reach 0, plunge yourself into work.

Maybe all you need is that initial push to get things going.

Focus hack #2: Utilize the 4-7-8 breathing technique

This technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil and is based on a yogic practice of controlled breathing, i.e. pranayama. There are indications that it doesn’t only calm the nervous system, but also improves concentration.

Here’s how to practice it:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth making a whooshing “ocean” sound (by making a soft restriction in the back of your throat).
  • Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds, again making the “ocean” sound.
  • Repeat the cycle several times.

Focus hack #3: Do a few jumping jacks

Research shows that as little as 2 minutes of aerobic exercise can boost your memory and focus for up to 2 hours. Physical activity allows fresh blood flow to your brain, invigorating it for further function.

So, if you’re wondering how to pay attention to that task you’ve been putting off, you might need to put it off for another minute or two, get up, and do a few jumping jacks.

Focus hack #4: Do the work and the brain will catch up

No concentration? No problem!

Your focus may be failing you, but your body won’t. It may sound silly, but if you’re putting off a task because you can’t focus, you should try Nike’s advice — just do it.

This advice might irritate you — if you could just do it, you would be doing it already

However, the point is — you don’t have to do it well to start with.

For example, if you’re trying to write an article and your mind is blank, just open your doc, and start writing anything — even if it’s complete gibberish. Your mind will eventually catch up with your fingers, and before you know it, you’ll be fully focused and ready to do the real work.

Final thoughts: Build focus by understanding why you lack it

Keeping focus at work is crucial for a successful career. It’s sometimes challenging, but always manageable — if you follow the right focus tips.

In the end, you’ll likely find that you’re finishing your work faster and better — which will ensure you feel happier with your job and life overall.

✉️ What keeps you from getting into flow? Which tips are you going to integrate into your work routine to boost your focus? Write to us at blogfeedback@clockify.me for a chance to be included in this or one of our future blog posts.

Author: MarijaKojic

Marija Kojic is a productivity writer who's always researching about various productivity techniques and time management tips in order to find the best ones to write about. She can often be found testing and writing about apps meant to enhance the workflow of freelancers, remote workers, and regular employees. Appeared in G2 Crowd Learning Hub, The Good Men Project, and Pick the Brain, among other places.

Free time tracker

Time tracking software used by millions. Clockify is a time tracker and timesheet app that lets you track work hours across projects.


Learn more Arrow Right Primary
Clockify time tracker
Watch demo (12:35)
Closing video