You’ve probably experienced the frustration of being distracted at work. Perhaps you were pulled into a never-ending Slack discussion, and when it finally ended you struggled to focus on the task you were working on. Or a coworker criticized you, and now you can’t stop replaying his comments in your head.
It’s totally normal to lose focus after a period of time (which is why you should be taking regular breaks). But if you find yourself easily distracted throughout the day, you might want to consider tweaking some of your morning habits. They probably won’t eliminate all distractions, but you’ll at least start your workday strong building a good foundation for the rest of the day.
1. Take A Walk
If you read a lot of health and fitness blogs (or even articles about the morning routines of CEOs), you might have the impression that “moving” in the morning requires doing a high-intensity workout. Not so (though if that’s your preferred mode of exercise, then by all means go for it). As Dr. Dani Gordon previously wrote for Fast Company, “walking has seriously been underrated.” Fast Company reporter Michael Grothaus have previously written that walking helps him “think and generate ideas.” Setting aside some time to let your ideas brew can help you formulate and structure them–so when you do get into the office, you’re ready to focus, rather than scrambling your to-do list together.
2. Declutter Your Workspace
“Attention is programmed to pick up what’s novel,” Josh Davis, director of research at the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Two Awesome Hours: Science-based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, previously told Fast Company. If you’re surrounded by unread books, you might be tempted to procrastinate. Unfinished work reminds you that you have unattended tasks, which can stress you out and make it hard for you to do focused work. Before you turn on your computer, take five to 10 minutes to move any clutter that might distract you to where it’s not visible (even if that means shoving them in the drawer).
3. Find A Repeatable Habit
For some people, focusing on something (other than work) that they can repeat day in and day out helps them concentrate throughout the day. Matt Galligan, cofounder and CEO of Interchange and The Picks & Shovels Co, told Fast Company in 2014 that he starts his day with a laborious coffee routine, beginning with grinding freshly roasted beans and slowly using the pour-over method. He applies an intense level of concentration, which he said helps him focus on one particular thing at that moment, translating into the rest of his day. You can substitute this habit with anything that you want.
4. Take A Cold Shower
Drinking a cup of coffee might make you alert, but it also might make you jittery (and may lead to a crash later on). A cold shower, however, will wake you up immediately, but without the crash or jitters (provided that you don warm clothing straight away). Journalist Chris Gayomali tried it out and found himself “immediately more alert” and experienced “a strange buzz that coffee no longer provided.”
5. Pick A Different “Frog” To Swallow Each Day
A lot of productivity experts swear by the advice of “eating your frog” first thing in the morning. But if you’re the type of person who gets bored by starting with the same tasks or type of tasks every morning, it might be best to pick a different priority to tackle that day. Writer Daniel Dowling conquered his procrastination habit by starting his morning with a different priority than the day before. His criteria? A task he’d been putting off the longest, whether it’s learning to play the guitar or writing a blog post. As he previously wrote for Fast Company, the only thing that the “eat your frog” formula doesn’t account for is that the hard thing changes over time. “So why can’t your morning habits change too?”
6. Write Down Your Stress And Worries
Some days, you just wake up anxious, and no amount of meditation, exercise, or breathing exercises can calm you down. Perhaps it’s time to get a notebook and write down all your stress and worries, unfiltered. Yes, this might seem like a surefire way to add fuel to the fire, but in fact, it does the opposite. A 2011 University Of Chicago study found that students who wrote down their stresses before taking an exam improved their scores by one grade point.
According to the study’s senior author, writing helps the students release their anxieties, freeing up brainpower that they can then utilize solely for the test. In addition to freeing up mental space, writing your worries can help you solve any issues that might be floating around in your head. As psychology professor and Fast Company contributor Art Markman previously wrote, “By writing about the event, you’re forced to create a coherent story to describe what happened. This narrative is less likely to trigger additional rumination than the fragments of events that often lead you to keep thinking about a problem obsessively.”