We are fast approaching that time of the year where energy supplies might be taking a hit. Focus and concentration are fairly important at any time of the year but when the finish line of December beckons, sometimes it take a bit more effort to push through right?
This brings me to Craig Lowndes, the Australian V8 Supercar champion. Prior to his retirement, he spent a vast majority of his time at work skillfully driving powerful cars around a track at warp speed. The specialised skills that Craig developed led to him achieving global excellence and enabled him to become a V8 Supercar champion.
V8 Supercar driving requires 100% focus. Legendary British racing driver Stirling Moss describes competitive high speed driving perfectly, “It is necessary to relax your muscles when you can. Relaxing your brain is fatal.” Losing focus and concentration in whatever we do at work or at home can indeed have major consequences.
How can YOU increase your focus?
In our time poor world, it is so easy to get caught up in trying to do twenty things at the same time, aka multi-tasking. Hordes of us believe that this is a prized skill and do the proverbial octopus dance every day. Clinical research shows that the reality of multi-tasking is quite different. We are not wired to juggle several tasks at a time because we just can’t concentrate and focus on any of them, resulting in lacklustre performance and complete lack of effectiveness while at work. Focus on one thing at a time and you will be amazed at how quickly and effectively you can complete a task or job.
1. Be as fresh as a daisy
After breathing, sleep is our most fundamental need. Its also the first thing we are willing to give up in an effort to get more done. The fact is, that even small amount’s of sleep deprivation makes us vastly less effective.
If you are not currently sleeping at least 7 hours each night, look at what you need to do to make that a reality, and then start pushing your bedtime earlier by 15 minutes until it becomes natural. Make getting 7-8 hours sleep your highest priority and your desire to make the most of each day skyrockets.
2. Focus on Taking a Break
Research has shown that working in 90-minute cycles of intense effort followed by a brief recovery period is crucial to maintaining focus and concentration. This means focusing intently on one task at a time. The break doesn’t need to be mammoth and can be as simple as a deep-breathing exercise, getting up from your computer for 5 minutes, having a stretch or taking a fuel stop. The fuel stop will replenish both your brain and your body – setting you up for the next 90-minute bout. We all know how easy it is to work for hours on end without a break, so set a timer if you need to. I am personally truly unreliable in this department, so I do set a timer.
Taking regular breaks is crucial to your energy maintenance and recovery. Some healthy snacks for your break could include:
- ½ cup of grainy cereal like oats or Weet-bix with milk
- A handful of nuts (not the whole bag!)
- 1 piece of fresh fruit or punnet of strawberries or blueberries
- 1 small tub yoghurt + banana
- Small tin of baked beans or tuna
3. Coffee Culture
Our coffee culture around the world is a thriving phenomenon and many people will swear by their first cup of the day to get them prepared for work. It’s true that caffeine is a stimulant that speeds up parts of the body and brain and may enhance your performance and focus if used properly.
Most authorities agree that the safe daily upper limit for caffeine is around 300mg – equivalent to 3-4 cups of brewed coffee (cafe latte, cappuccino, flat white etc.) and consuming more than this can lead to issues with sleep, excessive alertness (more than you actually need), nausea and anxiety.
The important thing here is to be aware of the amount of caffeine that is right for you and treading that line between enhanced focus and over stimulation, when its hard to get any work done at all.
4. Drink up
It is so easy to get dehydrated in an air-conditioned work environment, hot or cold. You know that feeling of your brain winding down, down, down? You have just said hello and how are you to dehydration, which can very quickly lead to a headache, nausea and inability to focus clearly or work effectively.
Drinking coffee and tea often becomes the go to choice at work and although these beverages do provide some fluid, alternating with water is a simple way of staying hydrated.
Our bodies are not great at sending a reliable thirst message as sometimes we mistake it for hunger and other times by the time we get the memo, our bodies and brain are already gasping for a drink. Positioning a bottle or glass on your desk or bench is a constant reminder – just aim to drink around a glass each hour.
The image that you can see above is my daughter who has just retired from from her gymnastics career at the ripe old age of 16 years. She has been in the sport since she was four years old, so its been a while.
There is nothing quite like being suspended in mid air to truly make you focus on what you are doing. However, no matter what you do everyday, remember to……
“Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing” – Beverley Sills