Scientists estimate that the average human has an attention span of 12 seconds. The statistic isn’t all that surprising. Between social media notifications and impromptu office powwows and inboxes that constantly replenish themselves, it’s a wonder any of us get anything done. McKenna Gottfried, BSN, RN, well-being nurse navigator, the Parkview Center for Healthy Living has these tips for getting the most out of your study sessions or workday (the healthy way).
Declutter and organize.
Engineer your work or study space for optimal productivity by taking a moment to evaluate what possessions you need versus those which no longer serve a purpose. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your space is closing in on you. Once you’ve determined what your necessities are, organize those things in a way that best suits their purpose in your life. Make an effort to maintain your organized space and avoid regressing back to clutter. If you struggle with this concept, try diving into an interesting read such as “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.
Assess your conditions.
Take a moment. What’s the lighting like in your workspace right now? How’s the temperature? Are you too cold? Too warm? Is your chair too high or your desk too low? Does the color of the room feel stale or the air quality seem poor? These are all factors that can either drive or stifle productivity. Avoid eyestrain, shoulder tension and headaches by ensuring your desk and chair are a proper fit and your lighting is adequate. If you work in a space without natural light, be mindful to step outdoors during breaks to increase your alertness. Room color preference and temperature are individual factors. What might be comfortable and calming to you could be very uncomfortable for your colleague or roommate. If you’re unable to control the paint on the walls, try incorporating soft accent colors through a few pieces of décor. Be careful not to create a space that’s too “busy” and avoid overly saturated colors that over-stimulate the brain. A clear, calming workspace will make for a clearer, calmer mind.
Tune in to tune out.
Working in an environment with a lot of commotion can be especially challenging and will often lead to sensory overload. If your workspace allows for it, try using noise cancelling headphones when necessary or consider listening to soft music through applications such as Spotify. There are playlists specifically designed to encourage productivity and concentration available by performing a simple search. Do you enjoy feeling as though you’re outdoors or in a coffee shop? There are playlists for that, too! Just remember that music preference is again, very individualized, and headphones are usually appreciated by those around you.
One task at a time.
We often think that multi-tasking will deliver productivity, but if you’re anything like me, I usually end up wondering where my day went, what I accomplished and whether I followed through 100 percent. Avoid these feelings of uncertainty by focusing on one task, and one task only. Because it will be inevitable that your work will be interrupted when you suddenly remember that you need to pick up the dry cleaning or call the doctor, begin your day by taking a few minutes to jot down and prioritize everything you need to achieve. Organize your to-do list in an effective way so you can work through obligations as efficiently as possible. The sense of accomplishment when checking off your list is real!
No one wants to feel like they’ve lost 20 years (without rest) when the workday or study session is done. Taking breaks can help prevent brain fatigue and increase overall productivity. Now is the time to set some boundaries for yourself. If you’ve got the ability to do so, try taking a 10 minute break for every 60-90 minutes of work. Use this time to employ some therapeutic strategies such as standing and stretching, walking outdoors or practice a breathing exercise. And always remember to refuel your brain with water and a healthy snack. A lack of adequate hydration begs for brain fatigue and the onset of a headache. Keep a water bottle on hand and carry it with you wherever you go. At some point throughout the day, you’ll likely need to use the restroom and refill your water – both great reasons to take a quick break. Do you often lose track of time and work straight through your breaks? Set an alarm on your phone or computer! There are also applications available such as Stand Up! The Work Break Timer, StandApp, Office Exercise & Stretch and Big Stretch Reminder.