Your on-again-off-again boyfriend is being off again and it’s bugging the bajeezus out of you. You’ve got a bug infestation at home and you can’t stop thinking how disgusting and frustrating it is. You’ve finally hit your afternoon slump. Whatever the reason, concentration in the office can often be a hard thing to maintain. This is particularly true if you’re prone to anxiety or attention disorders.
While I’m certainly no expert, I have found a few ways to combat disinterest and make the time you put in as productive as possible:
Stretch your legs
Sometimes sitting into front of a
computer screen with limited human interaction and no window on the outside
world (literally) can make distraction or your workday slump feel pretty
depressing. Eating lunch outside can be a great way to combat this feeling. If
it’s after 1, simply put on your DND and circle the building a few times. Or,
if you're feeling stir crazy and the weather isn’t cooperating, walk to another
part of the building and do a couple of laps.
Give yourself a soundtrack
Keep your MP3 player or computer-friendly
headphones with you so you can play music. Just like taking a run or a fitness
class, music can help you get your brain back on the right track. If I'm
feeling lethargic, some high-energy techno or reggaeton will help perk me up; if
I'm getting depressed from all the work piling up in my inbox, some happy pop
music will help improve my mood and my effectiveness; if I'm feeling like I'm
about to fly apart and can't concentrate -- or if I've got a tension headache
and anything with a strong beat just aggravates it -- some soft jazz or even
classical music will help cool my jets and get my head back in the game.
If it’s really bad, change tasks for a moment.
If your eyes are about to cross from
looking at the same page for an hour, you might not need a break from your
desk, just a break from the task at hand. Switch to another item on your to-do
list, stay with it long enough to give your brain a change of pace, then toggle
back to your first task and finish it up. This way, your brain burn isn't diminishing
If the problem is physical, cure whatever distraction is making it hardest for you to work.
Get a snack, get a drink, take some Advil, put on some headphones, stretch out that knot in your back -- do whatever it takes to reduce whatever unrelated thing keeps snagging your attention and making work feel impossible. Keep small snacks in a drawer or bag at your desk and bring your favorite beverages with you (so you don't have to pay the inflated vending machine price). Also, know where over the counter pain killers are kept, or keep a small stash in your purse for emergencies. Within reason, do whatever it takes to get comfy so you can get back to work.