Denise Krebs

Do you struggle to complete projects at home or tasks at work? You plan to get the job done but somehow your plan falls apart and your list of things to do is now longer instead of shorter. The problem isn’t always with your plan. Sometimes the problem is your mind set.

Life is busy, there are so many distractions: email, your enormous “to do” list, that important thing you should have finished last week. And then there’s social stuff, Facebook, Twitter or any of the other social platforms that distract us from finishing those things we need to do.

Have you ever found yourself wrapping up your day without completing one task you set out to do? Now there’s a distraction! Feeling overwhelmed and scattered before you even start your day?

By changing a few things in your daily routine you can dramatically improve mental focus.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve your mental focus and get more done:

1. Avoid over caffeinating.

After a couple of big cups of coffee muscles tense, heart rate increases, hands get cold. All of these things make the body feel a need to get up and move around, not sit and focus on the task at hand.

Do you drink more than one big cup before you begin your day? That alone could be affecting your ability to focus. Drinking less caffeine will help you find focus and get into a state of flow. Try decaf coffee, rooibos tea or matte. There are so many options that will warm you up and not string you out.

2. Meditate.

Do you want to start your day free of stress? Feeling in a great mood? Who doesn’t? Mediation is proven to de-stress and increase serotonin, our happy molecules, leaving you feeling calm and positive. This is the frame of mind you need to focus. Meditating can be simple. All it requires is a comfortable position, a peaceful place and 5 minutes to focus on one thing: the sounds in a song, your breathing, details in a picture.

3. Design a plan and chunk it down.

Are there a lot of big things you need to complete? Making a list or mapping a plan is key to keeping you on track to getting things done. Most people make lists too long and too broad. Doing so makes them feel overwhelmed, then stuck Effective lists or plans need to be specific with larger tasks broken into bite size bits. Larger projects can be complex so breaking them down into small actionable steps will help you get the job done. Plans don’t need to start with lists. If you are a more creative visual learner mind mapping a task may be a great way to prioritize.

4. Get the minutia out of the way.

Let’s face it there are things we have to do every day besides the work in front of us. The minutia, that stuff can get in the way. Get those tasks done first or when necessary. Don’t fixate on them, they come up every day. Do what you have to do and get back to your project. Organizing your work space helps with this: Sort, make neat stacks, slot in drawers. Separate the minutia from the task at hand and free your mind to focus.

5. Delay gratification.

It’s proven people are always more focused if they are working toward something. A reward, recognition, whatever. Dangling a carrot is a great way to keep things moving forward. Just make sure not to reward yourself to soon. Make sure you’ve accomplished what you wanted to get done. That makes the reward all the sweeter with a little more serotonin thrown in the mix as well.

What time of day do you feel most productive? Plan to accomplish your biggest or most important tasks when you feel you do your best work. Avoid multitasking, this behavior can be a killer for mental focus. Changing a few things in your daily routine and focusing on one thing at a time will help you get more done, quicker.