In our changing and busy society, we wanted to hear from business professionals on how they stay awake and focused in the office today. This article is meant to go beyond the traditional caffeinated coffee story. We have rounded up responses from business professionals alike – read on!
A mid day workout - If you have the ability to block out an hour or so, a gym workout will wake you up and keep you up for the afternoon. It will also heighten your awareness and attention. Even 30 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical is enough for most of us. I have discovered that even if I begin a workout feeling tired and distracted, once the adrenalin starts to pump, I feel renewed and wide-awake. And my productivity increases exponentially.
A crossword or numerical puzzle like Sudoko or KenKen - When I need an immediate and accessible quick fix this is my go-to option. These activities focus my attention by forcing me to concentrate on a single specific 'brain' task. They are the equivalent of a brain workout. So the aftereffect is a feeling of increased awareness and creativity because these are the areas in our brain that are stimulated and then mobilized by these sorts of mind games..
A meditation app like Insight Timer or Buddhify. For a more thoughtful experience I find that meditation allows me to gently recalibrate. Sometimes as little as two minutes is enough to calm the mind and to keep the demons of distraction at a distance. Meditation by definition is intended to train the mind not to wander. It is also a useful tool to gain important perspective on life's challenges.
Most important, making sure that you have a passion for your work. When we don't like, or have mixed feelings about, our jobs or careers, it is easy to get distracted, bored, and feel tired or lazy. We don't want to be there so we check out -- literally, by failing to perform our jobs and to meet our commitments. And metaphorically, when we simply lose interest and the ability to focus becomes an enormous burden.
My background: I am a career counselor and executive coach, and considered an expert in job search and in managing life at work. In addition to numerous media appearances, I was selected in 2013 as the official career coach for the movie, Lee Daniels' The Butler. I am also the author of a best-selling career book, The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide, and serve on the advisory board for Men's Fitness Magazine.
If you decide to quote me, please do so as Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide.
“Breath of fire: a tool from the ancient technology of yogic science (kundalini yoga)
It’s a simple yet powerful breath that completely shifts your mood, clears mental fogs and gives you energy.
All you need is 1 minute (work up to 3 minutes) to feel the effects. And you can do it anywhere, your desk, your car, the break room, etc.
Breath of Fire:
powerful inhale and exhale through the nose (mouth closed)
rapid, rhythmic and continuous for at least 60 seconds, work up to 3 minutes
let the belly pump by itself, your focus should be on even inhales and exhales through the nose
removes toxins, expands lung capacity, strengthens nervous system to resist stress.
Turning on a Happy Light Energy Lamp is a great way to wake up and feel fresh in the work place. Offices tend to have low or unnatural lighting. This light source will deliver white light that will lift moods and give the impression of that outdoor sun glow. The spectrum light that is used stimulates the body's natural energy enhancers. This has proven to help with concentration, and during the winter season, this type of addition to your space can make a huge difference.
I enjoy working out first thing in the morning. I've become a morning person for this reason, and I made the switch to morning workouts when I began putting off workouts that I scheduled later in the day for something else that would inevitably come up in my work day. I typically will workout immediately after waking up, somewhere around 5:30-6AM and 5-6 days a week. My workouts fall into 3 different categories: weight-lifting days, running days, and a mental toughness day where I really push myself. The mental toughness days are the ones that give me the most positive mental effects like reduced stress or boost in energy and confidence.” - Rob Hand, founder of MeetMeOutside
Positive Effects of Exercise:
Exercising, even just a little a bit, can make a world of difference for me when it comes to happiness, focus and productivity as an entrepreneur, especially in the winter. The positive effects of working out are well researched and documented and include things like: reducing stress levels, boosting confidence, increasing mental toughness, improving energy levels (less coffee needed!), and learning the values of proper goal setting. But the key to attaining the max level benefits from exercise is consistency. This is the hardest part when it’s snowing like crazy and you want to stay on the couch, but it’s important to stick to a routine and push yourself all year.” - Rob Hand, founder of MeetMeOutside
The standing desk obviously keeps me more engaged. I've found the ability to easily be able to pace back and forth a little bit in front of the desk drastically improves my ability to think.
As for the fruit, I think eating fruit that requires a bit of work to eat and if it's a crisp piece of fruit (like an apple) especially can help perk you up. This idea originally came from a study that found eating apples did more to wake people in the morning compared to sipping coffee.
Music keeps me going. I'm old school, so it's not streaming - have several CDs including Music for Productivity - Mozart for Morning Coffee and even a tranquility CD. They keep me focused and awake and - when I am on deadline - the tranquility music in particular helps me from stressing out.
Stretch- If you sit at a desk for any period of time, you know the feeling of tight hips, a sore neck and an achy back. Combat these sluggish feelings by getting up and stretching a few times a day. This will help you avoid feeling like a slug by 3:00 as well. You should try to do a series of hip, arm and neck stretches 3x a day.
Hydrate- You ladies should all know the benefits of staying hydrated by now! (I think we've covered it a few times :)) Keep a water bottle at your desk and take advantage of those water log apps!
Walk whenever possible- Opt out of taking the elevator and always take the stairs. Try to get a quick walk in on your breaks as well. Sitting for long periods of time can decrease productivity and focus. Get up and get moving ladies! You will feel re-energized and focused.
Take the pets out as soon as you get home- Make it a habit! You are much less likely to get outside once you sit your butt down on that couch and start to zone out. Get out and get some much needed Vitamin D this time of year and show those pups some love. Play fetch or take them for a jog.
Get Organized- Create a schedule for the week and commit to it. Prioritize your day-to-day activities. When you have a well organized schedule, you are less likely to drop your goals.
Chunking - Taking mental breaks every 25-35 minutes
Writing out to Do Lists and checking as I go - to feel more productive and to take a breath and realize how much is being done (the more productive one feels, the better!)
Taking a walk around the neighborhood during my lunch break
Afternoon tea - In Australia this is almost a ritual. Afternoon tea isn't just heating up the kettle and pouring a cup, it usually includes some nibbles to reward one's self for a day almost done!
Stretching. The benefits I've found from a simple stretch (even if it's just in the bathroom if you feel a bit embarrassed to go all out in the office) every other hour, have been immense. I'm sure many will recommend Yoga, but for the non-yogis out there, even just an over the head arm stretch can keep you mentally and physically alert!
Adequate hydration, NOT coffee! I love teaching signs/symptoms of low-grade dehydration. When people recognize them, they learn that more water makes a huge difference.
Identifying and eliminating personal food sensitivities! That's my life's work. Once people learn what foods are harming them, and get them out of their diet, they are amazed at how much more energy and alertness they have all day!
BESIDES the coffee (1/2 cup equivalent of caffeine, coffee or tea) PLUS 1 ounce or so of a good carb (oats/granola, toast) can increase serotonin levels and cause more alertness.
Consider a sleep study if you have ever been told you snore. . . if snoring, often sleep apnea as well, and not getting quality sleep, thus, afternoon fatigue. Take a power nap if you have a 10 min coffee break IF naps work for you. (They do NOT for me!)
"Squash training during my lunch break helps reset my brain. Exercising clears my head, so I can return to work in the afternoon completely refreshed and more open to creative thinking. I've found that my midday squash break increases my energy and even my productivity. Giving intense focus to my work has become so much easier. Essentially, squash has shortened my workday into two manageable sprints rather than a taxing marathon."
One of the best ways to stay focused in life - get curious! Curiosity draws us in and helps us stay engaged in all aspects of work. In conversations, curiosity helps us stay focused on others, asking questions that help us to better understand their perspectives, their ideas and their needs, all of which are so important in meetings and leadership. While completely our work, curiosity helps us stay focused on producing the best work we can as we explore how we are working, what we are doing, and are thoughtful about the best, the most innovative ways of completing projects, tasks etc. It provides an energy that helps us connect with ourselves and others.
When we are curious we are intentional, able to truly focus on whatever is before us. We believe curiosity is comprised of 3 skills, all of which we used as children and which tend to fade away as we get older. These skills include:
Be present to ABSORB what is been said verbally and with body language and tone of voice;
Choose to listen in a way that is open, non-judging of the other person - be it the words they use, their tone of voice, body language or even their appearance
Ask open, curious questions that help connect with the other person and help you better understand their perspective, what holds meaning for them.
Curiosity is better than caffeine, better than sugar and at least as good as fresh air and exercise. It helps us engage, stay connected and focused on what we are doing. We believe it is THE skill of the 21st century!
Having a rubber band
I keep a rubber band on my wrist and whenever my attention diverts off of the task I sling myself. The minor pain wakes me up and gets me focused again.
I have a mini dart board where I play a game or two with the colleagues around me. However, I must finish my agenda list for the day before I play a game.
Posture chair add-on
I've notice I get lazier/sleepy when I don't have good posture. Therefore, I bought one of those posture chair add-ons and it gives me the little back support I need and the pick me up I need to survive throughout the day.
1. Go for a quick walk
2. Drink Kombucha with a high protein snack
3. Take an afternoon workout break
4. Sounds crazy but if you stop and do 10 pushups it gets the heart pumping
I make completing items on my to-do list a game. By giving myself a limited amount of time to complete tasks, it becomes a game of how many things I can get done in X amount of time?. It's exciting, increases my productivity, and makes me feel great when I reflect on how much I've accomplished.
Healthy eating is essential for staying awake and focused. I make a smoothie in the morning with coffee, a banana, protein powder and almond milk. That way, I have the caffeine and protein combo to keep me full and alert. I also have a mid-day green smoothie to refocus and give me energy for the rest of the day.
Do a few squats. I work from home, so if I start feeling restless, I move away from my desk and do a few sets of squats. The heart rate increase wakes me up, as does the circulation.
Ever since I have started going from light to heavy meals throughout the day, my work productivity has improved greatly because I don't get the same afternoon fatigue and lose focus. It's simple and really helps keep my body happy and focused throughout the day. On most days, I even avoid that afternoon energy slump.
I spend long hours at my computer and I work from a home office. The best way I found to stay away and focused during the day is to watch what I eat. I have found bad digestion to be the fastest way to a nap and failed productivity.
Instead, I start my days off eating very light and avoid eating a large breakfast and lunch. I'll start my day with warm lemon water and then have a smoothie or fresh fruit and a bowl of steel cut oats. I prefer to eat giant salads at lunch. Finally, I save the heaviest meal for dinner and eat it on the early side so I'm not going to bed feeling stuffed.
My secret for staying awake and alert is to drink a spoon full of Honey and Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with 16oz of water. The Honey is sourced from local bee farms, store bought Honey is not pure and contains additives. I also like to take a half of a good multi-vitamin that contains B Vitamins which are good for energy and metabolism. Taking a whole Vitamin is unnecessary in my opinion as they often contain 100-200% of your daily value needs. Probiotics like acidophilus are good for your digestion as well. The more efficient your digestion, the less sluggish you will feel throughout the day.
Eliminate a “to do” list and set up a project list and reserve allotted time to do it. I use Wrike.com to manage projects and set the timer. Or you can set on your smart phone.
I also create days to make calls and conduct meetings so that you are not doing meetings every day which often times can be counter-productive.
I am a firm believer in short walks for lunch. I never have my lunch delivered. I am either going to pick it up or bringing it back to my office.
I also believe in taking a 15-minute break to listen to music, podcast or youtube video to help boost creativity and energy flow.
My go-to activity for keeping me awake is going outside and walking in the middle of the workday, no matter how cold or hot it is or if it is raining or snowing. Moving about forces me to remove myself from my work and clear my head so I can recenter when I get back to my computer. It is simple, free, and very effective.
I've found I'm MUCH more focused and alert since switching over to a standing desk. It's amazing how much more energy and focus I have now that I'm not slumped in a desk chair all day.
And even more so - I stand on a balance board (I know you're not looking for product reviews, but fyi I use the FluidStance Level which keeps me even more alert!
I think the mind/body connection really kicks in when I'm actually using my body to stand and balance - when I used to sit for hours and hours each day I'd feel sluggish and unmotivated. Now my body is engaged at a higher level, and my brain is definitely benefitting.
There are a lot of studies that talk about how sitting is the new smoking re all the health benefits of not sitting all day - but I've found that using a standing desk and balance board also really helps with focus.
Maintaining energy throughout the workday can be a struggle. Sometimes we didn't get a great night sleep, other times we feel burned out by our work. Whatever the reason, we know we must stay energized and focused. With proper techniques, however, it can be simple to keep your motivation and productivity up. Below are three tips to stay awake and focused in the workplace today.
Taking a walk around the building or around the block can have many positive effects. Getting your blood flowing by moving your legs can give you a bit of energy when you are feeling tired. Taking a 5 minute break from your work allows your mind to relax a bit and when you return to work you can be more focused. The longer we work without a break, the slower your pace becomes and the less productive output becomes. Taking reasonable breaks is known to improve time management, creativity and focus.
Taking 10 minutes at the beginning, middle or end of the day temporarily takes us away from the stresses or anxieties in front of us. Relaxing the mind and body through breathing exercises lowers the heart rate which improves concentration. Because meditation is the practice of focusing, it helps to train the mind to maintain focus more effectively.
Drinking water or having a small snack can pack an unexpected punch. Foods such as apples, nuts, yogurt for example have healthy sugars and carbs that can give you a bit of energy when you are feeling lethargic. A cold glass of water might be the thing you need to wake up.