Focusing on the process. What causes distractions during options trading

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Find Focus: 3 Simple Ways to Conquer Work Distractions

According to a study from the University of California, Irvine, the average office worker has focused periods of just eleven minutes in-between a constant barrage of interruptions.

I was shocked when I read that, and didn’t quite believe it. But then I paid attention to how much typing I did in this article before my attention drifted to something else. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the time I focus for less than eleven minutes before being distracted.

So I need to know as much as anyone how to overcome the temptation of distractions that abound in the modern workplace.

How Distractions Affect Us

The world is not acting in our long-term benefit. Imagine you walk down the street and every store is trying to get your money right now; in your pocket you have a phone and every app wants to control your attention right now. Most of the entities in our lives really want us to make mistakes in their favor. So the world is making things very, very difficult. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely

If you get distracted as easily as I do, don’t feel alone. It turns out most people get distracted very easily, and very often.

According to David Rock, executive director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work, one study found office distractions eat up over two hours on average every day.

But being distracted isn’t the worst part. We’re also not too good at getting back to work after being distracted. Rock says after an interruption it takes most of us 25 minutes to get back on track with our work.

…there’s no way not to be distracted by distractions, it’s built into the brain in the way we pay attention to novelty. David Rock

Another study tested how people reacted to distractions while they completed complicated computer-based tasks. The study tested short (about two seconds long) and long (about four seconds) distractions to test how the different lengths of interruption affected the participants’ focus. It turns out, even very short distractions can affect our focus and performance. The effects were similar across both lengths of distractions, with participants losing their place and making mistakes more often after both short and longer distractions.

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Distracting colleagues

Part of the reason we struggle with distractions, according to Alan Hedge, a “workplace design expert” at Cornell University, is that humans are social creatures, which makes us innately curious about other people. As a result, it’s hard for us to tune other people out.

Apart from humans, we’re also terrible at ignoring anything that’s unpredictable. When you combine these two weaknesses, you can see why research has shown that overhearing just one side of a conversation is one of the worst distractions we humans can face. Because we struggle to predict the flow of a conversation when we can only hear one side of it, hearing a colleague on the phone, for instance, is particularly hard to tune out from.

And, surprisingly, putting up temporary walls between cubicles to separate co-workers in open office spaces can make this problem worse. The problem is that having visible walls can make us talk louder than we otherwise would, because we feel more protected from others in the room, but we actually end up distracting our colleagues even more.

Overcoming Distraction

So we know that we all get distracted—a lot. And we know that the worst distractions are those created by other people, and anything that’s unpredictable.

But what can we do to keep our focus when distractions abound and we have work to do?

1. Change your context

Brian Wansink is a professor at Cornell who studies eating behavior. Now, this may sound unrelated, but Wansink’s work has shown something that proves relevant in terms of distractions, as well.

According to Wansink, context makes a bigger difference to our eating habits than anything else:

Everyoneevery single one of useats how much we eat largely because of what’s around us.

When food is closer, says Wansink, we eat more. And when food is further away, we eat less:

People ate half as much if we simply moved the candy dish off their desk and placed it six feet away.

So how is this relevant to fighting distraction? The key is that context affects us in a big way. When something is in reach and easy to get to, we’ll grab it, eat it, or pay attention to it.

But making candy that little bit more effort to eat makes us less likely to do so. Now, not all of us want to eat less candy, but the same strategy can prove effective in other areas. For instance, if you’re trying to smoke less or drink less coffee it would make sense to keep those vices away from you—and perhaps bring the candy dish a little closer.

We can use this same theory for distractions. Changing the context around you can increase your focus, simply by making focusing easier.

  • Use an app like SelfControl or a browser extension like StayFocused to make it harder to visit distracting websites like Facebook or YouTube
  • Move your desk or spend time in a spare meeting room to avoid working near co-workers you enjoy chatting with (or those who have loud phone calls at their desks)
  • Keep your phone far away during focused work periods, so it takes more time and effort to check it

The key is to set up your environment to encourage focus and make getting distracted harder and less likely.

Focused task management.

2. Wean yourself off digital distractions

If digital distractions are your downfall, psychology professor Larry Rosen suggests slowly weaning yourself off your digital vices. Rosen says it’s not uncommon to feel anxious when we can’t check our phones, and to rely on them for regular bouts of distraction from work we don’t want to do.

Many people, regardless of age, check their smartphones every 15 minutes or less and become anxious if they aren’t allowed to do so.

Here’s Rosen’s suggested process for weaning yourself off the habit of constantly checking various devices:

  • Check every device and digital distraction you want to: email, Facebook, Instagram, everything.
  • Turn off all digital distractions. Use an app or extension like I mentioned above to block websites if necessary, turn off your phone or tablet, or silence them and put them far away from you.
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes and spend that time focusing on your work.
  • When the 15 minutes is up, give yourself one minute to check your devices and websites as much as you want. But only one minute.
  • Repeat this process until you don’t struggle to focus for the entire 15-minute period.

Once 15 minutes is easy for you, increase the length of your timer. Keep increasing it, so it’s always a little stretch, until you can easily ignore digital distractions for an hour or more.

3. Don’t take the first step

For David Rock, one of the most important ways to overcome our tendency to get distracted is to stop taking those first steps. When a distraction tries to grab your attention, Rock suggests staying calm, taking a breath, and purposely choosing to not react to it.

Once you take the first step—for instance, opening your inbox—it’s a lot harder to stop yourself continuing with the distraction—in this case, reading your emails. Rock says stopping ourselves from those initial actions can help us to avoid the time-wasting actions they lead to.

It also helps us feel more in-control, says Alex Korb, a neuroscientist at UCLA, because we’re consciously choosing to not give in to the distraction. Reminding ourselves of our goals and why we want to stay focused, can release a hit of dopamine to make us feel good about choosing to stay focused.

Researching how to overcome distractions didn’t make me a master of it immediately, but I do feel more confident now that I have these different strategies to use.

And if nothing else, I definitely learned that I’m not alone—getting distracted is a concern for everyone in the modern workplace. But with these strategies to try, I’m sure we can all get back that elusive state of focus we’ve been missing.

Focus: The Ultimate Guide on How to Improve Focus and Concentration

Focus and concentration can be difficult to master. Sure, most people want to learn how to improve focus and boost concentration. But actually doing it? We live in a noisy world and constant distractions can make focus difficult.

Luckily, this page contains the best ideas and top research on how to get and stay focused. We will break down the science behind sharpening your mind and paying attention to what matters. Whether you’re looking to focus on your goals in life or business, this page should cover everything you need to know.

You can click the links below to jump to a particular section or simply scroll down to read everything. At the end of this page, you’ll find a complete list of all the articles I have written on focus.

I. Focus: What It Is and How it Works

II. How to Focus and Increase Your Attention Span

III. Mind-Hacks for Getting Focused

I. Focus: What It Is and How it Works

First things first. What is focus, really? Experts define focus as the act of concentrating your interest or activity on something. That’s a somewhat boring definition, but there is an important insight hiding inside that definition.

What is Focus?

In order to concentrate on one thing you must, by default, ignore many other things.

Here’s a better way to put it:

Focus can only occur when we have said yes to one option and no to all other options. In other words, elimination is a prerequisite for focus. As Tim Ferriss says, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.”

Of course, focus doesn’t require a permanent no, but it does require a present no. You always have the option to do something else later, but in the present moment focus requires that you only do one thing. Focus is the key to productivity because saying no to every other option unlocks your ability to accomplish the one thing that is left.

Now for the important question: What can we do to focus on the things that matter and ignore the things that don’t?

Before we talk about how to get started, let’s pause for just a second. If you’re enjoying this article on focus, then you’ll probably find my other writing on performance and human behavior useful. Each week, I share self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research through my free email newsletter.

To join now, just enter your email address below and click “Get Updates!”

Don’t see a signup form? Send me a message here and I’ll add you right away.

Why Can’t I Focus?

Most people don’t have trouble with focusing. They have trouble with deciding.

What I mean is that most healthy humans have a brain that is capable of focusing if we get the distractions out of the way. Have you ever had a task that you absolutely had to get done? What happened? You got it done because the deadline made the decision for you. Maybe you procrastinated beforehand, but once things became urgent and you were forced to make a decision, you took action.

Instead of doing the difficult work of choosing one thing to focus on, we often convince ourselves that multitasking is a better option. This is ineffective.

The Myth of Multitasking

Technically, we are capable of doing two things at the same time. It is possible, for example, to watch TV while cooking dinner or to answer an email while talking on the phone.

What is impossible, however, is concentrating on two tasks at once. You’re either listening to the TV and the overflowing pot of pasta is background noise, or you’re tending to the pot of pasta and the TV is background noise. During any single instant, you are concentrating on one or the other.

Multitasking forces your brain to switch your focus back and forth very quickly from one task to another. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the human brain could transition seamlessly from one job to the next, but it can’t.

Have you ever been in the middle of writing an email when someone interrupts you? When the conversation is over and you get back to the message, it takes you a few minutes to get your bearings, remember what you were writing, and get back on track. Something similar happens when you multitask. Multitasking forces you to pay a mental price each time you interrupt one task and jump to another. In psychology terms, this mental price is called the switching cost.

Switching cost is the disruption in performance that we experience when we switch our focus from one area to another. One study, published in the International Journal of Information Management in 2003, found that the typical person checks email once every five minutes and that, on average, it takes 64 seconds to resume the previous task after checking your email.

In other words, because of email alone, we typically waste one out of every six minutes.

The myth of multitasking is that it will make you more effective. In reality, remarkable focus is what makes the difference. (Image inspired by Jessica Hagy.)

II. How to Focus and Increase Your Attention Span

Let’s talk about how to overcome our tendency to multitask and focus on one thing at a time. Of the many options in front of you, how do you know what to focus on? How do you know where to direct your energy and attention? How do you determine the one thing that you should commit to doing?

Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy for Focused Attention

One of my favorite methods for focusing your attention on what matters and eliminating what doesn’t comes from the famous investor Warren Buffett.

Buffett uses a simple 3-step productivity strategy to help his employees determine their priorities and actions. You may find this method useful for making decisions and getting yourself to commit to doing one thing right away. Here’s how it works…

One day, Buffett asked his personal pilot to go through the 3-step exercise.

STEP 1: Buffett started by asking the pilot, named Mike Flint, to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down. (Note: You could also complete this exercise with goals for a shorter timeline. For example, write down the top 25 things you want to accomplish this week.)

STEP 2: Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.

STEP 3: At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A, and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.

Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. And that’s when Buffett asked him about the second list, “And what about the ones you didn’t circle?”

Flint replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”

To which Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

I love Buffett’s method because it forces you to make hard decisions and eliminate things that might be good uses of time, but aren’t great uses of time. So often the tasks that derail our focus are ones that we can easily rationalize spending time on.

This is just one way to narrow your focus and eliminate distractions. I’ve covered many other methods before like The Ivy Lee Method and The Eisenhower Box. That said, no matter what method you use and no matter how committed you are, at some point your concentration and focus begin to fade. How can you increase your attention span and remain focused?

There are two simple steps you can take.

Measure Your Results

The first thing you can do is to measure your progress.

Focus often fades because of lack of feedback. Your brain has a natural desire to know whether or not you are making progress toward your goals, and it is impossible to know that without getting feedback. From a practical standpoint, this means that we need to measure our results.

We all have areas of life that we say are important to us, but that we aren’t measuring. That’s a shame because measurement maintains focus and concentration. The things we measure are the things we improve. It is only through numbers and clear tracking that we have any idea if we are getting better or worse.

  • When I measured how many pushups I did, I got stronger.
  • When I tracked my reading habit of 20 pages per day, I read more books.
  • When I recorded my values, I began living with more integrity.

The tasks I measured were the ones I remained focused on.

Unfortunately, we often avoid measuring because we are fearful of what the numbers will tell us about ourselves. The trick is to realize that measuring is not a judgment about who you are, it’s just feedback on where you are.

Measure to discover, to find out, to understand. Measure to get to know yourself better. Measure to see if you’re actually spending time on the things that are important to you. Measure because it will help you focus on the things that matter and ignore the things that don’t.

Focus on the Process, Not the Event

The second thing you can do to maintain long-term focus is to concentrate on processes, not events. All too often, we see success as an event that can be achieved and completed.

Here are some common examples:

  • Many people see health as an event: “If I just lose 20 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.”
  • Many people see entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our business featured in the New York Times, then we’d be set.”
  • Many people see art as an event: “If I could just get my work featured in a bigger gallery, then I’d have the credibility I need.”

Those are just a few of the many ways that we categorize success as a single event. But if you look at the people who stay focused on their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s the commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event.

What’s funny, of course, is that this focus on the process is what will allow you to enjoy the results anyway.

  • If you want to be a great writer, then having a best-selling book is wonderful. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of writing.
  • If you want the world to know about your business, then it would be great to be featured in Forbes magazine. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of marketing.
  • If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing 20 pounds might be necessary. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently.
  • If you want to become significantly better at anything, you have to fall in love with the process of doing it. You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want.

Focusing on outcomes and goals is our natural tendency, but focusing on processes leads to more results over the long-run.

III. Concentration and Focus Mind-Hacks

Even after you’ve learned to love the process and know how to stay focused on your goals, the day-to-day implementation of those goals can still be messy. Let’s talk about some additional ways to improve concentration and make sure you’re giving each task your focused attention.

How to Improve Concentration

Here are few additional ways to improve your focus and get started on what matters.

Choose an anchor task. One of the major improvements I’ve made recently is to assign one (and only one) priority to each work day. Although I plan to complete other tasks during the day, my priority task is the one non-negotiable thing that must get done. I call this my “anchor task” because it is the mainstay that holds the rest of my day in place. The power of choosing one priority is that it naturally guides your behavior by forcing you to organize your life around that responsibility.

Manage your energy, not your time. If a task requires your full attention, then schedule it for a time of day when you have the energy needed to focus. For example, I have noticed that my creative energy is highest in the morning. That’s when I’m fresh. That’s when I do my best writing. That’s when I make the best strategic decisions about my business. So, what do I do? I schedule creative tasks for the morning. All other business tasks are taken care of in the afternoon. This includes doing interviews, responding to emails, phone calls and Skype chats, data analysis and number crunching. Nearly every productivity strategy obsesses over managing your time better, but time is useless if you don’t have the energy you need to complete the task you are working on.

Never check email before noon. Focus is about eliminating distractions. Email can be one of the biggest distractions of all. If I don’t check email at the beginning of the day, then I am able to spend the morning pursuing my own agenda rather than reacting to everybody else’s agenda. That’s a huge win because I’m not wasting mental energy thinking about all the messages in my inbox. I realize that waiting until the afternoon isn’t feasible for many people, but I’d like to offer a challenge. Can you wait until 10AM? What about 9AM? 8:30AM? The exact cutoff time doesn’t matter. The point is to carve out time during your morning when you can focus on what is most important to you without letting the rest of the world dictate your mental state.

Leave your phone in another room. I usually don’t see my phone for the first few hours of the day. It is much easier to do focused work when you don’t have any text messages, phone calls, or alerts interrupting your focus.

Work in full screen mode. Whenever I use an application on my computer, I use full screen mode. If I’m reading an article on the web, my browser takes up the whole screen. If I’m writing in Evernote, I’m working in full screen mode. If I’m editing a picture in Photoshop, it is the only thing I can see. I have set up my desktop so that the menu bar disappears automatically. When I am working, I can’t see the time, the icons of other applications, or any other distractions on the screen. It’s funny how big of a difference this makes for my focus and concentration. If you can see an icon on your screen, then you will be reminded to click on it occasionally. However, if you remove the visual cue, then the urge to be distracted subsides in a few minutes.

Remove all tasks that could distract from early morning focus. I love doing the most important thing first each day because the urgencies of the day have not crept in yet. I have gone a little far in this regard in that I have even pushed my first meal off until about noon each day. I have been intermittent fasting for three years now (here are some lessons learned), which means that I typically eat most of my meals between 12PM and 8PM. The result is that I get some additional time in the morning to do focused work rather than cook breakfast.

Regardless of what strategy you use, just remember that anytime you find the world distracting you, all you need to do is commit to one thing. In the beginning, you don’t even have to succeed. You just need to get started.

Where to Go From Here

I hope you found this short guide on focus useful. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to improve your focus and concentration, feel free to browse the full list of articles below.

How to Focus: 5 Ways to Overcome Distractions at Work

When I was a sophomore in college, I developed a terrible addiction to Facebook. By the time finals week arrived, I couldn’t go 30 minutes without a dose of dog videos.

I was officially distracted. And after a week of all-nighters, I realized my attention span was inferior to a squirrel’s.

Checking my RescueTime dashboard confirmed that I could only concentrate on distracting videos … and not my books. I had spent 50% of the week on Facebook, which means I could’ve actually slept before each exam. Why couldn’t I focus on my studies during the most critical time of the school year?

Distractions can infest any place of work. They might seem tiny in the grand scheme of things, but when compounded together, they can ravage your productivity. In fact, entire companies lose 31 hours per week to attention-sucking activities. That’s like losing the contributions of a whole employee.

Fortunately, I’ve researched some science-backed tips for maintaining focus, interviewed HubSpot employees about their concentration habits, and fleshed out the deepest insights in this blog post. So take a look at these five productivity hacks to effectively overcome distractions and stay laser-focused at work.

How to Focus at Work: 5 Productivity Hacks

1) Plan the work day around one main project.

Do you “eat the frog” first thing in the morning? Or do you just plop it on your desk and let it fester, reminding you that the worst part of the day is still yet to come?

Prioritizing your main project ahead of lesser tasks on your to-do list is crucial for productivity. Humans possess a cognitive bias towards completing as many tasks as possible — because regardless of magnitude, finishing something always feels amazing.

This is why we tend to work on a lot of easy, short tasks first, while putting our main project on the back burner.

Crossing things off your list is addicting. But don’t give into the temptation of completing the simple tasks first. Since they’re short and quick, you can easily finish them at the end of the day. Your major tasks have much more pressing deadlines and require a lot of time and effort. So do the big tasks first to avoid scrambling through them last minute.

Jami Oetting, who manages HubSpot’s content strategy team, plans her week out so she can eat the frog every morning.

“I start the week listing off all my priorities prior to my team’s weekly stand-up meeting on Monday. This is my time to consider all the projects the team is working on, what needs to get done by the end of the week, and how I could be most effective,” she says. “Then, I map out the tasks that need more focus or larger chunks of time to accomplish. After prioritizing this list, I’ll block off time on my calendar to accomplish one ‘big’ project each morning.”

Your brain’s peak performance period starts two hours after you wake up, and lasts until lunch time. So why waste these optimal morning hours on things you could do in your sleep?

The end of the day is also the worst time for doing meaningful work. You’ve already exhausted your daily energy on an assortment of trivial tasks. So when it’s time to chip away at your main project, you’ll either drown in complacency completing it or put if off until the next day, repeating a vicious cycle of procrastination.

2) Block the obvious distractions for greater focus.

Your phone buzzes. A new like on Instagram! Did the picture get as many likes on Facebook? You click to open a new tab. The funniest Chevy ad spoof is the first post on your newsfeed. This is must-see content.

20 minutes later, you’re reading an article about Mark Zuckerberg running for president when your manager walks by your desk. Which reminds you … your blog post is due tomorrow. And all you’ve written is the meta description.

Does this sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone because it happens to everyone. It’s also the reason why it takes 23 minutes for people to refocus on their original task after an interruption. Distractions breed more distractions.

So right when you walk into the office, throw your phone in your desk drawer and keep it there all day. Lock it up if you can. And download a site blocker like Block Site or StayFocusd to restrict access from all the websites that veer you off the path of productivity.

Even email, which is supposed to streamline the day, sidetracks you. In fact, we spend 20.5 hours of our work week reading and answering emails. That’s half of our work week! So if an uptick in unread emails always seems to lure you away from your current task, don’t open your Gmail tab in the morning.

Remember, unless it’s an absolute emergency, you can respond to anyone’s email within a few hours. So designate time blocks for internal communication. This way, you can channel your undivided attention on a major project and slash the time wasted switching from one task to another.

Sophia Bernazzani, a staff writer for HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, blocks off time for both email and Slack to maintain her concentration throughout the day.

“It’s impossible to focus if I have too many incoming notifications. So I commit to only answering emails at the beginning and end of my day,” she says. “I also set myself as offline on Slack and snooze my notifications to minimize distractions when I’m working and save them for when I’m taking a break between tasks.”

3) Take short breaks.

Do you pride yourself on lunch being your only break? Do you believe allocating the rest of your attention on work is the only way to achieve optimal productivity?

Well, according to researchers at the University of Illinois, constantly working without a break actually hampers concentration over time. Taking short breaks throughout the day is what sustains your focus.

“Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,” says Alejandro Lieras, the experiment’s leader. “And if sustained attention to a sensation makes that sensation vanish from our awareness, sustained attention to a thought should also lead to that thought’s disappearance from our mind!”

Lieras describes a psychological tendency called habituation. An example of this is putting your shirt on in the morning and noticing the feeling of smooth cloth touching your skin. But after some time, your brain acclimates to the shirt and you won’t sense its softness anymore.

The same thing happens with work. Applying nonstop tunnel vision to a project actually withers your attention to it over time.

The brain is wired to recognize and react to change. So take mental breaks to let your brain distance itself from your work. When you return, you’ll perceive your current task with a fresher lens and engage more deeply with it.

Alicia Collins, a multimedia content strategist at HubSpot, considers mental rest a pivotal part of the creative process.

“Taking short breaks throughout the day is a great way to sort out your priorities and boost your focus. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck on a particular issue, I take some time to eat lunch away from my desk or go for a walk around the block,” she says. “These simple activities help clear my head and enable me to tackle problems from a new, creative angle.”

There are several productivity techniques that leverage short mental breaks, like the pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes. A study by the Draugiem Group also discovered that the employees with the highest productivity spent 52 minutes working, followed by 17 minutes of rest.

You can test each method and stick to the one that enhances your focus and productivity the most.

4) Don’t stuff yourself at lunch.

I have a love-hate relationship with the food coma. By noon everyday, I’m so starved that I gobble up the most filling meal I can find. It tastes incredible. And after devouring my plate, I love placing my hands on my bloated belly, admiring the fact that I’m full and satisfied.

When it’s time to get back to work, though, you’ll find me slumped in my chair. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. So I just sit there and barely even attempt the easy tasks on my to-do list.

Eating rich meals fulfills your hunger, but it also dulls your mental acuity. Your digestive system expends so much energy digesting all the fat and carbs that it chokes the circulation of oxygen to your brain. This devastates your ability to focus.

One way to resist a daily indulgence is to snack on light, healthy foods throughout the morning. This stabilizes your blood sugar and combats growling-stomach hunger. You’ll notice you’ll eat less and select healthier options for lunch, allowing you to stay sharp for the rest of the day.

Karla Cook, a HubSpot Marketing Blog editor, usually eats a salad with whole grains and vegan protein for lunch, and avoids anything processed. Her motivation? To be productive in the afternoon, she needs to feel good.

“When you eat bad things, you feel bad. It’s pretty much instant retribution,” she says. “Eating a solid, healthy lunch is a super simple way to set the course of your afternoon.”

5) Limit Auditory Distractions.

Background noise in the office — like colleague chatter or the clacking of a keyboard — can shatter concentration. According to several studies, ambient noise causes stress, which triggers a release of cortisol into your body.

Cortisol is designed to ease that initial stress, so your body can return to homeostasis. But too much cortisol disrupts your prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that regulates your ability to plan, reason, and remember things.

These subtle, but potent noises will fracture your focus, so invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or find a quiet space to work.

Aja Frost, a staff writer for HubSpot’s Sales Blog, likes to explore every nook and crannie of HubSpot’s Cambridge office to find her own quiet spaces.

“I look for places that are slightly tucked away, like a booth or a small table. These places are always really quiet — and free from distraction,” she says. “When I’m ready for a more social atmosphere, I’ll go back to my desk or an area of the office that gets more people randomly walking by.”

How do you maintain your focus? Teach us your productivity hacks on Twitter!

Originally published Jul 7, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2020

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