By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Summer: for many of us, it’s the best part of the year. It’s the season of outdoor dining, beach vacations and day trips, weekend pool parties, and casual daywear. What’s not to love? That said, if you’ve noticed that you tend to feel distracted from your priorities in your working life during the warmest, sunniest months, you’re far from alone. Are you concerned about how to stay focused on work and your personal goals this summer? You’ve come to the right place: I have six great tips to help you manage your priorities. And don’t worry: there’s plenty of room for fun.
Some of the most effective strategies for how to focus on work begin hours before you arrive at the office. You’ve heard it said a thousand times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But when was the last time you also did something good for your mental wellness in the early hours? This summer, make a point of revisiting your most important priorities each morning. If you’re an early bird, you may enjoy journaling for mental health to help you tune into your daily goals. Take just a few minutes to explore your thoughts, feelings, and worries in writing.
Don’t think you can get up in time to shower, get dressed, have breakfast, and make a journal entry? Hey, we aren’t all morning people. If you’re pressed for time, try incorporating some simple mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques into your morning routine. Even simple deep breathing exercises while you’re showering, eating, or waiting for your bus or train can have major benefits. You’ll arrive at your desk feeling calm, focused, and ready to achieve.
It’s definitely not easy to stay present and productive at work if you’re consistently distracted by FOMO (fear of missing out). And, in the age of social media, it’s easy to feel like everyone else is enjoying the summer more than you are. This summer, make a point of planning day trips, long weekends, and vacations well in advance. You’ll give yourself something concrete to look forward to when it seems like you’re the only one not living it up.
Also, trips and other summer events that break up your routine can help you return to work feeling rejuvenated. So be sure to put some dates on the calendar for sun, sand, and whatever else you love about the season.
Fun fact: July 1 is the last day in the first half of the year. (Make a minor adjustment for a leap year, if need be!) Now is the perfect time to circle back to the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of this year. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Have you kept them? If not, don’t be disappointed in yourself. After all, you still have half the year to knock them out of the park.
If you’ve fallen short on some of your personal or professional goals, you might stop to ask why. What changes could you make to help yourself? Take some time to brainstorm how to achieve your goals and write down some strategies for yourself. And take stock of what hasn’t worked. If something you’ve tried for months has gotten you nowhere, it’s okay to ditch it.
Let’s face it: we all space out at work (Don’t tell the boss!). And it’s especially easy to lose focus in the warmer months when you just want to be outside. How can you kick your brain into high gear when you’re feeling easily distracted? Commit to exercising for 30 to 60 minutes three to five days a week. Yes, that’s right; doing something great for your body can have major benefits for your mind, too. Bonus: you’ll look and feel even better when you hit the beach!
Okay, be honest with yourself. Do you fool around on your smartphone at work? I’m not talking about checking your personal email at lunch. I mean browsing Facebook and Snapchat and Tinder all day… you know, when you’re supposed to be working. This summer, you might consider breaking your bad phone habits in the workplace. If the temptation to check Instagram is too great, try leaving your phone in your car for a week. Just make sure anyone who might need to reach you knows another way to be in touch.
If you need to keep your phone on you, place it in your bag or your desk drawer until it’s time for a break. You might feel a little antsy at first, but soon you’ll see how much more you can achieve without the distraction.
It’s really easy to throw your healthy eating plan out the (wide-open!) window in the summertime. Between outdoor happy hours, weekend barbecues, and pool parties, the temptation is everywhere. And while it’s fine to indulge, going overboard will leave you feeling bloated and exhausted. We’ve all come to work with a “food hangover” after overdoing it at dinner the night before. And it’s miserable.
You might allow yourself one or two “summer splurge” meals per week so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out. But be sure to balance those indulgences with healthy, well-balanced meals and reasonable proportions the rest of the time. You can keep your brain in tip-top shape with healthful choices like leafy greens, fish, nuts, and berries. Thankfully, eating this way doesn’t have to be boring!
These simple tips will help you to be your best self this summer and beyond. And remember, we’re all human. If you forget to make an entry in your mindfulness journal or sleep through your morning workout hour, you haven’t failed. Simply make as many good choices as you can on any given day, and you’ll be on your way to improved concentration and productivity. The benefits will stay with you long after the leaves begin to fall!