We all know someone who seems to pride themselves on how many cups of coffee they drink a day. Maybe that’s you.
Sure, coffee can taste great but it’s not really doing your brain, your attention span or even your wallet any good. If you find yourself having trouble keeping on track with work throughout the day, then here are some caffeine-free tips to help you change this. An added bonus is that all of these tips will cost you absolutely nothing.
1. Try Cardio
Instead of picking up that half-strength, extra hot soy latte with no foam every morning, try starting the day with a different C word. Cardio or any type of exercise is a great way to help boost your concentration and attention span for the day ahead.
Numerous studies have showed that people who exercised had better concentration and were able to work better than those who didn’t. Not only that but ticking off your daily exercise first thing in the morning will make you feel more accomplished. This in turn makes you feel happy and proud which can only provide you the motivation you need to keep on kicking. This is also a feeling you can keep around for the entire day.
Coffee will give you a buzz for an hour or so before you crash again and need another hit. With a dose of exercise, though, it takes only a minute to remind yourself of what you’ve already achieved that day to help boost your brain back into gear. You don’t need a study to tell you that, just try it for yourself.
2. Hydrate Your Body
We all know we should try to keep hydrated. We all know we need water to survive. But did you know it can also help with your brain’s attention span?
Studies have shown that even the mildest cases of dehydration can cause our concentration to slip. This is because when your brain starts noticing these changes in your body, it naturally tries to draw your attention to them. This is why you start having trouble focusing on what you’re doing.
You aren’t dehydrated only when you’re thirsty. In fact, you were dehydrated long before that sensation started. Thirsty is just the body saying things are getting serious and you really need some water in you right now. So don’t wait until you feel yourself craving water to do something about it. Keep a glass or bottle of water around at all times and sip on it consistently throughout the day.
3. Listen to Music
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean putting on the latest Beyoncé track and having a jam session. Obviously, that’s pretty distracting.
However, listening to music that doesn’t have lyrics can help boost your attention abilities. A study at Kyoto University discovered that people who listened to some Mozart had boosted concentration levels and were better able at shutting out distractions. If Mozart isn’t your style, however, don’t worry. There is plenty of music out there on the Internet that has been designed to help you focus. So pop on your headphones, get on Google, SoundCloud or 8tracks, search for some focus music, and watch the transformation.
4. Switch Off
Technology and the Internet are the worst offenders for killing our attention spans. With the ability to access so much information at once, we’ve become use to quickly skimming through things or flipping from one page to the next. Just think about how many different pages you have open when you’re online, which only causes us to lose our ability to really focus on one thing at a time.
To fix this, make sure you have some time where you switch it all off. Devote a whole day on the weekend to going offline and not turning on your computer to check your emails. If that’s not possible or maybe even a bit too drastic for you, try something smaller like not checking your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night. Or set a time at night where you have to stop sending emails before bed, or perhaps even switching some tasks to paper. If you’re just making a shopping or to-do list, for example, write it down on a physical piece of paper rather than typing it out on your phone.
5. Set a Timer
If you really want to get something done efficiently, set yourself a time limit. Ever had a deadline looming and found yourself pumping out your work within a few hours? Ever had an assignment due the next morning and found yourself working productively throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning?
When we know we’ve got a restricted timeframe to get something done, it’s amazing how well our brains can concentrate. We’re not saying you should rely on stress to get something done at the very last minute – that is never a good idea. But what you could do is set up a timer.
Whether it’s on your phone or your computer, make sure you hit the start button before you get working. Don’t set a time limit that is too short or too long, however. If it’s too short, you’ll be too stressed worrying about the time to work productively, and if it’s too long, you’ll let your brain slack off too much and you’ll never finish the task at hand.
6. Reward Yourself
When you set the timer for yourself, you should also reward yourself for getting the task done on time. Knowing there is just more work to be done when that buzzer goes off isn’t going to help push you along. You’ll spend your time dreading the other work you have to do rather than focusing on what’s in front of you.
Instead, figure out how you’re going to reward yourself when you’re done. What works will depend on you. It might be as simple as taking five minutes to sit back and let your mind wander elsewhere. Maybe you’re a foodie; you could reward yourself with the last few chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard. If you love the outdoors, you could go for a walk or a jog. Pick something you enjoy and give yourself something to look forward to.
7. Get Your Eight Hours
The lesson that we should always try to get at least eight hours’ sleep a night has been pretty much drummed into us. There can be times in life when getting a full eight hours’ sleep all the time seems pretty much impossible, and that could be just why you’re having trouble getting things done which, in turn, could be exactly why you need to spend so much time awake doing things.
Try making sure you get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night for just two weeks, and see if that makes a difference. Various studies have shown that there is a deep stage of sleep called the delta sleep, a phase in which our brain spends time strengthening and refining our cognitive skills. If you’re getting less than seven or eight hours sleep, you are simply not allowing your body enough time in this sleeping stage. This essentially means that your cognitive skills aren’t being repaired after all the work they did the previous day. What does this teach us? Embrace the Sunday sleep in!
With at least one coffee shop on just about every corner, it can be hard not to give in to the sweet aromas and treat yourself to a tall Caffè Americano. If you love coffee, there is absolutely no need to cut it entirely out of your life. However, if you do struggle with concentrating, consider cutting down on the cups of Joe, and give one of the tips above a go.
What other advice do you have for keeping your brain on track during the day? Let us know in the comments section!