How to focus when distracted at work

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Do you find yourself losing focus when you really need to get the job done? Here are 12 quick ways you can get back on track and tick off that to-do list in no time

How to focus when distracted at work

Are you having one of those days? We’ve all been there. You’ve got a to-do list a mile long, yet you keep finding yourself staring off into space, re-checking your inbox, or watching the clock tick (so, so slowly) towards lunch or home time. Here are 12 quick, simple and effective ways that you can improve your concentration, find your focus, and make being distracted a thing of the past.

Why do we struggle to find our focus?

In our modern, tech-dominated world, we’re used to switching our focus pretty fast. Just think about it: when was the last time you didn’t have your phone within arm’s length? Or your smartwatch? How about your smart TV, your laptop or desktop? Some of us are so plugged in, we automatically look to our phones or watches mid-conversation, when we spot that tell-tale notification ping or vibration trying to get our attention. We’re so used to having our attention being pulled in a dozen different directions, it’s no wonder we struggle to get things done.

The more distracted we feel, the more likely our productivity is to take a hit. That can mean even longer spent on tasks we may already find boring or unengaging. And it’s not just distractions that can affect our concentration. How we’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally can have a significant impact. Not to mention our environments, with noisy offices and home comforts just as likely to distract us whether we’re working remotely or in the office. So, how can we shake things up and bring the focus back to our workdays?

How to stop being distracted at work

1. Set up your space for success
Removing distractions from around you can help to create the right kind of environment to promote concentration and improve focus. Having a clean and clear desk not only helps you to find things more easily, but research shows that having clutter around you could be affecting your productivity. One study by scientists at the Princeton University of Neuroscience Institute found that we’re better able to focus and process information, thereby increasing productivity, when we clear the clutter from our work environment.

The same can be said when working from home. The more ‘stuff’ we have around us, the more likely we are to procrastinate. Too much clutter can even make us feel more stressed and anxious. So clear off your desk, put your phone on silent (and ideally out of eyesight), and ensure you’ve got everything you’ll need (e.g. noise-cancelling headphones and water) to help set yourself up for success.

2. Get your priorities straight
Feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to start can lead to procrastination and being more easily distracted. To head this off at the pass, set yourself a short list of priorities you absolutely must get done today. This could be one bigger task you want to achieve throughout the day or a couple of smaller things you want to tick off by set times.

Having these clear starting points can help you to focus on these first, leaving all the little extra things an

A taste of success: what to eat and drink before that big interview

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You’ve confirmed the date, done your homework, and even laid out your confidence-boosting outfit. But have you considered what you consume? It turns out, how we fuel ourselves could be key to tackling pre-interview nerves, and leaving you with a razor-sharp focus. Here’s what to eat to help you smash your next job interview (and what to leave in the fridge until afterwards)

A taste of success: what to eat and drink before that big interview

Whether it’s the chance of a promotion or an exciting new challenge, most of us try to feel prepared before we head into the interview room. While you might have done your research, rehearsed your answers, and got a good night’s sleep, have you considered what you tuck into that morning?

The truth is that what you eat before an interview (and what to ditch), is actually a pretty important part of preparing for the job you want – whether it’s keeping you calm, or stopping an energy crash during that all important ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ question. So, let’s take a look at the best food and drink to opt for before your interview – and what to save until later.

Food for thought

First things first, it’s really important to remember to eat and hydrate properly before an interview, as this is essential nourishment for mental performance. However, according to the Association of UK Dieticians (BDA), about one third of us skip breakfast on a regular basis, even though there’s lots of reasons why you shouldn’t – especially with a mentally-taxing workplace situation. Research has proven that starting the day with a good breakfast helps with our concentration and mental alertness, as well as our memory and energy – all of which would be undeniably handy in a stressful interview scenario.

In terms of specifics around what to eat before the big moment, there’s both short and long-term things to consider. “B vitamins are really important for mental performance and brain health in general,” says dietitian Sophie Medlin, director of CityDietitians. “Meat and dairy are rich in this but if you’re vegan, you may consider supplementing. Omega 3 is also really important. We can get this from vegan algae and oily fish.”

A taste of success: what to eat and drink before that big interview

While a single supplement won’t necessarily help you nail the interview, they could be worth trying to support your overall mental performance in the workplace.

But what if the interview is tomorrow? Well, there are still a few quick-fixes worth trying.

“For an immediate boost, there’s data to show those who have a blueberry smoothie before an exam, have better mental performance and outcomes,” says Sophie Medlin. “Foods rich in antioxidants and polyphenols help improve blood flow and are important for mental performance.”

Other research has revealed the benefits of blueberries when taken along with other berries, such as strawberry and raspberry. One study in the journal Nutrients found

Are you a desk worker? Try this yoga routine designed to ease aches and pains

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Break up the day and say goodbye to aches and pains, with this exclusive yoga routine designed especially for desk workers

Are you a desk worker? Try this yoga routine designed to ease aches and pains

Backache, shoulder ache, neck ache, wrist ache – sometimes, working at a desk can be, well, a bit of a headache.

A survey conducted by Censuswide found that 81% of UK office workers spend between four and nine hours each day sitting at their desks, which adds up to an average of 67 sedentary days per person each year – a lifestyle that can land you with a range of health issues. And while workplace health and safety guidelines will encourage staff to regularly get up and move, deadlines, workload, and workplace culture can make that difficult, in practice.

“Despite being a yoga teacher, I’m also very guilty of being a desk dweller when I’m not teaching, so I know the feeling all too well,” Iain Ross says. “I have chronically tight shoulders and upper back issues, niggles in the lower back and hips, knee pain… The list could go on.”

According to the Labour Force Survey, 477,000 workers suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders, so you’re not alone. And while support from your workplace in the form of ergonomic equipment can go a long way, yoga makes for an effective way to manage aches, pains, soreness, and your mood.

“When it comes to the upper back and shoulders, much of the issue comes from overstretched back muscles and over-contracted chest muscles, usually caused by long periods of time spent hunched over,” Iain explains. “Moving downward through the body, a hunched spine (too much spinal flexion) is a recipe for all kinds of back issues, while underactive and overstretched glutes, plus constant flexion in the hip flexors (the front of the hip and thigh) will definitely cause discomfort and injuries over time.

“So, the key is to open the chest and heart space while strengthening the back, and to activate the glutes while lengthening the hip flexors,” Iain says. “This is somewhat oversimplifying things of course, but stick to this as a guideline and you won’t go far wrong.”

Over to you

When working at a desk, try this five-minute sequence, created for you by Iain Ross:

1. Seated breathing (pranayama)

One super effective yet extremely simple way to open up space around the chest and the ribs is through deep breathing. There’s more to this than simply taking a couple of breaths, though! Breathe consciously and with awareness for at least one minute.

Start by sitting up straight in your chair, without leaning back or hunching over. Imagine trying to align your head at the very top of your spine while someone pulls a long thread out through the crown of your head. Ever so slightly tuck your chin towards your chest to lengthen the back of the neck. From here focus solely on your breath, allowing each inhale to become deeper. Imagine you’re trying to fill the lungs from the bottom to the top, front to back, and side to side.

It can help to place one hand on the heart space and one on the belly, so you can physically feel your hands move away from you as your breath deepens.

2. Heart chakra kriya

Kriya roughly translates as ‘cleansing’, and this is a gorgeous, traditional

The six pillars of healthy work-life balance

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Good work-life balance can sometimes feel elusive and unattainable, so we’re breaking it down into its six key pillars

The six pillars of healthy work-life balance

Poor work-life balance can snatch life’s joyous moments away from us, and be detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing. But levelling it out isn’t usually straightforward. Here, with the help of Dr Kirstie Fleetwood Meade, we’ve identified six key pillars of work-life balance on which to lay your new foundation.

Your ‘why’

It’s pretty impossible to set off on any journey if you don’t know where you’re heading, which is why working out what you’re seeking should be your first step.

“Spend some time visualising what an ‘ideal’ work-life balance would look like to you,” Dr Fleetwood Meade says. “It may be that this visualisation seems really out of reach right now. If it currently feels like it’s a three out of 10 in terms of how aligned you are with this ideal, how could you nudge it up to a four? Focusing on the little steps can make this seem more achievable.

“Next, ask yourself why it’s important to you. If it’s to feel less stressed, why? Does it allow you to be more present with your family? The clearer you are in your ‘why’, the easier it will be to say ‘yes’ to the things that lead you closer to it and ‘no’ to the things that don’t.”

Your values and priorities

Once you’ve explored your ‘why’, Dr Fleetwood Meade recommends shifting your focus to your key values. These are the beliefs that help guide us to live a life that is meaningful to us, she explains.

“Being crystal clear on your values makes decision-making around work-life balance easier,” she continues. “Some example values are: adventure, curiosity, power, fitness, freedom, fun, compassion, self-development, connection, love, equality – but there are many, many more.”

What role do your values currently play in your life, and what would a better work-life balance do for your values?

Your barriers or derailers

“Changing habits, making decisions, and saying no can all be emotionally draining,” Dr Fleetwood Meade says. “Which makes it all the more important to be able to pre-empt your likely ‘derailers’ – the things that will throw your work-life balance off track, or get in the way.”

Spend some time thinking about what exactly these might be for you, and consider how you can address them, plan for them, and get support with them.

Your worth and your infallibility

“It’s so important to look after ourselves just as well as we look after others, but if that’s challenging for you, I often reference the classic ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’,” Dr Fleetwood Meade says. “In my therapy work, I’m also a big fan of the idea of the ‘both/and’ – the idea that two things that may seem opposing can actually be true at the same time. Often we get sucked into black-and-white thinking – e.g. if I am the best colleague I can be, that means I need to be always ‘on

How can managers support their team’s mental health?

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New data from Mental Health First Aid England reveals that managers are ‘out of their depth’ when it comes to their team’s mental health. We share some useful tips and resources that can help

How can managers support their team’s mental health?

Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA England) has revealed that three-quarters of managers are worried about the impact that the rising cost of living is having on their team’s mental wellbeing. Whilst the majority of managers recognise the importance of supporting mental health, one in three feel ‘out of their depth’ when it comes to knowing how. This rises to almost half of managers under the age of 25.

Simon Blake OBE, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England says, “With the threat of recession and the worst cost of living crisis in a generation, a focus on people’s mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever if businesses are to support their people, boost productivity and maintain their bottom line.”

To act on this data, sourced from 2000 working people in management positions, MHFA England is calling for organisations to back their latest “My Whole Self Day” campaign. This is aimed at driving more support for mental health in the workplace - encouraging a culture of collaboration where managers feel confident to talk about mental health and encourage teams to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work.

MHFA England notes that providing managers with the appropriate training and resources will give people - and businesses - the ingredients to thrive. “Brilliant managers who understand mental health are worth their weight in gold”, Simon comments.“Research shows that managers have as much impact on a person’s mental health as their partner. With the stakes this high, employers cannot afford not to give the support and training they need to carry out their role effectively.”

The role of managers in creating inclusive and supportive workplaces

Managers are vital in creating a culture of inclusivity and ensuring every employee feels supported at work. Simon recognises that “the relationship between managers and their team is key for the health and wellbeing of the whole organisation.

“We know teams that feel safe and connected work better together. Our people and teams are at their most effective and creative when everybody feels psychologically safe and is seen, heard, and valued. Good business performance relies on effective management, which includes having compassionate conversations about mental health”, he adds.

“Where people are driven, connected and supported to do and be their best, they fly.”

Tips for managers to support mental health in the workplace

For those who may not know where to begin when it comes to supporting their teams’ mental health, we asked Simon for some tips for driving these conversations. Remember, this doesn’t just have to fall to managers - anyone can spark a conversation around mental health, whether you’re working from home or in the office.

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