We’ve all been there. You’re working on something, whether it be your blog, your day job, or some freelance work, and you are extremely overwhelmed and can’t focus. Emails keep coming in, you can’t figure out what to do first, you have a million things open and ready to work on, but you just can’t. You want to scream, cry, take a nap, and quit everything. It can’t be just me, right?
My day job as a graphic and web designer can have times that are slow and easy, but more days than not are busy and stressful. They can be filled with demanding clients that need things RIGHT NOW, or instead of sending one long email, they send you individual changes in separate emails. Talk about wanting to pull your hair out! After almost five years of doing this as my full time job, I’ve come to find ways to force and help myself to refocus. With these tips, I am able to knock out a lot of jobs, big and small, in a short amount of time (and on time). I hope they help you, too!
Stop For a Minute.
Diving directly into the deep end isn’t always the best way to start. Stop, look away from your computer, and take a deep breath. I love the Breathe app on the Apple Watch. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I will open that up and breathe for a minute before I get started. Even if you don’t have an Apple Watch, there are a ton of breathing and meditation apps out there. Healthline made a list of the best meditation apps of 2018. Check out the list here. Find one you like and use it! Breathing sounds cliché but it works better than you might realize.
Take a Break.
If just stopping to take a breather for a minute isn’t enough, that’s okay. Try getting up and walking around, take a short walk if you can, grab a snack. Breathe while you’re doing all of this. A short break works to clear your mind. People don’t take them because they’re lazy, they do it to improve their productivity. This article on Psychology Today breaks down why and how you should take breaks at work. I loved these bullet points the author uses:
• Meditation helps you detach from work thoughts by clearing your mind and focusing on relaxation.
• Physical activity helps you increase blood flow to areas in the brain that are necessary for focus and attention.
• Learning something new or playing a game will help you feel confident and boost motivation.
• Helping out a colleague will help you feel a sense of social connectedness, which should feel comforting and positive.
• Setting a new goal and thinking about the future will help you see the bigger picture and re-evaluate life in a positive way.
Listen to Focus Music.
I focus best (especially if I’m in an office full of people) when I put on my headphones and play some calming focus music. Usually wordless music works best, but it’s all personal preference. Putting on headphones somehow keeps me centered in on myself and my work and it’s harder to get distracted with other noises around you. Here are some of my favorite playlists I listen to that help me focus:
Hide Any And All Windows You Aren’t Working On.
I generally feel most anxious when I notice I have several windows or tabs open at once on my computer. Some people can work like that, I cannot. I will minimize or close any windows that I am not working on at the moment. My screen looks cleaner and less busy, which makes me overall feel less busy. It also helps me focus on one thing at a time, which is key.
This includes email! Close your email temporarily and don’t check it until you’re done with your project. I have a bad habit of having it open on my second screen and because I hate having unread emails, I’ll stop what I’m doing and read one as soon as I see one come in. Suddenly I have lost my focus on the project I was working on.
This is kind of a “well duh,” but a lot of people have a hard time with actually making this happen. Before you do anything, write out everything you need to get done on a to-do list in the order that everything needs to get done. Create a hierarchy of your tasks in the order that the request came in, and then in order of importance. For example, If you have task A, B, C, and D, but task C needs to be done today or right away, do C, A, B, then D.
We use a tool at work that helps with project management called Asana and it is AMAZING. It is free, it integrates with your email, Creative Cloud, Dropbox, and several other third party tools that you use everyday. You basically create a task list and you can categorize it, assign tasks to people, comment, attach files, create subtasks, assign due dates…basically anything you could ever think of that you would need for keeping your task list(s) organized. Oh, and it even has an app so you can stay on track on the go. We have tried other tools like Trello and this is what worked best for us.
Doing these five things has been a life changer for me when it comes to busy days in the office. Practice all of these habits and your work anxiety might just dissipate.
What are ways that you like to refocus on your work? Lmk in the comments!