Featured Whistler Question newspaper column, July 11, 2017: How to Stay Focused at Work During the Summer Heat
Have you had trouble focusing on work lately? With British Columbia experiencing sunshine and hot temperatures, the struggle to focus is rooted with very real science.
Research shows that shifts in core body temperature can have significant effects on cognition. Cognition is the process of thought that controls our ability to store memories and perform mental tasks. Basically, the body has to work harder to maintain a healthy core temperature by reallocating resources like water and energy and as a result, deprives the brain of those same resources and one’s ability to think declines.
Further, with the explosion of the Internet and text messaging we seem to be increasingly inflicted with shorter attention spans. A column in USA Today claims that “nearly 50 percent of American office employees say they work for only 15 minutes before becoming distracted, while 53 percent report wasting an hour or more a day because of disruptions.”
Add in some summer heat and apparently, focus and productivity can plummet. But life goes on so here are seven ideas to help get through your work responsibilities.
7 Tips to Focus on Your Work During the Summer
Set achievable goals and break them down. When motivation is low, cut yourself some slack and only commit to what is reasonable. From there, write down what you need to get done and manage your calendar accordingly.
Minimize distractions. Powering down your mobile devices and shutting down the Internet allows you to give tasks your undivided attention so as to get through them more quickly.
Listen to Music. Music can provide much-needed relief on the job but it helps to understand both the benefits and deterrents. When music is on, your brain goes in to multi-tasking mode as it has to process auditory data. If whatever you’re working on requires learning something new or making important decisions, avoid music. However, under certain circumstances music can trigger the release of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which help you feel relaxed. Therefore, if working on repetitive tasks or those that you do regularly, music could help you focus better.
Change your routine. If you work from home, set up your office on a deck or beside a sunny bright window. Is it possible to start your day earlier so you can skip out of work for some afternoon beach time?
Plan Teambuilding Opportunities. If you have employees, summer is a perfect time to plan outings with the added benefit of building stronger teams. If you are having problems with your motivation, the chances are your team is too.
Practice healthy habits. Eat properly and in particular, studies indicate eating a healthy breakfast improves attention and concentration. Drink lots of water because even mild dehydration can dampen moods, increase fatigue and lead to decreased memory. Exercise outdoors – whether cycling to work or going for a walk at lunch, soak up this short summer season.
Plan a vacation or maybe a ‘staycation’. If you find that focusing on work during the summer is a tough one, it is perfectly acceptable to allow yourself time to recharge. Vacations are optimal ways to do just that. Road trips are perfect summer vacations and if that isn’t in the cards, Whistler is an ideal place to be a tourist!
HOW ABOUT YOU: What is your biggest distraction from work during the summer?
Happy summer everyone!
At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Whistler Open Forum Speaker Series. She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, a mentor program nominated for Small Business BC Awards for 5 consecutive years. Cathy writes this column for the Whistler Question newspaper.