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How to stay awake at work: 10 ways to improve focus in the office

  • 5 min read

You may have stayed up late last night to meet a deadline (or for a non-work-related reason), and are struggling to stay awake at work today. Or perhaps you often experience that after-lunch slump, when you feel your eyelids growing heavy. Whatever the case, you find yourself wondering how to stay awake at work. Don’t reach for the caffeine just yet – there are plenty of natural and healthy ways to stay alert and focused at work.

1) Get rid of any distractions

The first thing you should do if you want to stay awake at work is to eliminate distractions. Distractions will encourage your mind to wander and stop you from focusing on the task at hand, which can lead to an energy slump. You may think that concentrating on a difficult task will make you feel more tired, but the opposite is actually true. Applying your mind to your work means that your brain needs to summon more brainpower, giving you a boost that helps you to stay awake.

2) Set some goals

Goal setting is critical to staying focused at work which, in turn, will help you to stay alert at the office. Setting clear goals and working to achieve them will make sure you not only turn up and sit at your desk, but you stay focused and apply yourself while you’re there. A good place to start is by setting goals for the week every Monday: set a list of your top priorities, the things that you want to achieve that week. Then, each morning use this list to set your key goal for the day. Keep this list visible, along with your to-do list of daily tasks, and make sure that you keep working towards this when you start to feel distracted throughout the day.

cup of coffee boss

3) Get up and walk a little every two hours

Getting up every couple of hours for some physical activity, even if it is just a short walk around the office, helps to keep you alert. This will not only help you to feel awake and alert, but this is critical to reducing the risk of developing a number of chronic health conditions. Sitting hour after hour on a daily basis has been linked to a number of diseases and research shows this may lead to an early death. One study into sitting less at work found that people failed to get up from their seats during the workday because of habits and routines, personal preferences, and their internal physical environment. Make a conscious effort to get up every two hours – set an alarm for yourself if necessary!

4) Social media is for break time only

A 2015 survey conducted by CareerBuilder showed that social media was one of the biggest productivity killers in the workplace. If you find yourself jumping on to your social media to quickly check your notifications, only to find you’ve wasted 45 minutes of work time, you’re not alone. Social media is addictive and can easily suck your time: these platforms are designed to keep you online as long as possible, scrolling your feed and clicking on links. The best way to avoid this and make sure you stay focused and alert is to strictly limit social media to break times only.

5) Put some headphones on and listen to your favourite music

Offices are full of distracting noise, such as ringing phones, conversations, the mail cart or a floor polisher. Popping on some headphones and listening to some music helps to tune out these distracting noises. Wearing headphones will also stop you from being drawn into unnecessary chatter with your colleagues. All of this will help you to stay focused on the task at hand, which is key to staying awake at work.

6) Don’t forget the healthy snacks full of vitamins

What you eat can also help you to stay focused at work. Feasting on nutritious snacks throughout the day will keep your energy levels stable, ensuring that you are energised and productive, and you'll avoid that post-lunch crash that can make you crave a nap. A great snack for the office is a dried fruit and nut mix: not only is it packed with vitamins, healthy fats and protein, it is also high in fibre, keeping you full between meals. It is a good idea to keep some dried fruit and nuts in your desk drawer to make sure you always have a healthy snack handy.

fruits and vitamins

7) Drink water throughout the day

Staying hydrated is not only critical for your health but can also ward off tiredness and help you to feel awake. Dehydration causes fatigue and makes it harder to concentrate, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Keep a large bottle of water at your desk and avoid drinking too much coffee as this dehydrates you.

8) Use nasal inhalers

Nasal inhalers harness the power of essential oils to give you energy and help you to stay awake and focused at work. Essential oils have a range of properties that are beneficial to our physical and mental health. Several studies, such as this study on the benefits of peppermint oil and this one on combatting fatigue, showed they are effective in relieving tiredness. The benefit of nasal inhalers is that they contain essential oils in a portable, easy-to-use form that you can take with you to work. You can even keep an inhaler or two in your desk drawer at the office, and whenever you start to feel tired or sleepy, take a deep breath of energising scent for an instant boost.

9) Maintain a balanced diet

Not only do healthy snacks keep you energised during a long workday, but maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is also essential to avoid tiredness. Eating a diet that contains a balance of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats makes sure you have the fuel you need to tackle what the workday may throw at you. These foods also have a low GI (glycemic index), meaning that the energy is released slowly so you can avoid energy spikes and crashes that can make you feel sleepy.

10) Get a good night’s sleep

This may seem obvious, but sleep is so important that it’s worth emphasising how critical it is to get a good night’s sleep if you want to stay alert and focused at work the next day. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that we get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night. Fail to do so, and not only will you feel tired the next day, but you’ll also find it hard to concentrate, and your short and long term memory will be worse, all of which impacts on your performance at work!

Conclusion

There are many natural ways to stay alert at work, which are not only healthier but also more effective than stimulants such as caffeine. The next time you find your eyelids drooping or your mind wandering, rather than reaching for a cup of coffee, have a healthy snack instead, pop on some headphones or take a deep breath from a nasal inhaler. Making sure you eliminate distractions, maintaining a healthy diet and getting quality sleep every night will also help so you can perform your best.

 

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