Maintaining focus and concentration throughout the whole day is a struggle we face day to day. Some are productive in the morning, some are in the evening. Some can go without drinking coffee, some cannot. The goal is the same, to be productive and to do our best at work. In this blog post I provide a checklist which you can go through to see which areas of your life need to be revised in order to enhance your cognitive performance.
Having a healthy and balanced diet is crucial especially if you haven’t had a good diet beforehand. In that case implementing small healthy habits* could bring change into your performance. On top of everyday nutrition, there are all sorts of products sold with the promise of improving cognitive performance. At the moment there is no groundbreaking evidence to prove the efficacy of these herbal supplements such as ginseng, lutein or other “brain vitamins”. Most of the evidence we have is coming from observational studies or small clinical trials, therefore we cannot draw a clear effect-casualty. As a rule of thumb I say that there is no “magic pill”, often basic nutrition rules like “eat your veggies” could make a huge difference.
Sleep deprivation is a common place in modern society, and many studies show that regardless of other factors it always leads to decline in cognitive performance such as memory, reaction time, decision-making or concentration(1). It is advised to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Less than this and interestingly more than this is also associated with poorer cognitive performance. Therefore, before all dietary changes I would like to recommend you to try to get into a better sleep hygiene.
Some would think it’s just an innocent health conscious thing to do in order to lose weight and get into shape, however dieting has negative side effects that could impact our concentration at work. Most often it comes with some sort of restriciton. Depriving ourselves from food results in hunger and cravings. Apart from a gurgling stomach, hunger has many other physical signs. It affects our mood and we might become irritable, moody or low and it also affects our energy levels - understandably - and we become fatigued, sleepy or slow. It’s pretty difficult to work at peak performance with these symptoms. My advice would be to practise mindfulness and try to detect the early signs of hunger in order to prevent being too hungry so you will be able to stay focused and productive at work.
As little as a short walk in the park in your lunch break could improve your performance at work. A simple experiment was done in a group of people to prove this theory. They divided the people into two groups, one was sent to have a walk in the city and the other was sent to have a walk in the park and after they were given cognitive tasks. The group of people who”ve been to nature before completing the task got better results on the test compared to the group who’ve been to the city. Consequently spending time in nature can improve your ability to concentrate (2).
There are studies to show that regular exercise can improve and protect global cognition, attention and memory in adults(3). By health organization the recommendation is that we should aim to be physically active every day. More specifically they suggest doing 150 mins of moderate intensity exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week. Examples of physical exercise are aerobic and anaerobic activity, characterized by a precise frequency, duration and intensity. So general physical activity doesn’t count such as going to the grocery store or lifting up a box.
+1. Other “tricks”
I haven’t mentioned any of the “tricks” that we use daily to enhance our productivity at work; coffee and energy drinks. As most of us experienced it these substances work for a while but only to a limited extent and they won’t bring long term improvement on your cognitive functions(4).
Overall, being able to perform well at work depends on a lot of factors. Quality sleep, regular exercise and good mental health and good nutrition are all part of the solution.
With Fresh by Terra office delivery you can maintain a healthy and balanced diet by ordering from a wide variety of delicious food. Delivered straight to your office or home office so you don’t have to worry about going too hungry while you are busy and you can focus and perform at peak performance in your work.