By: Wieke von Scheidt
Why do people have trouble staying focused?
Staying focused eight hours straight every day is a goal that most people strive for, but no matter how hard we try, it is impossible. Why? Experts say that the average attention span in adults is between 20 and 40 minutes.
Even though our preferred goal is to stay focused for eight full hours a day, our brain is not developed to function that way. The opposite often occurs when we try to stay on task for a long period of time – that is, we get easier distracted. Market research firm uSamp found that 53% of people waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions. Collaboration tools that are supposed to increase productivity at work, continuous noises, overflowing email inboxes and the frequent feeling of being fatigued, let our minds keep wandering off.
In addition to the loss of hours, our body takes a toll when trying to work without proper breaks. People often turn to coffee to keep from getting tired, this can lead to sleep insomnia. According to the National Institutes of Health, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. In order to function properly adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day. Many don’t get the necessary amount of sleep needed and it starts affecting their concentration. So, what can you do to maintain the level of concentration you need to get all your work done?
Studies show that taking frequent breaks helps to increase focus and productivity tremendously. Many employees don’t take enough breaks during the day, some don’t even take any at all but that doesn’t seem to increase the amount of work they get done. People that don’t take breaks tend to get distracted easier than people who break frequently.
Draugiem Group, a social networking company based in Latvia has demonstrated this by using an app called DeskTime. Employees were to work for 52 minutes and then take a 17 minute break. During this break employees did things completely unrelated to work and without the use of electronics, like going for a walk, chatting with co-workers, or reading a book.
The problem is that many fear to appear lazy or unproductive. It is important that employers support this method and show their employees that it is ok to take these breaks. In the end the whole organization will benefit from this approach.
If you have the ability to exercise during your breaks, do so. It’s been proven that moving around will increase concentration levels – even if you just go for a walk outside. Dr. John J. Ratey a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explained how a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released, which plays a role in the improvement of cognitive health. The image below shows best the level of activity in the brain of a person in a serenity state versus a person who has been active for 20 minutes.
In addition to what happens in the brain, exercising regularly benefits the whole body – leading to lower health risks.
The Right Nutrition
Nutrition can make a significant difference on concentration capacity, especially when consumed at the right timing. A study by the International Labor Office shows poor diet can impact up to 20% of work productivity. It is very common that office cafeterias don’t offer a balanced meal selection. In other cases employees only have 30 minutes and run to the next Fast Food restaurant. Some may underestimate the importance of the right nutrition and their connection to mental and physical functions. Of all nutrients water is probably the most important; studies have shown that not drinking enough water will not only dehydrate your body but also decrease your level of focus and short-term memory. Other foods that increase energy and concentration include blueberries, fish, avocado, green tea, and dark chocolate.
Make a To-Do List
Making a to-do list is one of the most effective ways to get work done and stay on tasks. However, many seem to struggle creating a list and following it. There are too many distractions during the day that keep us from staying focused. Making a list will not only help you stay organized but also help finish the work you intended to do. Here are a few tips on how to write and follow the to-do list effectively.
Write Your to do list the night before
Writing your to-do list the night before will save you time and energy, which you will need in the morning to be most productive.
Get out your calendar
Take a look at your calendar, check appointments that are coming and determine what you need to for these meetings.
Make a random list of all the things you have to get done and then prioritize, listing the most important tasks first.
Check your emails
Check your email inbox when you arrive at work. Set a timeframe, like 30 minutes to read and respond to emails. After that don’t check it again for at least an hour or until you finished the first important task on your to-do list. Checking our email inbox is one of the most distracting things that keep us from focusing. As soon as we open our inbox we see an important email and feel the need to respond to it. Before we know it we will respond to the next, and the next, and the next, until we forget what we were actually concentrating on.
Set a Realistic Time
Setting a realistic timeframe is often difficult; people underestimate the time they really need to finish a task. So, be realistic and add an extra 30 minutes if you are unsure. It is better to have more time than to feel rushed. The same applies to emails, decide on how often you want to check your emails and set aside a certain time to respond to them.
The end of the day
Before you leave go over your to-do list and make sure you finished everything. Then start your new list for the following day.
Especially in the afternoon people tend to get groggy and crash easily. If that’s the case you should try Clarex. Compared to caffeine containing beverages it will keep you focused without the crash effect. If you do prefer to drink coffee you should try to drink it in the morning only. Generally, caffeine stays in your system for about 5 to 6 hours before it starts to wear off. Drinking coffee early in the day will decrease the chance of insomnia later on at night. Clarex will also help prevent caffeine jitters that tend to plague many coffee consumers.
Overall people’s ability to stay focused is limited. Scientists have proven that the human brain can only concentrate for a short period of time like up to 52 minutes. It is just a matter of us learning how to be more productive by taking frequent breaks, moving around, staying organized, making lists etc. There are many ways one can return to a good level of focus and the ones above are only a few.
By Wieke von Scheidt
Summer is almost here, or at least we hope it is. This is the time of year when many take vacation to travel, and relax. Kids have long breaks and parents can use up some of their vacation days. If you are traveling this summer it’s a good thing to know some ways to stay fit. Health is something that is often forgotten while traveling. On your next trip try to keep some of these tips in mind.
Explore the Area
Before you travel, plan your trip. Buy a map or a travel guide with interesting places to visit. Once you get to your destination be sure to get out of your accommodation at least once a day and walk around outside. Going for a long walk, whether you are exploring the city, or strolling along the beach is a great way to relax the mind and keep your body going. If it’s raining you can visit museums, shopping centers, or other indoor places that allow you to walk around.
While on vacation it is always easy to just get a quick meal from any fast food restaurant, but it is better to take an extra five minutes to bring your own meal. It will also be better for your wallet. For the little hunger in-between you can pack snacks like apples, bananas, and my personal favorite, granola bars. If you still decide to go out to eat choose a restaurant that serves a variety of good foods and make sure to get some vegetables with your meals.
Many hotels have amenities such as gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, and so on. Even if the place you stay at does not offer any of these services, get creative. If the weather is nice, plug your headphones in and go out for a run, hike, or rent a bike. This is also a great way to explore the area.
Take the Stairs
If you stay in a room that is a couple floors up, and not all the way in the sky consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Have you been sitting all day, or spent a lazy day lounging by the beach? It will feel good to walk some stairs and maybe stretch. Anywhere you go you will probably find stairs, so make it a habit to use them.
Bring a Workout DVD
In case your hotel does not have any amenities you can always bring some workout DVDs and exercise in your room. Many hotel rooms have DVD players, or you can just bring your own laptop. This is a great way to get a quick workout in, especially if you don’t like exercising around people.
Vacations are a wonderful time to disconnect from our busy lives and truly relax. This does not mean you should take a break from your healthy lifestyle you normally follow. If you are used to working out and staying fit, don’t blow all that hard work by skipping it completely during your vacation. And if you love staying active it should not be a hard task to keep it up while traveling. Do you have any tips on how to stay fit and healthy while traveling? Share your tips and tell us how you stay active below, on our Facebook, or Tweet us.
A Collaboration between Captain Clarex AKA Eric Ballenger and Dr. Eugene Y. Chan M.D.
Why is it, that so many people put such an enormous amount of thought into what they eat all day long, and not immediately post-workout? Everyone training muscle, regardless of their chosen mode of exercise, must take their post-exercise nutrition seriously in order to provide their muscle with the required raw materials. Since all types of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, it is inevitable that muscles require carbohydrates afterwards. Therefore, post-workout carbohydrates are important to refill this key ingredient in your muscles.
However, any amount of carbohydrates will not do. You need to consume enough carbohydrates to promote a substantial insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling glucose into muscle cells. Furthermore, insulin leads to increased glycogen synthesis in liver and muscle cells. Insulin has overall anabolic, or “building up,” effects on the body. The addition of protein to this post-workout carbohydrate routine adds the basic building blocks for this overall anabolic process (Miller et al., 2003; Volek, 2004). There many recommended ratios out there concentrating on the glycemic index and the carbohydrate to protein ratio, including a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio (Cordain, 2010). Researchers have utilized a 0.8 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight as a recommended amount for stimulating anabolic effects of insulin (van Loon et al., 2000). At a 4:1 ratio, this is 0.2 g protein per kg of body weight. An increased consumption of essential amino acids may lead to a more positive protein balance. For instance a 0.4 g/kg may by better. A protein intake range of 0.2 g/kg to 0.4 g/kg is therefore appropriate.
While your post-workout feeding should be rich protein and carbohydrate, this meal should be fat free. The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake but during the post workout period, eating fat can actually decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.
Cordain, L. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. December 16, 2010.
Miller, S.L., K.D. Tipton, D.L. Chinkes, S.E. Wolf, and R.R. Wolfe. Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 34:449-55, 2003
Van Loon, L., Saris, W.H., Kruijshoop, M., and Wagenmakers, A.J. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 72(1):106-111, 2000.
Volek, J.S. Influence of nutrition on responses to resistance training. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:689-96,2004.
By Eugene Y. Chan, MD
The holidays are approaching us fast and typically there are two big fears that confront us: (1) how do I not gain weight? and (2) how do I survive my holiday party? Thanksgiving and the holidays are synonymous with gluttony, binge eating, and over indulgence. Furthermore, there are numerous holiday parties that you need to attend, whether out of obligation or for fun. Given the joyous time of year, there is plenty of opportunity to get carried away. Fortunately, there is time to prepare.
First, regarding weight gain, there are several key realizations. The first is that the stomach has unique properties. It is an expandable container, made of smooth muscle. If it is in a compact state for weeks prior to your binge eating episode, you will feel full faster and will not consume as much. On the flip side, if you occasionally have large meals, you stomach will have lost its elasticity, very much like a balloon that has been inflated and deflated multiple times, and you will be able to consume a lot more. Second, your stomach and digestive tract secrete enzymes that require a certain time of upregulation, through gene expression and protein translation. Without certain key enzymes, the nutrients of certain foods do not make it into the body. So you could utilize this to your advantage. If you avoid fatty foods routinely, it is unlikely that a single meal of fatty foods will lead to significant weight gain. The lesson here in understanding the anatomy of your stomach as well as the molecular response of it to food is simple: if you eat healthy and in small portions on a routine basis, the impact of a single large meal is unlikely to have significant impact on your daily trip to the scale. Of course, it all goes without saying that you should continue to remain active and exercise often.
Ok, what should you do about those holiday parties? Holiday parties tend to be a great time to network, build camaraderie with your colleagues, all through a relaxed atmosphere. Part of this is a liberal amount of beer, wine, and cocktails that loosen up even your stiffest co-worker. The key here is moderation for you. Since you don’t want to be the individual that gets talked about the day after, setting a drink limit and goal for yourself prior to the party is most important. Discussing your goals with a colleague of similar professional mindset would help you solidify your resolve. In the event you did have one too many, how do you make it to work? The answer is simple: drink plenty of water and take a product designed for post-celebration recovery. The key is to get your Kreb’s cycle back up and running since an excess of ethanol builds up NADH, which signals the Kreb’s cycle to slow down. As you know the Kreb’s cycle is central to generating ATP, your body’s main form of energy. By supplementing key cofactors for enzymes in your Kreb’s cycle, you can get it back up and running in no time, and feel great in the process.
With that, good cheers for the holidays and be well.