Updated: Aug 4, 2020
You know the feeling when you turn up at work, sit down at your desk and as you try to think what to put on your to do list your mind goes blank, you just can’t seem to find the words you are looking for!
When you do finally think of some things to write down trying to process the thoughts is like wading through honey, just thinking is taking so much effort!
I know the feeling well, after a migraine I often struggle to string a sentence together the brain fog is so bad.
Brain fog can be caused by a number of factors including a lack of sleep, diet, certain medications and some health conditions such as diabetes, migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Dealing with brain fog at work can be a major challenge but over the years I’ve found some coaching techniques to help me and my coaching clients to stay focused at work.
Keep a concentration diary
Keeping a concentration diary can help you to identify patterns to your attention and brain fog, for example you might find that at 2 pm every afternoon you struggle to concentrate or you may find that your best work time is 9 am in the morning. By identifying when you concentrate the best you can start to tailor the types of tasks you do in the day in order to conserve your energy and devote attention to the tasks that need it the most.
Identify your attention span
For most people the longest time they can comfortably concentrate for is around 20 minutes. However finding out your attention span whether it is 30 minutes, 20 minutes or 5 minutes can be helpful in tailoring your work tasks and break patterns.
If you find that your attention span is roughly 25 minutes you can use tools such as the Pomodoro timer to set yourself time chunks of 25 minutes for working then have a 5 or 10 minute break.
It is also helpful to recognise if your attention span is different when you are experiencing brain fog. If it is shorter then tailor your work breaks to your shorter attention span,
Create a break list and take frequent breaks
Create a list of tasks you can do to take a break for different amounts of time, for example if you decide to have a 2 minute break sitting at you desk can you do 2 minutes of meditation or visualisation at your desk?
Or if you have a 10 minute break away from your desk could you go for a walk to the stairs and back? Or perhaps you can go and get a drink of water?
Check your Working Environment
Making sure your working environment is set up to minimise distractions can really help with brain fog as you won't have to work as hard to stay focused so you can conserve some of your mental energy.
Some environmental checks you can do:
Where is your desk positioned? Is you attention better if you are facing a window or a wall? If you are in an open plan office do you prefer to be at the end or in the middle of the row?
Does wearing headphones help with your concentration?
Is the lighting important to your attention – I have migraines and can’t stand bright lights or blue screens so I have a filter on my laptop with the brightness turned right down plus I try and sit with as much natural lighting as possible
Are you near a window? Is it possible to get fresh air from where you are working?
Making sure you have everything you need before you start working or join a meeting frees up mental energy to concentrate on the task at hand. Can you create a checklist of items you need for your work tasks that you can check off before you start working?
It can also be useful to have a list of what I like to call 'mind numbing' or 'easy' tasks that you can do without having to use too much mental energy. When I'm struggling with brain fog after a migraine attack I usually do tasks such as filing, I am still being productive but I'm not using as much mental energy.
Coping with brain fog can be really tough so its really important that you are kind to yourself, and don't beat yourself up if you need to take more breaks or don't get as much done.
If you feel brain fog is starting to really impact your work or home life it is worth speaking to your GP or healthcare provider as there may be things they can do to help.
If you know any friends or family members that struggle with brain fog at work make sure to share this blog post with them.
Have you got any concentration hacks you use to help with brain fog at work?