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Dr. Kevin Dalby Reveals How to Stay Mentally Present at Work

Originally published on

While at work, you want to be as effective and productive as possible. Sometimes, though, if not particularly stimulated by the task at hand, our minds will start to wander and lose focus. In this article, Dr. Kevin Dalby, an Austin-based professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, reveals his secrets to staying mentally present and aware while working.

1. Do Mindfulness Exercises to Stay Sharp

Mindfulness exercises can assist you in grounding yourself and remaining present while you are working. This practice is especially helpful in high-stress situations or when completing monotonous tasks that do not require a lot of thinking. Meditation or simple breathing exercises can help keep your mind clear and focused. Apps like Headspace or Calm can help you to get started if you’ve never meditated before.

2. Use Reminders

Sometimes, all we need is a little reminder to do what we are supposed to. The mind naturally wanders, but we need to be present to effectively and efficiently complete the tasks. Setting a timer or an alarm will help you to complete your task within a given time. Many people use sticky notes on their desks to remind them about their to-dos. Even though it’s an easy solution, it might not be the most effective, because they can easily get lost. Instead, schedule them into your calendar and set up appropriate reminders.

3. Make a Conscious Decision

Above all else, staying mentally present at work is a conscious decision. You have to be willing to put in the effort to ensure that you can focus and pay attention to whatever you are doing and stop yourself from wasting time on unnecessary things.

4. Single-Task

While some people are natural multi-taskers, some of us need to handle things one task at a time. It is okay if you need to take time for each assignment individually, and you should if that helps your productivity. Feeling like you are swimming in an endless sea of pending work with no easy way to get out can damage your productivity and make it harder to keep your mind focused on the tasks at hand, so take things one project at a time and work towards completion at your own pace.

5. Put Away Distractions

Most people unconsciously cope with challenging workdays by distracting themselves in various ways that they are likely not even aware of. It may sound obvious, but setting aside all of the distractions is a lot easier said than done, especially with so many people working from home these days. If you find yourself continuing to check the news and social media, you can download browser extensions like Work Mode or StayFocusd.

6. Stay Motivated

Often, we get carried away by our thoughts because we don’t feel motivated to do our job. It is normal to lose passion for your job, especially if you’ve been working long hours or burned out. Ask yourself why you do what you do and keep reminding yourself about the value this job provides to you and others. By keeping your motivation high, you will more likely feel “in the flow” rather than mentally absent.

We are all trying our best to stay mentally present at work. But if you notice consistently losing focus at work, use these tips to help you remain clear-minded and productive.

About Kevin Dalby

Dr. Kevin Dalby is a chemical biology professor and medicinal chemistry professor currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teach and motivate students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.