Tips to get your head back in the game at work.

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It’s a crazy world, with a lot going on to distract us. Chances are, however, you still need to concentrate at work. But because it may be difficult to focus when feeling off balance, ill at ease, out of sorts and just generally scattered, try this:

Set priorities. Don’t just make lists. Make them in order of importance, and then work from the top down. This way the crucial jobs are sure to get done. Do keep in mind that sometimes what seems important is not. For example, checking email sounds like a must-do — but it may well be the activity that is most keeping you from accomplishing essential functions. Allocate your priorities with care.

Combat overwhelming tasks. The crucial jobs are also often the big jobs. The answer is to think small and break up those massive-feeling projects into more manageable tasks that can be completed in, say, an hour. In this way, you are using success to build upon success. Having trouble getting started? Use a timer. It lends a sense of urgency to any task, large or small.

Declutter your workspace. Constantly losing or misplacing things destroys focus. So consider carving out some time (even if it is your own time) to clean, organize and even beautify your work environment. Then make a routine to maintain your new surroundings. You will save time, and avoid mental anguish, in the long run.

Use relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, meditation, prayer and exercise all serve to achieve a mind-set that aids concentration. You can also build relaxation into your day by scheduling short, regular breaks. Alternating periods of work with brief rests actually makes people more productive than when they just try to push through without pause.

More tips: Surround yourself with organized, focused, positive people; it will rub off. If your work is done on a computer, try switching off Internet access for an hour or two. Eat a good breakfast. Motivate yourself with the promise of small rewards (a cup of tea, a walk around the block).

Have you heard of some of these tips? Of course you have. There’s nothing new under the sun! But now may be when we most need to turn to the time-tested, the reliable and the true.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at