How Paper Helps Us Keep Focus at Work

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People are reporting a lack of focus and difficulty during this pandemic.  Could the humble sheet of paper offer some solutions?

It should be no surprise that anxiety and depression are booming during the strange times we find ourselves living in, under the global shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Difficulty in maintaining focus

We know that anxiety goes hand in hand with a lack of concentration and focus; an inability to see the purpose and meaning in things that we once valued highly.

Even the most resilient of us aren’t strangers to that feeling of one’s mind wandering in the midst of work or conversation.

So how can we deal with the problem and bring more focus and clarity back into our lives?

The answer might be very simple: a pen and paper.

Write a journal

The benefits of journaling on mental health are extremely well documented.  Keeping a daily journal is a great way to process and understand the thoughts and feelings we are experiencing during these unprecedented times.

There’s also a further benefit: sticking to a time  – either morning or night – to write down your thoughts can also help to create much-needed routine in our corona-virus-disrupted schedules; something else that has been linked to developing a more positive mental outlook.

Take notes in meetings to boost engagement

If you do find your mind wandering during important video conferences, you could find it helpful to take a leaf out of Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer’s book.

There are many reasons why you should take paper notes in meetings, but Mueller and Oppenheimer’s work adds an extra incentive.

These two researchers at Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, found that students who had taken handwritten notes on paper outperformed their computer-notetaking contemporaries.  Their findings have led them to argue that the action of summarising and writing notes on paper improves learning and retention.

They suggest the very limitations of pen and paper are exactly what makes it so effective. Because handwritten notes can’t be taken down as rapidly as typed notes, paper notetakers are forced to process the information more critically at the time of writing – in order to summarise the information effectively.

This leads to a higher sense of cognitive engagement – and this lies at the root of the improved subsequent recall, say Mueller and Oppenheimer.

Doodle to relieve stress!

Even if you doodle instead of taking notes, it can assist your later retention of facts.

And there’s an even better reason to doodle: as a stress-buster.  We’ve looked at how doodling on paper can release stress before in Business Optimiser.

Professional handwriting analyst Ruth Roston, while writing for Epilepsy Action on world Doodle Day, argues that doodling is “an uninhibited form of self-expression”. Not only this, “Doodling helps relieve boredom and frustration and the urge to doodle gets stronger as stress levels rise,” Ruth says. “Doodling is like a safety valve that allows pressure to be dispelled in a playful and creative way.”

Swap your online and TV news for a newspaper

Experts have warned against watching too much TV news during the day and being bombarded by the negativity and feelings of powerlessness as they can negatively impact your mental health.

Why not turn off the TV news and block the news channel on your devices?

Print newspapers are struggling during this pandemic as a result of falling advertising revenue, so it is a great way to support regional and national news and journalists whilst also decisively limiting your intake of news every day.