Whether you’re working from home or going back to the office for the first time in a while, it can be hard to maintain concentration for extended periods of time. Your mind might wander to other topics, your hands might wander to your phone, or your eyes might wander to other stimuli. However, concentration is easy to regain when you have a plan, according to André Stewart, CEO of InvestFar and author of The Real Estate Investing Diet.

Why is it so hard to concentrate?

Stewart says that it’s harder to focus than ever because not only is the office overstimulating – at times, ­the world at large is as well.

“If your home life is not intact or you are struggling financially, it can make it difficult to focus at work,” he says. “If your cost of living goes up, or maybe you don’t get a raise and start feeling underpaid, it can lead to not wanting to produce. And this feeling can open it up for more disruptions.”

You can also face concentration issues at work due to more innocuous issues that have less to do with financial strains or complicated home lives.

“Distractions can vary,” he adds. “It can be an obvious one like social media, or it can come down to not having a daily routine, lack of motivation, or uninterested tasks.”

Some say that working from home creates more distractions than working from the office. Stewart adds that because the labor market is so newly involved in remote work, to this day, they’re faced with new challenges – many around concentration. Rather than relying on their workplaces to set standards for concentration on the job, they now have to hold themselves accountable.

“Some workplaces have policies that require you to put your phone away while in the office,” Stewart says. “This can prevent you from checking your feeds or aimlessly scrolling, whereas, at home, it’s up to you to set those boundaries.”

Tips for how to improve concentration

No matter the reason for your concentration issues, there are a number of effective ways to regain concentration – here are Stewart’s tips.

1. Put your phone away

Most importantly, Stewart says, your phone is more than likely the most significant concentration interrupter you have. So when you’re trying to accomplish a task, put it away.

“A tip I might suggest is putting your phone in a different room when you have an important task to get done,” he notes. “That way, you’re not tempted to pick it up and start using it.”

2. Do what you hate first

Whether you’re putting off administrative tasks, writing a report, making a PowerPoint, or anything else, Stewart says that trying to accomplish tasks you hate can also affect your concentration counterintuitively.

“The tasks that you are dreading or ones that don’t fuel your passion tend to break your concentration the fastest,” he says. “I think the best thing to do is get the task that you dislike the most done first and not procrastinate—which is what I believe most people lose concentration on.”

3. Have a routine

Next, Stewart says that his whole life changed when he started engaging in a routine every day. For those who work from home or are their own bosses, he notes that creating a schedule for yourself can make or break your level of focus throughout the day.

“You have to stay consistent and disciplined,” he says. “There are 100 things that may pop up and disrupt your whole day, but having a consistent routine allows you to be in a better headspace to tackle any distractions that may come up.”

4. Start hard

Starting your day off by checking difficult things off of your to-do list can put you in the frame of mind to concentrate for the remainder of your workday. Your brain can also be at its sharpest, as Stewart mentions that the longest the day goes on, the more difficult it is for many people to maintain momentum.

“Do [difficult] tasks first thing in the morning if possible and not after lunch because your ghrelin levels will also affect your ability to concentrate.”

5. Entertain yourself

If you’re not able to get in the zone (especially for tasks you hate), incentivize yourself by putting on something that keeps the pace of the project you’re working on.

“Play music or a YouTube video in the background,” Stewart says. “What works for me is playing a YouTube video, particularly something that I’ve previously heard before, featuring some insights from my industry. Because I’ve already heard it, I can subconsciously half pay attention to it and instead devote more energy to the task at hand. This can help you get in the zone and stay concentrated.”

6. Break up your day

Next, once you have a solid morning schedule, don’t expect to keep that concentration all day. By pushing yourself too hard, you might burn out. But if you add a little time to decompress built into your day, you’ll be able to focus for extended periods of time.

“When I am working from home, I try to break up my day. As an example, I like to go to the gym at midday if time permits because it allows me a mental break so that when I return to work, I’m refocused and reenergized. Try going for a walk or listening to a podcast—whatever it may be. It’s important to give yourself this time in the middle of your day, not just at the end.”

7. Being physical

Lastly, Stewart says that being physical is an absolutely integral part of having or gaining concentration. As mentioned, working out in the middle of the day is preferred, as it increases endorphins and expels some work-related stress. Stewart also recommends a walk in the morning ranging from 20 to 30 minutes, making sure to leave one’s phone at home. This can also mentally prime you to think freely without feeling constrained or preoccupied with constant notifications.