Goldfish are better at concentrating than us. According to a Microsoft study, while a goldfish can hold their attention spans for 9 seconds, ours starts to decline after 8 seconds. (Don’t ask me how they measured that.)
If you spend most of your time in meetings, you will recognize those moments when you are no longer paying attention, and your mind starts to drift. If you are in front of a computer screen, that is when you start checking your email and begin browsing the Internet. You may have seen colleagues nod off. I had to nudge someone once who started to snore.
But it is also our work habits that cause us to lose concentration. Research by Dr. Glenn Wilson at the London Institute of Psychiatry shows that when we are distracted by emails and phone calls, our IQ falls by 10 points. The 2005 study noted that more than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so.
Improving your concentration is essential to the way people view you and your ability to do your job. Plus, when you have ultimate focus, you work faster and are more creative. You do better work with fewer mistakes.
Here are six ways in which you can improve your level of concentration.
Focus On Your Health
You will work better throughout the day if you are healthy. Start your day with a good breakfast; keep healthy snacks at your desk. Drink plenty of water as dehydration can make us feel tired, irritable, slow, and ill.
Get Enough Sleep
Some people lose concentration because they are tired. It can be a badge of courage to say you don’t need sleep in the corporate world or can get by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep. People who say that are kidding themselves. Most adults need 7-8 hours of nightly sleep. If they get less sleep, not only should they expect to have problems with concentration, but it could lead to other health problems. Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D., says that sleep also plays a role in our metabolism: Even one night of missed sleep can create a prediabetic state in an otherwise healthy person.
Train Yourself To Concentrate More
Physical exercise will keep your body healthy. It will help your level of concentration if you keep your brain healthy too. Do this by reading, doing crossword puzzles and memory games.
Create High Focus Times On Your Calendar
If you are always running between meetings and projects you need to work on, you won’t concentrate when you need the focus. Set aside times on your calendar when you can focus on what is essential.
Create A Productive Workplace
When you need to concentrate, you can’t do it in a noisy, crowded space where you are continually interrupted. Find a place to work where you can do it in solitude. While we all like to brag about having an “open-door policy,” there must be times on your calendar where you close your office door. If you work in a cubicle, put on some headphones with a note on your workspace entrance, asking not to be interrupted unless it is an emergency. While you are working, resist the urge to check your email. It is a good idea to turn off your internet connection unless you need it.
When you are focusing on work, concentrate on one task at a time. Being able to multi-task effectively is a fallacy. Switch between jobs that require a high level and low level of attention. Your concentration won’t fail you that way. If you spend two hours working on a complex task, you will find yourself losing concentration.
These six steps are a good start to improve your level of concentration. You may have your own to add. Good luck trying to keep ahead of the goldfish.