We seem to be living in a world of distractions. People interrupt you. Emails demand your attention. You have to prepare for meetings quickly. Plus, your to-do list keeps growing. While you are working on one project, you are tempted to start another. If you could only concentrate!
We all struggle with focus from time to time. But like anything else, we can train ourselves to concentrate more and feel better about what we are accomplishing.
Here are five steps to take:
Know what is the most important thing you need to be working on at that moment. Do you have all of the materials, notes, and research you need to proceed?
Block time on your calendar when you can get your work done. Do that regularly; otherwise, it will quickly fill with meetings. Think about when you do your best-detailed work. If you seem to have the greatest focus during the morning hours, you should do your detailed and creative work and thinking then.
Close your office door. Shut down your email program and let phone calls go to voicemail. Some people can’t work with any music in the background. Personally, I need background music and have several playlists that are not distracting but comforting. That’s up to you and how you work best.
Adjust the Room’s Temperature
My former administrative assistant couldn’t understand how I could work in such a cold office. I’ve said that I could probably be perfectly happy working in a meat locker. Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis and director of Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, found that you will make more mistakes if your office is too cold. If the temperature is increased from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, typing errors fell by 44 percent, and typing output jumped 150 percent.
A separate study from Helsinki University of Technology suggests the perfect temperature is 71 degrees.
Take Periodic Breaks
If you hit a roadblock, take a break. Grab a cup of coffee. Get a breath of fresh air. But even if you don’t think you need a break, realize that no one can operate at 100 percent efficiency for extended periods.
Consider trying the Pomodoro Technique.
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, it suggests before you start a project, you set a timer for 25 minutes. Then you get to work. When the alarm sounds, take a 5-minute break. Repeat the alarm, and after you have had four work sessions, take a 15-minute break before continuing. At that point, the next four work sessions will be followed by 5-minute intervals.
You must find the things that will work for you to keep your brain engaged. Remember the quote among athletes, “Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body does.”