05 Oct 2012 Maintain Focus – Improve Concentration
Improve your focus – Don’t Multitask
Do you struggle to maintain a clear focus on what you have to do?
Do you find yourself constantly switching tasks rather than sticking to what you had planned?
Or perhaps you find your mind wandering constantly.
If so, the following tips for maintaining focus and improving concentration may be helpful.
Clear Your Head
Before you start a new task that you know will require intense concentration, take at least 2 minutes to clear your head first. Try to relax and write things down that are on your mind.
The idea is to try and clear your head of any outstanding issues or thoughts that may interrupt you later.
Reported in the Sunday Life magazine on September 23, 2012. Writing can clear your mind. When we don’t write things down, we may well end up with a “busy brain”. A busy brain can stop us from concentrating and can even affect how we sleep at night.
Set yourself a short term “Focus Goal”
- Know what it is you are going to work on and be very clear about what you want to achieve in the short term. Say the next hour or so. Write this down or block out time in your Calendar or Diary for it.
- Allocate a realistic amount of time to work on it. The rationale here being that we cannot concentrate for long periods of time without our productivity declining. For instance:
- Peter Drucker suggests working in 50 minute blocks then take a 10 minute break. It has been proven that our productivity declines after a certain amount of time.
- Or you can try something like the Pomodoro Technique. (Work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break).
If any ideas pop into your head during this time, write it down and tell yourself you will come back to it after you have finished what you are currently focused on. Have your Notebook close by and on hand to do this.
This is a simple but a quite effective strategy. Try to remove as many distractions as you possibly can before you start working on something.
Your mobile phone can be turned to silent. You might shut down your email or at l;east turn off you email notifications so you are alerted as new emails arrive.
Also, make sure you have everything you need to complete the task at hand. You don’t want to be distracted by having to get up and fetch what you need.
If you are in an open plan office, let those around you know you need to focus in for an hour to complete something. Put headphones on if necessary.
If possible, maybe move to a quiet location away from others.
Remember, dividing your time equals dividing your attention.
We all think we can multitask, but the reality and the science says otherwise. Multitasking just means everything takes a little longer. You are in fact switch-tasking. Starting one task, stopping and then starting another task. This start/stop, start/stop activity means that tasks actually take longer than they normally would. In fact, up to 40 percent more time than single tasking apparently….especially for complex tasks.
Plus, the research in and around multi-tasking says that not only do tasks take a little longer, but actually, it is also quite unhealthy for you to even do so.
So clearly sometimes multitasking is unavoidable, however it should be avoided if at all possible. For more on multi-tasking, see this post – The Multi-Tasking Myth.
… don’t interrupt yourself.
Once you start working on your short term goal, try not to stop what you are doing. If you have an idea or a reminder pops into your head, write it down immediately and return to your task at hand. This certainly takes some discipline. It seems far easier to stop and respond to the “urgent” idea you’ve just had!
If you’ve followed the step above to remove as many distractions as you can, you might just get a decent run at a task without too many interruptions. It’s unavoidable sometimes for sure, but reduce the ones you can at least.
I hope you find this little article useful. Don’t forget to reward yourself if you have been successful in concentrating for the desired period of time and good luck!
Lingford Consulting – The Productivity Specialists