Being able to concentrate and focus isn’t just a great skill to have.
It’s a necessity.
Reading a book requires you to be focused, doing your job right requires your undivided attention and the list can go on. Think of your life like a movie. Do you wish to be the director, or will you just passively watch the movie unfold?
Here are five tips that will help you successfully direct your thoughts and actions.
1) Be Mindful
The ability to remain focused is like a muscle that you can work on. Practicing meditation is the best way to train your “focus muscle”, but you can’t meditate while surrounded by your colleagues at the office. Instead, try to be aware of your surroundings and your own mental state. The more you can discipline your mind to be focused and whatever needs to be done, the easier it will be to control your thoughts and your actions.
The aim of personal effectiveness through mindfulness is not to become robots or Zen masters. It’s about being honest about where we need to improve to be better in our professional and personal life.
2) Avoid Distractions
Distractions eat away our daily energy and are detrimental to our ability to focus. The thing is, we enjoy the occasional funny video or kitty pic. Many are actually addicted to these small and apparently innocent forms of entertainment. Quitting something that you like is always hard, but it’s a challenge that we have to face nowadays in the era of social media. We are constantly bombarded with tons of information on a daily basis. Thus, filtering becomes a necessity:
Quit watching TV – Not to say that there aren’t things worth watching. The TV can be a valuable source of information and it’s your duty to keep up with the news. Just don’t leave it open when you are or should be doing something else.
Carefully select your social media following – Don’t underestimate the power that your news feed has over you. Clean up your following list and maintain some quality in the information that’s being fed to you.
3) Avoid Multitasking
There are lots of occasions when people end up doing something different than the thing they thought just a few seconds earlier. This can happen especially when the task that needs to be done is boring or difficult. Doing something easier becomes more attractive to the mind and this can trigger a counterproductive habit called multitasking.
Many people have gotten used to doing two or three things at a time and some are quite proud of it. However, studies show that productivity significantly decreases when doing more things at once. It’s actually a burden for your mind to switch back and forth between tasks.
Remember, you have a finite amount of mental energy during the course of a day. Use it to....
4) Get in the Zone
What exactly is “the zone”?
Well.. You know the whole cliche surrounding “passion” and work. Although job seekers overuse the term “passion”, it actually has a lot to do with reaching the flow state or “being in the zone”. In psychology, the term “flow” refers to a mental state in which a person is fully immersed and energized because of enjoyment and proficiency in accomplishing the task at hand. Somebody playing a video game for hours on end without looking away from the screen is regarded as being in a flow state. Reaching a flow state requires one to be knowledgeable, self-aware, confident, passionate about the task at hand and, most importantly, free from distractions.
5) Take Breaks
Breaks are not overrated. Working long hours without breaks in between will result in information overload and a sore back. A study from the University of Illinois has found that participants who took short breaks during a 50-minute task were more effective than those who worked 50 minutes without taking any break.
The Pomodoro technique is a widely used method to exercise focus. In a nutshell, you have to concentrate your efforts in accomplishing one task or sub-task over a 25-minute period. You then take a 5-minute break and start over. Use an alarm to notify you when the 25 minutes are up. It’s best that you ignore the timer entirely and only focus on one specific task.
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