You are trying to get your work done, but keeping your mind, energy, and actions focused on the task seems to be harder than you thought. What can you do to increase your concentration and boost your productivity? This article takes you through a concrete strategy for managing your mind and environment.
When people lose concentration, it is often due to the following factors: a sense of confusion or overwhelm by the enormity of the task, a lack of physical or mental stamina to stay on the job, and disruptions in the environment or distracting thoughts within one's own mind.
If you can solve the problems of organisation, energy, and environment, your concentration can stay on track which means you will achieve more in less time. Try these concentration strategies to boost your success at work.
Concentration Strategy #1:
ORGANISE YOUR WORK BY PROJECTS AND DESIGN COMPLETE MACRO PLANS
To succeed at any large task, all your actions need to be aligned. This is the value of the project planning method as it gives you the big picture and lays out the milestones to work towards. You cannot imagine the number of people trying to achieve their goals in a haphazard way – no strategy, no written plan, dashing from one thing to the next – having one's energy wasted by repetitive and unproductive actions.
You are smarter than that, so you make it a point to plan your projects – break down your dream outcome into major goals, achievable milestones, and doable tasks. You don't start work until you can see the big picture from beginning to end. This is called macro planning, which is vital because it is easy to lose track of what you should do next when you are in the midst of hammering out your project.
Your macro plan is big picture focused, but yet detailed enough for you to see the general steps, e.g. research competition, design marketing plan, draft proposal — milestone 1/24. You want to have all your goals, milestones, and major tasks laid out, then your macro plan is complete.
Concentration Strategy #2:
BATCH YOUR TASKS
Before you begin to work on any major task (e.g. setup home network), take a couple of minutes to draft a micro plan, which would look like a to-do list – a single or a few pages long. The trick to high productivity is to do similar tasks sequentially (one after the other). For example, if in order to achieve your goal you needed to do tasks A, B, C, D, E.... However, B and D are outdoor tasks, while A, C, E are computer-based tasks. Even though you are doing them out of order, batch all your similar tasks to be done together while you are in that environment — in front of your computer (A.C.E) and running outside (B.D).
Concentration Strategy #3:
MOVE YOUR BODY TO REFRESH YOUR MIND
Especially if you are a knowledge worker, your peak performance depends on your body's ability to metabolise energy and stay alert. It is difficult for your body to do that if it is not given the opportunity to exercise and circulate blood. Therefore, taking walks, swimming, cycling, or doing other sports can improve your energy levels and give your brain timeout for that occasional breakthrough idea.
Concentration Strategy #4:
CONSUME BRAIN FUEL, AVOID SLUG FOOD
Certain foods will make you sleepy. If you take a lot of sweet buns, chocolates, and soft drinks, you could get a sugar crash when your blood glucose levels go out of whack. The major source of energy for the brain is glucose and the density of this sugar in your bloodstream needs to be maintained within a narrow range for you to be healthy. Thus, you need to regulate your consumption of sugars and carbohydrates to ensure there is not too much nor too little coming in at a time.
Avoid heavy meals when working, as digesting large amounts of starch and protein can cause drowsiness. Opt for smaller meals consisting of vegetables and other complex carbohydrates like wholegrains, nuts, and tofu. These complex carbohydrates take time to break down, thus the release of glucose into your bloodstream is gradual, and your energy levels can sustain for longer periods.
Concentration Strategy #5:
AVOID CONSUMING EXCESS MEDIA
There is a lot of interesting stuff to watch on cable TV and streaming video sites, and even more hot and racy stuff in magazines and tabloids. However, a lot of that information will not help you get to where you want to be. Instead, it would occupy your thoughts and cause you to daydream or fantasise. Consuming unnecessary stuff fills your mind with distracting thoughts. And one wonders why one cannot concentrate? Protect your mental computer — do not overloaded it, nor allow viruses in.
Concentration Strategy #6:
PROTECT YOUR WORKSPACE
The world moves fast — distractions are all around if you let them in: phone calls, chat messengers, unexpected visitors and more. It makes sense that you should put your phone on silent, turn off your chat messenger, and shut the door. Periods of temporary isolation are useful for making progress on your goals.
You should also keep your workspace clean and organised. Simple and sophisticated is way better than cluttered and confused. Notice whether you are using your wall space effectively: sometimes people decorate their walls with so many colourful posters that distract rather than help to focus their attention. Use your wall to paste items which motivate and help you keep track of your progress.
Concentration Strategy #7:
CLEAR YOUR MIND AND HOLD EMPTY SPACE
It is difficult to work when the mind is filled with extraneous thought. One of your greatest assets is to learn to manage your mind rather than having your mind manage you.
One way you can clear your mind is to use a journal or a diary; either handwritten or stored on your computer. Write down all the thoughts and concerns on your mind onto the pages of this book. When done, put the book aside and all of your thoughts with it. You can come back to them later. Knowing that you no longer have to ponder these thoughts for the moment, you can concentrate on your task at hand.
You can learn to control your thoughts by mastering Samatha meditation. When you succeed at this, you are able to hold empty space in your mind. This opens the doorway to stillness and insight. I have included instructions in my book given in the link below.