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Productivity

7 Ways You Can Improve Your Concentration

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improve your concentration

Unlike the traditional belief, humans are not born with an innate ability to focus and concentrate. It is a skill that most of the successful people learn and hone over time. Some people still hold the dogma that if their brain is slow or they can’t get things done quickly then they are doomed and will remain the same for their remaining life.

Research has proven that it is possible to improve your concentration no matter how worse the situation may seem like. You can begin today with a few tried and tested ways to improve your concentration. These methods or concepts may seem very cliched, but if implemented correctly, they can significantly change your life.

Check out these 7 ways to improve your concentration that can help you become a focused person.

1. Eliminate all distractions

Sometimes our attention gets diverted from the task at hand to something else and, as a result, we don’t perform optimally. By eliminating things that can distract you, you can finish your desired task well within the deadline and without any unexpected stoppages. External distractions like text messages, phone calls, social media notifications, etc. can casually shift your attention from your work to things that don’t matter that much.  

People who work in distraction-free environments are more productive and less likely to commit errors. For instance, it’s easy to read a book when you are sitting by a relaxing beach where the only sound you hear is of crashing waves and chirping birds; most people will find this scenario quite relaxing and will get more reading done than if they were in a crowded coffee shop.

You’ll be surprised to learn that using Facebook can make you 55 percent more likely to be stressed. The Happiness Researcher Institute, Denmark took 1,095 people who used Facebook regularly in their daily lives and split them into two groups. One group was allowed to use Facebook as they normally would and the other group was banned from using it for a week.

They later concluded that the people in the second group who abstained from Facebook were more satisfied and happy in their social life. In conclusion, instead of completely avoiding social media you can regulate its usage so that it doesn’t create unnecessary distractions in your life.

2. Strive for an emotionally balanced life

improve your concentration

Lack of concentration is a symptom of an emotionally turbulent mind. If the mind is not calm and composed, it is going to let itself wander in places it should not. A lot of people think they can achieve the highest level of focus and concentration just by practicing a certain type of meditation or relaxation technique. But that is farthest from the truth. Meditation only helps to improve your concentration when you attain a decent level of emotional maturity.

One quick way to gain emotional stability is to follow a morning routine which consists of positive affirmations, exercise, reading, and journaling. These practices will help you be more in touch with your life situation so you can deal with them in a better way and also, in the process, improve your concentration. However, it should be noted that no one stays emotionally stable all the time, even an emotionally healthy person needs solace in times of distress.

In a study done by Columbia University, researchers found out that surgeons who are under stress in their personal lives are more likely to commit mistakes on a patient in the operating room. This shows how important it is to be emotionally stable and have good concentration.

3. Get enough sleep and exercise

Good sleep and physical exercise are very essential factors you need to consider when you are trying to improve your concentration. Generally, people who don’t sleep for a minimum of seven-eight hours each night feel tired quickly and are likely to crash out by the afternoon. Consequently, regular physical activity is also needed to operate at optimal mental capacity.    

Reports suggest that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. This data published by the American Sleep Association also identified insomnia to be the most common sleep disorder; nearly 30 percent of people in the United States suffer from insomnia. With these many people having difficulties with their sleep, getting a good night’s sleep becomes very important to improve your concentration levels.   

4. Create a to-do list

A to-do list or checklist is a time management technique used by many successful people all over the world. The idea is to go through every task that needs to be done in the following day and write them down in a list. This could be done using a mobile application or a post-it sticky note. I use Things 3 as my preferred to-do app.

Creating a list takes our attention from what needs to be done in the future to the task at hand; as we already know how the day is going to go. Hence, it can improve your concentration too. One needs to keep in mind that lists only work when we keep them specific and precise. Likewise, it helps to write down supplementary side-notes along with the bullet points on the to-do list.   

5. Reward yourself for the hard work

Working on long-term projects with no immediate gratification can be boring and dull. Over time it can make you lose your concentration and get distracted. Furthermore, it’s very easy not to see this happening when you are just starting a project; the idea of a new project or a venture can be fun and exciting in the beginning phases. But most people experience a dip in their performance as things move further and going gets harder.

By rewarding yourself for your hard work, you get a quick jolt of energy which can help improve your concentration naturally. Some of the ways to reward yourself are by resting, having your favorite food, sweets, taking a day off, etc.  

Recent research by Cornell University suggests that rewarding an employee at the beginning of a project yields better focus, concentration, and engagement from them. The study also concluded that instead of waiting till the end it’s in our best interest to pay ourselves first.

6. Environment matters

improve your concentration

Changing the environment is probably the easiest way you can improve your concentration. Sometimes the coziest places can become detrimental to your productivity; the more comfortable the workplace the faster you are likely to lose focus. So, it’s essential to choose a workplace where there are positive people around who have the same ambitions and long term goals as you have.  

Your residential area also becomes a factor when you want to improve your concentration and raise your standard of living altogether. Living in a noisy and busy area can put you in a funk and lower your level of concentration when you try to accomplish anything.

One of the best places to work is a less crowded coffee shop or cafe. It helps to spend time in a place that has comfortable seating and people around. Coffee shops are becoming very popular among freelancers and digital nomads since most of them have wifi connectivity.

7. Use the Pomodoro Technique

improve your concentration

Often times it is difficult to get started on a project or an assignment as we tend to think about the amount of time we have to spend working on it. In addition, the mere thought of working tirelessly for hours can be exhausting for some people as it is difficult to concentrate for so long.

There are numerous time management techniques available to deal with this problem but the one called “Pomodoro Technique” is very popular among people with mental focus issues.   

This technique has can help improve your concentration because you only have to commit to work for 25 minutes initially. For instance, work on one task for 25 minutes then rest for the next 5 minutes and repeat this cycle for 3 cycles ending the entire work session with a longer break. This way of working gets people in the flow and they end up working for two to three sessions in one go.  

To conclude, these 7 ways to improve your concentration are hand-picked and tried and tested by several successful people. Be it entrepreneurs, politicians, or leading artists, everyone has their own ways to get in the zone and unleash their creative genius. It is also recommended to keep track of your progress when you are trying to implement a change in your life; journaling is a great way to measure your progress.

Goals

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

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How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

Prioritization is the key to achieving your goals. It helps you focus on what is important. While talking about how to prioritize your tasks to help you achieve all your goals, I briefly touched what you should do if everything seems like a priority – 

If you find yourself with more than three top priorities, then that’s a problem. It means you haven’t figured out what tasks are more important. Figure out which ones can wait until later. If all of the tasks are of same nature making them equally important, then that means you need to cut out some tasks, you might have taken on more than you can handle.

Having a laser-like focus on only a handful of things is essential here so that you can have only the tasks that matter the most on your list.

Most of us struggle with this. Prioritizing is not easy if you don’t know how to differentiate actual priority from the task that seems like one. Even if everything on your plate is supposed to be equally important, you will still need to find a way to break down which ones you should be spending your time on.

How we slice up our time and what we dedicate our time to often dictates what direction our life is going to take. The first question one has to get past is whether or not everything really is of equal importance – when you start questioning is when you will start looking for ways to deal with the problem the question possesses.

Dealing with Conflicting Priorities

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

When you are trying to deal with your personal and professional life at the same time, the tasks together can become more daunting. We face multiple demands on our time every day because of that. 

In the professional scene, often the tasks that are urgent override the schedule, resulting in loss of control and inattention to priority tasks. So how should priorities be determined? 

To begin with, ask questions. 

Let’s take an example. Suppose you are in your office. You have a project that needs to be done today. A colleague comes by and asks you to help with something that is also urgent and needs to be done by the afternoon. Now, you didn’t say “no” because that might be rude. You have an urgent task that is not your priority and you have your own project that is a priority but not as urgent as this other task.

Ask questions to yourself – 

  • Is taking this additional work going to affect your workflow?
  • Do you want to do this?
  • Is this stressing you out or causing you anxiety?
  • Are you stretching yourself too thin trying to be helpful?
  • Can this work be done by someone else?

If the answer to even of these questions is “Yes” then we move on to the next part, that is, learning to drop the task because it is not a priority.

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”

-Stephen Covey

What Do You Do? The Art of Saying “No”

Everyone considers their project to be the most important and wants information or action immediately, they won’t always be considerate of your work. All most people care about is getting their work done. If you have trouble saying “no” chances are that your work will keep suffering. How to deal with this? 

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

Even though you feel bad about not being able to help your colleague, it is okay. You have to put your work first. Of course, special circumstances do demand changing your priorities but most often than not saying “no” will immediately put the dilemma to rest.

If multiple people are involved in your project, find out where your piece fits into the overall project. Taking charge of your space and your time will allow you to focus on what is important, meet deadlines and minimize job and personal stress, this starts with learning to say “no.”

Why Writing Down Your Tasks Help

We have a scientific term to explain why writing down goals helps. It is called the generation effect. What it basically means is that you remember information more when you have generated it with your own mind than when you have read it. There’s no one specific answer to why it happens but a lot of studies have been conducted on it, and this phenomenon is used in quite a few things. 

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

You must have heard people say “Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” You can dream or talk about it all you want, but until you write it down on a piece of paper, it remains a half-hearted attempt – nothing more than a wish. 

Another thing and an important one at that, is encoding. Our memory has the ability to encode, store, and recall information. By writing your goals down, you are storing it externally by putting it on paper. Now, by visiting it again and again, we are encoding it into our brains. There are few intensively used types of encoding. Two types are at work here, Visual encoding and Elaborative encoding. I have discussed all of this in detail when I talked about why writing down goals can help you achieve them faster.

Basically how it works is that we write something and that can be visual encoding, looking at that, again and again, evokes the feelings associated with that task, the reason of it, if you may. That is elaborative encoding, this is how priority kicks in. The elaborative part helps us associate reasons behind the task and the consequences associated with it, and in turn, its correlation with our ultimate goals.

This eventually helps us only pick out priority labeled tasks to make us more productive and efficient.

Spending Your Time Right

How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important

Most people generally panic when they have to tackle their tasks by priority because everything feels important. When everything looks like a priority, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult to skillfully juggle multiple priorities and competing responsibilities at the same time. There are times when you have to manage the workload at the office as well as home. 

What we often fail to keep in mind when handling multiple activities is to prioritize them according to their importance. Many people just try to handle various activities as per their instinct and end up never doing the important things. Later, they might blame it on ‘not having enough time’, which obviously is untrue. You have enough time, you just have to start spending it right.

If you don’t know what your priority is, you will never have enough time to get your work done. As Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”

Final Thoughts

Prioritizing your to-do list is very simple if you learn to differentiate between your actual priority and what feels like a priority. Learning to say “no” to whatever is hindering your chances of success is the next big thing. If you learn these two things, you are pretty much sorted. All there is left to do is employ strategies to actually get the work done.

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Goals

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

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How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

A few days ago I discussed why prioritizing your tasks was a much-needed aspect when it came to achieving success. I have always believed that knowing what is important to you will help you focus your energy in the right things.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”

-Russian Proverb

Once you have realized that not every task is equally important and they can be put off, for the time being, you can get to schedule only the tasks that are on your priority list. The problem arises when you cannot determine which task is more important.

One of the questions that help you make sense of prioritization is, “Will this task take me closer to my goal?” The most important tasks are the ones that move you closer to achieving your long term goals.

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

Prioritization helps you have a plan that will push you to focus your time and energy on the right things. It will also help you ensure that your work is done, deadlines are met, and stress is minimized.

Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation or the number of things that need to be done, that’s when your priorities need to be reordered so that you can get things done that bring you closer to your actual goal. At the end of the day, everything boils down to your ultimate goal.  

Nobody’s life is ever all balanced – doesn’t matter if it seems like that to you – everyone has a different set of problems. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities every day so that you can keep making progress each day.

The Magic of To-Do Lists

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

“Schedule your priorities.”

-Stephen Covey

To-do lists are really helpful in putting the things that need to be done into perspective. Take the list further by adding additional attributes. You can prioritize tasks in the list itself. If you use an app or digital file, it becomes easier. If you use the old pen-paper method, then you can either rewrite the list after prioritizing the tasks or you can use highlighters or page-markers. Here’s how you can prioritize your tasks.

  • Make a list of all the tasks that you need to do.
  • For bigger tasks, identify individual tasks that will help you complete the project. The breaking of big tasks should be small enough to be completed in a few days or a few hours. 
  • Identify due dates – long-range, midrange, due next month or next week.

Now that you have the list complete. You will have everything laid out in front of you. This will help you make an informed decision without forgetting any tasks. With brain dump out of the way, you can focus on prioritizing the tasks.

  • Assign priorities to each task, from most urgent to not very important – use A, B, C, etc., to designate levels of importance. 
  • After you have decided the priority of your tasks, rank each task within the level using a secondary designation, such as A-1, A-2, A-3 – this can be used for sub-tasks.

You must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, most people often spend their time and energy on what is urgent than what is important. This might get you from one point to another in the short-term but in long-term it will get you nowhere. The next step is that you must do what’s important first which is called priority.

Over time, I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything. When we understand this, it becomes easier to understand what actually matters and what you are doing just because. 

There are many tools provided online to make planning even more detailed yet easier. Tasks can be flagged with contact details of people involved and reminders of upcoming events, due dates, and meetings. You can also make to-do lists, assign due dates, set reminders, schedule meetings, etc.

“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”

-Laura Vanderkam

Start and end your day with your “to-do” list – check off what you finished and review the remaining tasks at night and in the morning go through the list once to see what all you need to do. Do not constantly reprioritize the list, as it can quickly become an excuse for procrastination and will leave you confused as to what you are supposed to do.

What if Every Task Seems Like a Priority?

How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals

“When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.”

-Stephen Covey

If you find yourself with more than three top priorities, then that’s a problem. It means you haven’t figured out what tasks are more important. Figure out which ones can wait until later. If all of the tasks are of same nature making them equally important, then that means you need to cut out some tasks, you might have taken on more than you can handle.

Having a laser-like focus on only a handful of things is essential here so that you can have only the tasks that matter the most on your list.

Final Thoughts

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”

-Stephen Covey

To achieve success, to complete your goal, to chase your dream with your all – it is really important to learn how to prioritize. There will always be a plethora of things you want to do or you feel like you need to do, but they will never all be at the same level priority wise. 

You need to learn to teach yourself to decide on what is important and stick to doing that – this is the key to finishing things that are high on your list.

Prioritizing allows you to identify the most important tasks at any moment and dedicate the limited time and resources you have accordingly.

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Habits

Why You Should Prepare Your To-Do Lists the Night Before

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Why You Should Prepare Your To-Do Lists the Night Before

To be on top of everything, having a set morning routine and night routine that you follow religiously is very important. A routine makes sure that you do all the necessary tasks to ensure that your day running smoothly. The habit of making to-do lists and following it is one of the beneficial habits you can cultivate in order to get all your work done without being overwhelmed.

Many people wonder if making lists at the end of the day is better than making a list in the morning or vice versa. While in the morning, you might be fresh with a fresh outlook toward the day, chances are that making a list in the morning isn’t the best way to ensure productivity. Making a to-do list isn’t enough, knowing how to tackle it needs some planning.

When you wake up and get through your morning routine, it can be difficult to sit down to plan the day. You want the morning to be light and filled with little tasks that are more about self-care than business. The serenity of the morning is the perfect time to be looking after yourself. If someday you happen to wake up late, all your planning will go askew if you leave making your task list to morning.

Why You Should Prepare Your To-Do Lists the Night Before

At the end of the day, you know what tasks you have managed to complete, and what areas of work needs your attention next. This makes it easier to create a to-do list for the next day because you will be making a list on the data from the day. While you can do the same in the morning, the urgencies of certain tasks aren’t going to be that fresh in your mind. 

You also have the opportunity to sleep on your list and then revise it in the morning with tasks that would need more attention. Before bed is the best time to create a game plan for the next day. It’s like getting a head start to your day because you already made a plan the day before. 

When you make a list at night, you already know what you need to focus on first the next day. What’s your MIT (most important task) and what work you can fit in, considering your schedule. You don’t have to wake up to the task of planning and can use your sharpness in the hours of the morning to actually getting work done. 

“Setlists are tough because you come up with this structure of how the songs are going to go from one to the next, but at the same time, you have to be spontaneous and take requests and change the setlist at the drop of a hat.”

-Billie Joe Armstrong

You can put indicators to tasks that are priorities, urgent, or can be put-off, and then in the morning, you can prioritize them with more vigilance. This is something that will help you go about your day as soon as you wake up because you will have a direction to follow. This particularly helps if you have too much on your plate and you are overwhelmed by the amount of tasks that need to be done and feel clueless. With a to-do list prepared, you will wake up with a mission and that will help you feel motivated.
While I am an advocate for waking up early, I know not everyone can afford to. Many of us work lates or have some weird working hours because of international businesses or just because of personal preference. If you are not an early riser, then making a list in advance will let you know at what time to wake up to keep your day running smoothly.

Why You Should Prepare Your To-Do Lists the Night Before

For me, I make a list of my three MITs (Most Important Tasks). I always advise to make a list of 2-3 MITs and try to achieve them as soon as possible, they are critical tasks that yield the most significant results. Once you achieve the most important and difficult tasks, you already have a sense of accomplishment and achievement that will help you get to other not so important tasks throughout the day without worrying constantly.

Having the most important task out of the way gives you an opportunity to be actually present in your workday and work for other things without the constant pressure of this looming task that you will have to get to eventually. You get to give your 100% to everything you do because you are sorted by working on tasks based on your priority.

“I made a huge to-do list for today. I just can’t figure out who’s going to do it.”

-Anonymous

That being said, while lists can be a huge help in giving you direction, in the end, you are the one who has to follow them to get the work done so don’t make your lists overwhelming. I understand the urge to fill up our lists with all the tasks that are swarming our minds, I used to do that. I made mile-long lists but never could complete it in the day and that discouraged me.

Then I learned the importance of being smart and setting realistic goals. I started making a master list in which I jotted down every task that entered my mind and then segregated them daily. I focused only on the tasks that were on my today list. Having put the other tasks on another list made me not worry about them and I could focus on my daily tasks better. 

“People are remarkably bad at remembering long lists of goals. I learned this at a professional level when trying to get my high-performance coaching clients to stay on track; the longer their lists of to-dos and goals, the more overwhelmed and off-track they got. Clarity comes with simplicity.”

-Brendon Burchard

A brain dump is essential to keep your brain from worrying about every little thing. So, make a main overall list and then your daily to-do list can be a subset of it. Every day when you make your lists in the evening or before going to bed, you can go through your main list and take that into consideration against what you achieved today. Based on both things, you can make a much more efficient list. This will help you work little by little to achieve your long term goals as well.

“Mostly I make lists for projects. This can be daunting. Breaking something big into its constituent parts will help you organize your thoughts, but it can also force you to confront the depth of your ignorance and the hugeness of the task. That’s OK. The project may be the lion, but the list is your whip.”

-Adam Savage

After doing a brain dump of all your ideas and worries, take things out from it to do each day, and do not look at the main list you made again while going about your day. This will free up your mind from the plethora of tasks that need to be done and will let you focus on what you can do now – making sure you give your best in whatever you are doing. There’s no point stressing over the bulk and doing nothing to make a dent in it.

You have to consider your strengths, your weaknesses, your schedule, the probability of last-minute tasks, the average time to get a job done, any kind of raw data that can help you get into the habit of making an almost foolproof plan.

If the list is overwhelming you and discouraging you, then you have to understand that it’s not the lists that overwhelm us, it’s what and how much we put on them. Ever heard about not overfilling your plate, this is exactly it.

Why You Should Prepare Your To-Do Lists the Night Before

There will be days when you won’t complete all the tasks on your list – no matter how hard you try, some days are just not helpful. The unfinished tasks will bother you – if they don’t, then you can use the same list, but chances are that they will. I suggest throwing away that list and start a new one every day. 

For most people, when they just add on to the existing list, they start the next day already feeling like having failed because they have tasks from yesterday to go through. No matter how much you do in the day, you will keep feeling unaccomplished because your mind will go in an ‘if only’ mindset where you will keep wondering that if you had finished those tasks yesterday then you could have done more work in the time it took you to get to them today.

This is not a healthy attitude to begin your day with. So, start a new list. Put the tasks again on the list. Now, it is a new list with all the remaining and new tasks together. It will make you feel like you have a fresh list instead of the feeling of working on a backlog. Whatever makes you feel positive about your workflow is what you are going to apply eventually – it is a process of learning and growing.

Final Thoughts

Making a good plan is half-battle won, that is why it is important to be prepared. To-do lists are your daily plans. If you prepare them smartly and then apply them to the T, you will realize that getting work done is easier than it always seemed. Making a to-do list the night before gives you the opportunity to start your day feeling prepared and ready to deal with anything that comes your way.

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