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
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
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
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.
How to Use Your Calendar to Increase Productivity and Achieve Big Goals
Are you tired of not accomplishing your goals or being unproductive at work? Are you tired of finishing things at the last minute for every project you have? You might have tried many systems and they just do not seem to work.
You may have noticed your peers excelling and getting things done although they have the same amount of hours as you do in a day. Fortunately, there is a great system which may help improve your productivity.
One of the primary reasons why individuals are not productive is because they are constantly interrupted or feel overwhelmed by the goal/task they need to accomplish. The feeling of being overwhelmed causes projects to be postponed until right before the final due date. To avoid this feeling, you must try and break the project into multiple sub-tasks. For example, if you need to repair a fence in your backyard, this can be broken up into the following tasks:
- Buy materials for fence repair
- Remove damaged fence parts
- Replace fence parts
- Paint fence
The overall project should be broken down into mini-tasks to make this more manageable. Although this process will make a project less overwhelming, it still misses another important point, which is getting interrupted by other higher-priority tasks. Therefore, it is important to write these down on a paper or on your phone or computer.
Many productivity specialists say that writing down your goals will make it more likely that you will accomplish them. I have written down goals before and failed to accomplish anything. At work, I was behind on projects and getting interrupted constantly – it happens sometimes.
After much investigation, I realized that I was missing a core element and that was a reminder system. I could write down my goals and put them on my computer but if I did not review them, the lists would be useless.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem was at my fingertips. I decided to take these lists and add them to my calendar on my phone. I would dedicate at least a 30-minute block to the tasks I wanted to do and set a reminder time at least 5 minutes before the task. Start your day doing this and block off all the hours in your day on your phone’s calendar. If you get interrupted, you can simply move tasks to other time blocks.
You can also combine it with the Pomodoro technique to increase your productivity along with your accountability that will come with setting up the reminder.
Why does this work?
This works because you are telling your mind that you need to work on a task during this time period. The reminder from your phone/computer reinforces this and allows you to focus. Paper-based systems failed for me because I did not review the tasks I had written down. As soon as a higher-priority task came up, I did not accomplish what I wrote down. Instead of relying on myself to do a “review”, the phone’s calendar does it for me.
It also gives me a sense of accountability, because I know that I am supposed to do the said things in the determined time block or else everything else will also suffer. It works like a pang of mini guilt for me. It also gives you deadlines to complete your work, nothing works better at making you feel accountable than a deadline.
Breaking down big goals into smaller goals is something that almost all of us know. It is one of the basic steps that anyone mentions when they take about achieving your goals. But, sticking to accomplishing to those smaller goals to achieve the bigger one is where people fail. This is one of the simplest ways to hold yourself up to the completion of the task.
Creating a sense of accountability is very important. When we feel responsible for something, we tend to be more serious about it. Written goals make us accountable and constant reminders keep us on our toes, making us answerable to ourselves.
If you are tired of writing tasks down or wanting to do major projects and not getting anything done, then you may want to try breaking apart major tasks and add these tasks to your phone. You may find yourself accomplishing things you never imagined!
5 Tips to Increase Your Focus
Low attention span or difficulty in focusing is becoming a common problem for many. With so many entertainment options readily available, it has become easy to be distracted and to procrastinate. Our work takes the hit and that, in turn, makes us feel bad. Instead of dismissing your lack of focus as something you have to deal with, learn to increase it.
Like our body, our mind needs exercise too. The areas we consider to be weak can be built up if we put our mind to it. Just because our focus isn’t as strong as we would like it to be, doesn’t mean you have to accept the fact and do nothing about it. Try to better it. There are things, practices, and exercises that if done regularly, can help you increase your focus.
If you didn’t know, meditation has different types that focus on different areas. Mindfulness meditation can help you boost your attention span significantly. Not only that, meditation in itself can help you relax, and become calm and collected. Now, that your mind has relaxed and is free of a thought jumble, it becomes easier to focus on things that actually matter.
Meditation for just 10 to 20 minutes a day will help you increase your focus and attention span. Start your mornings by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, followed by your meditation ritual. You can also do some light breathing exercise just before doing something that requires focus to clear your mind.
2. Include practicing mindfulness in your day
While mindfulness meditation helps you become more aware and helps increase your focus. Practicing mindfulness throughout your day will help you fight distractions and focus on the tasks at hand. Mindfulness simply is being very attentive to every aspect of the task you are doing, and also noticing every small detail about your task.
It can seem like it isn’t easy, but it is. What I do is that I imagine I am writing about whatever I am doing – not informative writing but descriptive. So, suppose I am eating my lunch, I will pay attention to the cutlery, the color of my food, the smell, the taste, the texture of each ingredient. I will focus on chewing and swallowing, on the feeling it gives rise to.
What we usually do is that we focus on distractions while eating, and our primary task somehow becomes secondary. Our focus shifts towards our phones or the shows we are watching. This is what happens with many of our tasks.
3. Don’t listen to music while working
Many of us have the habit of listening to music while working on something. While it helps people most of the times and can be a good thing, it does the opposite for people with poor focus. If you know the song, then you are most probably going to sing along, and that stops you from giving your all to the task at hand.
Let’s say you are doing something that is going to be using the same parts of your brain, then will doing those things together make sense? No, right? When you are doing something that uses motor functions like your household chores, then listening to music is fine, but not while reading if you don’t have a high focus level.
4. Build your willpower
Willpower will allow you to ignore distractions like playing songs or using your phone and will help you to stay focused on the task at hand. Consciously saying no to yourself whenever you feel like doing something else is very important and a skill that you should definitely develop if you want to increase your focus level.
Your attention span will be served well with intentionally trying to focus and also having strong willpower isn’t only good for building your focus but also for being productive. At the end of the day, what you do or do not do boils down to your willpower, saying no to distractions depends entirely on your willpower.
5. Increase your focus gradually
Like any habit, you need to start slow. Like when starting exercise, you are advised to start slow because your body might not be able to take it, the same goes for anything mental. The best way to stay focused is for you to start using the Pomodoro technique. This lets you start working in bouts so that you can start with a short amount of focusing time.
You traditionally work for 25 minutes and then take a five minutes break. After you have repeated this four times, you can take a longer break. Because you know that you have to work for only 25 minutes, it becomes easier to focus. This is a great way to start out.
All it boils down to is will power and persistence. If you are really dedicated to increasing your focus, then you will find it easier to do things to help. I would say, convincing yourself is the hardest part, so start out by taking small steps. Don’t decide to start being completely focused for the whole day, that isn’t going to happen. Use these tips to slowly but gradually increase your focus.
7 Easy Productivity Hacks to Make More of Your Day
A lot of people still believe that by trying hard and pushing their limits, they will be able to get more work done in the day. This is not true. By using all your willpower to get more done, you will feel jaded at the end of the day. Willpower is a limited resource. If you go by your day without learning many tried and tested methods to increase productivity, your body and mind will eventually break down.
According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity in American workers has been decreasing at a steady rate since 1973. The 2007-2018 decade has seen some of the lowest levels of productivity. This is a worrying fact.
Here are 7 easy productivity hacks to make more of your day.
1. Follow a morning routine
Starting your day with a preset routine gets you into work mode right away. Morning is not a time to think and ponder. Get out of the bed as fast as possible and begin your morning routine. I know some people like to plan their day in the morning, but I feel that it puts you into a contemplative mood. It is something you want to avoid getting into. Especially, if you want to take massive action.
The best time to plan your day is the night before. A morning routine should consist of things like working out in the gym, a quick meditation session, a morning walk, filling up your gratitude journal, etc. A morning routine is a productivity hack that indirectly affects the quality and quantity of the work you do through the day. Hence, it is regularly practiced by productive people.
2. Keep your phone away during work hours
Productivity in human beings has always suffered due to many distractions. Even before the advent of smartphones, there were distractions like emails and phone calls. But they were quite manageable and the degree of damage wasn’t that severe.
In today’s world, smartphones are the major cause of lack of productivity. It’s impossible to get good quality work done with a smartphone beside you. A study done by the University of London identified the link between smartphone overuse and loss of productivity. They concluded that constant checking of smartphone for new notifications is hurting the level of productivity in the workplace and at home.
3. Batch your work
It takes a lot of time and effort to switch from one type of task to others. Human beings are creatures of habit and we like to cut effort wherever possible. Batching minimizes the effort and energy wasted in task-switching. This productivity hack has been implemented in all kinds of industries. Moreover, it also increases your concentration as you have fewer things to think about.
4. Plan ahead
Planning is a lot more than creating a to-do list or an action plan. To plan and do all the things in a day, you need to first brainstorm ideas and also have a clear vision of what you want. As I already said, these things should be done a day before so that you are in work-mode at the time of execution. Day planning is different than project planning. Factors like your energy levels, possible distractions, and your surrounding environment should come into consideration before writing an action plan for the day.
5. Use technology to boost productivity
Productivity apps like ToDoist and Toggl are helping freelancers and entrepreneurs to become more aware of how they are spending their working time. These apps can change your perspective on work in a matter of weeks. I use an app called Trello to organize and rank my tasks with the help of boards, lists, and cards.
6. Learn to say “no”
Are you one of those people who say “yes” to every request that you get from other people? You feel guilty when you stand up for yourself and put your own interest on the line. You are brought up the self-critical parent who have drilled into you that you need to be good at everything in life and that you are a bad person if you fail to do so.
If this sounds and feels like you, you need to learn to say “no”. Once you understand how saying “yes” to everything is keeping you occupied in mundane tasks which you shouldn’t be doing, you will learn to say “no”. Saying “no” is a modern day productivity hack that every one of us should learn first-hand.
7. Listen to music
A Canadian study says that listening to music while working puts you in a positive mood and, as a result, increases work quality. The quality-of-work was lowest when the participants of this study performed the task assigned to them without listening to music. With all this research proving music to be a productivity hack, it is imperative for you to listen to non-lyrical music while doing your work.
It’s great to keep all the above-mentioned productivity hacks in your repertoire. But you should also put them to use as soon as possible. For most people, starting a project is the hardest part. They spend days thinking about things that can go wrong or why it won’t work. By starting early and failing fast, you will always be miles ahead of your competitors.
“Smartphone addiction, daily interruptions and self-reported … – NCBI.” Accessed June 7, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29450241.
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