Improving Concentration and Focus at Work
Tips on how to perform better
A study conducted by Microsoft (2015) suggests that the average attention span of any human being is 8 seconds. Not 8 hours. Not even 8 minutes. That figure has been in decline since 2000, when it stood at 12 seconds. Microsoft suggests that the influx of technology since Y2K may have contributed to this decline.
So in a technologically-dependent world, how can we ensure our concentration makes the grade?
The brain can be strengthened like any other muscle in the body (although it is technically an organ). With a little hard work, the human brain can be toughened, toned and improved. You can enact improvements upon your memory, recall, negative thoughts, and concentration. Some stumble into the pitfall of believing you cannot alter your brain chemistry; it is such negativity which traps individuals in a destructive cycle. The power to change sits firmly with you.
Here are some tips for improving your concentration in the fast-paced 21st century.
You should strive to begin working in the most relaxed frame of mind possible; to commence as you wish to proceed. We all know that an overload of stress can have detrimental effects, both physically and psychologically, so why start in such a negative place?
Relaxation is easy and can take many forms, depending on the individual in question. But here is something to try:
Sit comfortably. Relax your body. Clear your thoughts. Loosen your muscles. Breathe deeply. Allow your brain to wake up and adjust to the world. You can even consider integrating some pre-work meditation.
If you have a particularly relaxing playlist, listen to it. If you have a favourite comedian, watch one of their sets.
The purpose of this is to clear your thoughts and boost your mood. Do what works for you.
Plan Your Workload
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Scheduling your workload is just as important as the workload itself. Consider all the tasks which need to be completed and you will keep yourself on track. Additionally, if you plan ahead, you are less likely to forget about a job (and will not waste the concentration used in one task thinking about another).
Make a list of all the tasks which need to be finished in a set day/week/month. In your list, you should:
• Prioritise tasks in order of their importance (you may organise them by deadline or size).
• Have larger tasks at the forefront of the list; smaller tasks secondary.
• Break down huge tasks into bitesize chunks, for them to feel more manageable.
• Allocate time for each task, and adhere to those times rigorously. This will stop you spending too much time on one task, and neglecting another. Make sure the time-slots are realistic.
• Include time for multiple breaks.
The list helps us to avoid multi-tasking; a method of work which can cause stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.
Tick tasks as they are completed, and you will see the list slowly melt away before your eyes. This will bestow you with a real sense of accomplishment.
Listening to Music
Listening to music relaxes the mind, limits distractions, and blocks out background noise.
It is a tried, tested and approved way of focussing on a task.
For different people, different music will work. You may like rock; I may like jazz. And, of course, it may not work for everyone: some prefer unadulterated silence.
Organised Work Environment
Before starting the planning phase, ensure your work space is clean and organised. An organised desk is an organised mind; if both are clutter-free then you will plough through that to-do list with ease.
Try to keep your work environment as quiet as possible too (with the exception of music).
Try to work in the same place every day. Train your mind to consider this space as a no-distraction, boosted-concentration zone.
Of course, do not let cleaning become the priority; it should never become the distraction.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Here are a few health tips for boosting concentration:
• Drink plenty of water (2 litres per day).
• Eat a balanced diet with plenty of greens.
• Exercise; this can be before, after or during the working day (consider going for a jog on your break).
• Avoid energy drinks and ‘heavy’ foods.
• Drink coffee but not too much! Studies suggest that the slow release of caffeine from coffee will assist your work day as long as it is consumed in moderation.
Take a Break
Rest is the key to a successful work day. Therefore, it should be scheduled just the same as any other task.
Studies suggest that short, frequent breaks (5-10 minutes each hour) are more rejuvenating than infrequent, long breaks (30 minutes every four hours).
When taking a break, ensure you are at rest; not working or thinking about work. You could have a cup of tea, listen to some music, do breathing exercises, watch a video of a cat; whatever takes your fancy.
Breaks reduce stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. They can also revitalise your vigour for a task, or solve a problem which has been plaguing you. You should especially be taking a break during long tasks.
Detach From The Electronic-World
Technology is a wonderful thing but it can be distracting.
Emails. Texts. Facebook. Twitter. Candy Crush. Snapchat.
If it is not completely necessary, do not open it. Instead, allocate yourself specific technology time.
If technology is integral in the workplace, minimise the distractions where possible. Check your emails once or twice per day and turn off push-notifications. Only allow access to your phone during a break. Use a notepad whenever feasibly possible.
Make sure your work environment is the ideal temperature. Excess heat or excess cold can make you irritable, frustrated, and slam the brakes on your concentration.
• Doodling on a scrap piece of paper can keep you awake, aroused, and allow you to brainstorm thoughts. Just do not become distracted.
• Keep a routine; the brain likes repetition.
• Get a good dose of sleep each night; it is recommended adults get between 7 and 9 hours.
By Dylan Blyth.