Do you have trouble concentrating? You shift from task to task, you forget little details, and it seems like on the day that you’re absolutely pressed for time, you waste nearly an hour looking for your keys or an important file.
Don’t blame your brain, blame your lifestyle. If you’ve got too many things going on in your head (emails to answer, errands to run, deadlines to meet) then you’re bound to lose focus. Plus, this hectic schedule often forces us to skip lunch or pull an all nighter.
But you can’t quit your job or hire a personal assistant. So how you do improve concentration when your life is going crazy? We help you look for solutions.
You may think like you’re accomplishing more, but multi-tasking actually takes longer than doing one thing at a time. In one study by the university of Michigan, researchers asked people to solve math problems and group geometric objects. Those who shifted from one task to another took more time to complete the assignment then those who focused and completed one job before moving on to the next. Researchers say that this was particularly true when people were handling a new or difficult task.
So the moral of the story is to multi-task only when you’re doing routine things. That’s why it’s easy to talk on the phone while sorting through the dirty laundry. But if you’re doing something that requires your attention (like proofreading a report) then avoid all distractions.
Concentration buster: boredom
If you don’t like what you’re doing or are bored by it, then your attention will wander. Part of you will grab anything to ‘save’ you from it.
The solution, of course, is willpower—but avoid feeding the sense of dread and resentment. Instead, promise yourself a reward. For example, ‘If I submit my report on time, I’ll treat myself to a new pair of shoes.’
Or you can look for cheap, simple ways to make the task more pleasant. Why not take your laptop and work in a coffeeshop? You avoid the temptation to just watch television, and the good food and relaxing music may help boost your spirits.
Another trick? Break down an unpleasant or boring task into smaller tasks, and take 10 minute breaks in between. (Try the Pomodoro technique to find out how to work more efficiently in short bursts of time.)
Concentration buster: mental anxiety
You’re busy at work, trying to cram an important sales pitch, but your mind is also thinking about what to cook for dinner later, or replaying an argument you had with your son earlier that morning.
Clear your head of all these competing thoughts by writing them in a journal—no matter how silly they may seem. Think of the journal as your mental wastebasket, where you can freely dump whatever’s on your mind so you can focus on the task at hand.
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