• Athletes In The Zone


It is so easy to lose focus when performing tasks in everyday life. It may be a sign telling us that our mind is distracted. The key message here is not about how to be focused but also how to be remain disciplined with our focus.

Tip 1: Train your mind to ignore distractions:

When you need to concentrate for long periods of time, less is more. According to Joe Degutis and Mike Esterman from Bolton Attention Learning Lab who identified that the most effective way to complete things was to focus for a while, then take a short break before going back to focus. This is called “The Pomodoro Technique”, a time-management method where you split your workday into 25-minute chunks split by 5-minute breaks. Each work break is referred to as a pomodoro and once completed four pomodoros, you can take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes. This may sound easy to stick to, however distractions can arise into your work, even within a 25 minute time slot.

Stacey Harmon an Evernote Certified Consultant (GTD) practitioner suggests the best way to deal with distractions is to understand if they are internal or external. Internal distractions are made up from own thoughts and ideas, for example when sitting down and doing work and then feeling the urge to go on the internet. This can be avoided by making the distraction visible and writing it down. By catching the distraction will help clear your mind to focus on the task.

External distractions are when an individual has been interrupted by others for example; like a coworker needing help on a task or a friend sending a message. The goal is to reach the end of the pomodoro, the individual should take a few seconds to deal with the interruption and go back to concentrating. Stacey’s suggests saying “I’m in the middle of a pomodoro, I’ll get back to you in 25 minutes”. Over time, you will be able to train the brain to complete the full 25 minutes of continuous work without any internal or external interruptions.

Tip 2: Schedule tasks around your routine

Our ability to focus changes throughout the day and week. There will be times when you can send that email or complete that task, and others when it feels difficult to sit down and complete the work. You can’t eliminate the less productive times in your day, there is technique to identify when you’re most likely to be at your best work ethic and enhance it. As individuals we all run on a 24-hour internal clock referred to as our “circadian rhythm”. This displays we got to sleep, wake up and experience peak energy levels. In the day we cycle through 90 minute slots of productivity and heightened concentration known as our ultradian rhythm.

To gain understanding of your own ultradian rhythm, record your levels of concentration, enthusiasm and energy at the same times each day at hourly intervals. Make sure to add a note explaining any changes to your daily routine like if you took a mid-day walk. After a week or two of data gathering, you’ll start to see a pattern emerge. You’ll be able to identify when your focus and energy are at their highest and lowest, and match your tasks accordingly, for example, save your most creative, strategic projects for when you feel most focused. Then work on your more admin-like tasks when you have less energy and are more likely to get distracted.

Tip 3: Make time for zoning out

Many productivity strategies teach you how to focus the mind and stop it from wandering off into space. While it may seem unreasonable a more efficient approach is to encourage daydreaming at prearranged times.

According to Paul Seli, a psychologist at Harvard University, he suggested two ways of daydreaming: deliberate and accidental mind wandering. He suggests that only accidental mind wandering harms concentration and that people who carve out time for deliberate mind wandering while doing mindless tasks, for example; suffer less than those who find themselves daydreaming randomly throughout the day.

Allow yourself 10 to 15 minutes each day to day dream, but choose this window of time carefully. Perhaps you choose to let your mind wander while cleaning your desk after lunch or going on a walk to get coffee. This way, you’ll be less likely to daydream during deep work or important meetings.

Tip 4: Choose the right work location

One of the easiest ways to change your behaviour is to change your surroundings, for example, if you want to sit less during the day, buy a standing desk for your office. Or, if you want to improve your focus, change where you are working to a specific place where you focus easily, for example, if you’re working from home, you’ll have more luck focusing on tasks in a dedicated office, instead of sitting on the living room couch, where you usually watch TV.

If you don’t have a home office and you have to work at your dining room table. You can focus on changing the environment to feel new, like putting away your centerpiece and any plates or glasses, and replacing them with that represent focus like your work notebooks, an office plant, or an external monitor etc. The key is to put away these things when you’re done working to make sure these contextual clues are only associated with focus and concentration.

Create a to do list or take a picture of the items in your ‘work space.’ It will make it easier to get set up each day, and get down to work. Creating a stop doing list is also important these will help you prevent habits that are making you less productive.

Staying focused during times of unpredictability

Getting work done is never only about the work itself. It’s having the ability to complete tasks depending on how simple or complex they are. It also depends on your mood, your environment, and what’s happening around your surrounding. Importantly, these factors are determined from your mindset and belief systems. This becomes habits and behaviours in your routine. If you have daily routines and rituals, this will work most effectively even when times are unpredictable.

When things are stressful and changing at a fast pace, look for small ways to stay focused. Try one new strategy each week and keep track of what works and doesn’t work for you. As you’re adapting to a new way of working, remember to celebrate the times you do find focus and concentration.

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