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Relearning How to Focus

November 29th, 2011 · 1 Comment

As a society, we are constantly lamenting the fact that attention spans seem to be getting shorter all the time. In this age of the Internet and text messages, it just seems like no one can focus on anything anymore. But, much as we like to talk about these things as part of an irreversible trend requiring multitasking, shouldn’t it be possible to learn to concentrate again?

Evidence suggests we can; it just takes practice. Some of the best ways have been covered on this blog before in how to manage your time and limit the need to multitask for greater productivity.  Here are a few ideas to help you get started again and stay focused:

Block off time. Decide what tasks or projects most need to be finished, and then block off uninterrupted chunks of time to work on them. Having even half an hour to devote to a single thing can be great for making progress and keeping your mind where it needs to be.

Keep a clean desk. On one level, this makes it easier to find what you need, rather than digging through papers, pens, reports, and other obstacles. In a deeper sense, having a clean desk and work space removes distractions from your field of vision – and makes you less likely to be distracted by them.

Reduce mental clutter by writing things down. If you have a great idea, or remember a task that needs to be finished, write it down on a note and place that note in the appropriate file or basket. That way you will not have the idea floating in the back of your mind, trying to be remembered, when you should be concentrating on something else.

Take time for reflection. One of the great ironies of time management is that, occasionally, “doing nothing” can be very productive. That is because our minds use time for reflection to organize information, make connections, set new goals, and otherwise clarify ideas in our minds. Taking some time away from the tasks at hand can actually make them easier to focus on later.

Although it may be getting harder for the men and women around you to concentrate, you do not have to be driven to distraction yourself. Just learn to “focus on focusing” by following the tips above, and it will not be long before your concentration skills are top-notch.

If you continue to struggle with concentration and feel that you fall into the category of someone with ADD or ADHD, read our article on Managing ADD in the Office.

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Tags: Multitasking

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