Bull's-Eye- Staying in Focus
``I SIMPLY can't concentrate, not with so many distractions around'. This is one of the common complaints you hear in office corridors. Concentration is the ability to direct one's thinking in whatever direction one intends. Many of us concentrate for hours together when we are engrossed with our favourite tasks. Yet at other times, we find our thoughts scattered and wavering, unable to concentrate on the job at hand. It is at times like these that you need to summon your will power and practice mental self-regulation techniques to focus on what you are at. Concentration is more skill than ability and hence, like all other skills, requires constant and persistent practice. Here are a few tips that help you along the way.
The `Stop. Come Back!' technique
This technique is simple and most effective. When your mind starts to waver from the task on hand, say to yourself `Stop. Come Back!' Refocus your attention on the task. Keep your attention there for as long as possible. When it wanders again, reissue the warning. `Stop. Come Back!' You may notice that your mind often wanders (as often as several times a minute, at times). Each time just say `Stop. Come Back!'
You might have to do this hundreds of times on a daily basis, if you're normal and more perhaps if you are one of those who get easily distracted. But keep at it. You will find that you are able to keep your thoughts from straying for a progressively increased period of time.
Invisible Blanket technique
Learn to ignore distractions. When a door slams, or the telephone rings, do not allow yourself to react. Imagine there exists an invisible blanket that insulates you from the rest of the world. Keep your concentration on what's in front of you. If your thoughts get distracted momentarily, use the `Stop. Come Back!' technique to get back to work.
Worry time for worry warts...
Set aside a specific time each day to think about the things that keep entering your mind and interfering with your concentration.
When the mind starts to get side-tracked by worrisome thoughts, remind yourself there is time set apart for all the worrying you need to do. Let go for the present, and focus on your immediate activity.
Early bird, or a night owl!
All of us have different energy levels. Some of us are early birds, at our best and brightest in the mornings, others are night owls who find their energy levels picking up late at night. Yet others are sharpest in the afternoon. Chart your energy levels.
When you are on to a task that requires your total concentration, choose to work on it when your energy level is at the highest (You can relax when your energy level hits the rock bottom, by doing the least taxing or the most enjoyable of your tasks).
Light and other factors...
Make sure that you have adequate light. Opt for comfortable but not luxurious furniture. Sit up straight to aid concentration rather than in a sprawled out position. Clear your desk of all clutter except those relating to the job at hand. Also put the `To-do' list out of sight.
You don't want to worry about the next task till you are finished with this one, do you? Take your phone off the hook or request someone else to hold fort till you are through.
Research on Music aiding concentration is inconclusive. If you prefer to have music on, make sure it is not one with a hummable tune and a definite beat. If so, you might soon find yourself distracted. Opt for something a little less catchy and more monotonous. You could try a little white noise perhaps - noise that masks the little environmental sounds that could prove distracting. You could switch on the fan or turn on the radio to a band where only static is heard.
Shift positions often. Concentration-spans range from 35 minutes or longer to 90 minutes. Take short breaks at the end of an hour or whenever you reach the limit of your concentration span. When you take a break, oxygenate (get more oxygen to your brain)! Get up and walk around the room for a couple of minutes. When you sit for long periods, blood tends to pool in your lower body and legs.
When you walk, blood gets to flow more evenly throughout the body, carrying more oxygen to the brain and in turn making you more alert.
Give yourself a reward when you've completed a task. The task might be small, such as staying with a difficult assignment until you've finished. An appropriate reward might be a walk down the corridor, a glass of water, or reading the day's cartoon in the newspaper.
Keep practicing and soon you could find your concentration skills vastly improved. Improved concentration will pump up your self-discipline and will power and in turn you will be delighted to find yourself accomplishing much more in the same period of time.
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