Who doesn’t want to improve concentration and be more productive? Especially these days with so many distractions and demands for our time, it can be extremely difficult to concentrate on a single task and keeping your mind on it so that you can be more efficient and productive with your time.
For a while now we’ve been hearing people boast about their ability to multitask. Not only is multitasking a myth, according to neuroscience research (because the brain doesn’t really do things simultaneously), it’s actually been shown to reduce productivity by 40% because mistakes increase along with overall energy required to correct them and start and stop mental and physical processes.
It takes five little words to improve concentration and get more done: _One. Thing. At. A. Time._So simple it’s brilliant, but much easier said than done so we have a few tips to facilitate the “one thing at a time” laser focus.
1. Enlist the List
One of the reasons most of us have trouble concentrating is because our mind is cluttered with all the other things we have to do. Rather than letting them float around in your brain, get them down in a list. Studies have shown that writing down our thoughts or tasks (such as journaling) can reduce stress, which helps concentration. Make that “to do” list – maybe take it another step and prioritize some of the most pressing items – and that will help you visualize what really needs your attention most.
2. Block Your Time
Time blocking is a technique that’s been touted for increased productivity. It requires you to plan and schedule your day in blocks of time for a single task. Those blocks could be minutes, hours or even days, but at the heart of its effectiveness is that forces you to think about a particular task and the optimum time of day and amount of time to complete part or all of that task.
3. Say Yes to No
Akin to the time blocking technique is the very empowering technique of saying No to things that take you off task. Technology has been blamed for our modern-day distractions – emails, texts, social media – but behind all those distractions are people. People send us emails and texts, and it is our own human nature to seek stimulation (and get a chemical reaction reward) from Facebook, YouTube or video games. Say No to technology and people during time blocks that do not allow those interruptions, and it’s OK to block time for breaks to check email, Instagram or the water cooler conversations.
4. Sleep it Off
It sounds counterintuitive to use sleep as a technique for increasing productivity, but sleep is actually a great way to boost concentration and performance. Many studies, including one by NASA on astronauts and sleep, show that the main brain function that improved by napping is “working memory” which involves focusing attention one task while holding other tasks in memory.
5. Learn to Relax
We tend to think that to get more done, we have to work harder or longer! Pushing the body and mind past its limits will give you diminishing returns. Increasing concentration long term means learning to incorporate relaxation techniques that work best for you, whether it’s short periods of breathing exercises, meditation or taking a walk.