On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your ability to concentrate on your work?
Concentration is important for self-employed individuals, because if you aren’t able to maintain focus you can end up wasting hours (and as I’ve written about before, time is our most valuable resource)! If you’d like to improve your concentration skills and start getting more done each day, check out the nine tips below.
Create a to-do list every evening (or whenever you finish working for the day). Not only will this give you a chance to set your priorities, but it will also give you the chance to unload everything from your mind and put them on paper so you can enjoy the rest of your evening.
Have a restful sleep. Focus starts the night before you work, beginning with your to-do list and leading into a restful night of sleep. A good mattress and a good pillow help facilitate restful sleep. Try to get a good eight hours a night so your mind is well-rested.
Start your day off with meditation. Letting go of any worries and allowing your mind to clear is the best way to create a stage for focus. Experts recommend 20 minutes of meditation a day to improve your attention span, starting in five minute increments. Clear your mind and focus on your breath. Whenever anything wandering thoughts find their way in your head, simply let them go and focus back on your breath.
Optimize your environment by creating a workspace that feels good to you. You should have a space that you look forward to spending time in. Consider using color theory. The color red is said to improve concentration and memory, and blue improves creativity. Also think about the noise in the area. Many people work well with classical music. Sites like Focus @ Will are specifically designed to help facilitate concentration. Also ensure that you have enough lighting and a comfortable temperature, and keep your area clear of any distracting mess.
Speaking of distractions, remove as many as you can as possible. Turn off the phone and text messages, email, and social media. Set certain times when you check these devices, but remember to keep to your to-do list and don’t let any other requests bump out what you really need to do.
Try the Pomodoro method, or timeboxing. Work straight for 25-50 minutes and then take a five minute break. After two hours of this take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Combined with your to-do list, this helps to set deadlines and trick your mind into having a stronger block of productivity.
Get the blood flowing and improve flow of oxygen to the brain. When you spend so much time sitting, gravity pulls the blood downward. Get up during your breaks and walk, use the stairs, or do some stretches to get your circulation going and improve focus.
Don’t Multitask. Practice doing just one thing at a time, and doing it to completion. When we split our concentration between tasks not only do we increase the time it takes us to finish each one, but research shows that the quality of work also suffers. There are many studies that show multitasking shrink’s the brain’s ability to concentrate, so just don’t do it!
When all else fails, try the “five more” rule. Tell yourself to finish just five more tasks. If you are reading, read five more pages. If you are doing email responses, just five more emails. At the very least, just five more minutes of work!
Try one or two of these tips at a time to build up your concentration. Remember the golden rule of consistency! The more regularly you practice these tricks the more benefits you will see. Good luck!