Nowadays, it seems the most valuable commodity in the world is attention, right? On social media we crave it, and businesses spend thousands to market themselves to gain the attraction that’s needed. It all seems to be a strange sort of base economic unit of the 21st century. Looking inwards, we must make daily decisions on where and how we concentrate our own attention in order to maintain our personal lives, do our jobs, and live our lives. So if concentrating attention is so important, why not be the best at it?
Here are five research-based tips and strategies to maximize your efficiency so you don’t waste the valuable commodity that is your OWN concentration:
It Takes Muscle to Focus
To understand the fundamentals of focus and concentration one must look at research. Focus is a muscle: The more time you spend focusing, the better at it you will get. Don’t give up! The research of Stanford professor Clifford Nass, sheds light on the idea that focus is actually a skill that has to be trained. If you haven’t actually built up the capability to focus, you’re going to have a hard time. When you’re constantly checking Facebook on your phone outside of work that will have an impact on your ability to perform the next day when you arrive at the office.
Empty the Hard Drive
Another huge impediment to effective concentration is having too many things going on in your head. Clearing your head of distractions is important, because if you switch from some Task A to Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow — a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task.
Write it Down, then Let it Go!
The best way to clear your head? Write it down. According to The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, having important tasks in your head creates what’s called a rehearsal loop, which drains your ability to concentrate because your brain keeps repeating how important the other task is. Writing it down gives your brain permission to let go of the rehearsal loop. Distracted by concerns or other tasks? Write them down, make a plan for how to conquer them, and get to work.
Location is Everything
In addition, location is HUGE. There are some people in the world that are just simply able to concentrate anywhere, any place, any time, but those people are far and few between. For most of us, it’s put yourself in a padded room, with the problem that you need to work on, and shut the door. You will concentrate better when no one can bother you or interrupt your thought process. In short, find a secure, distraction-free location for maximum concentration. This is tied into a similar concept which is to stop being reactive. Turn phone notifications off. No interruptions. It all starts and ends with you, and bringing your phone into the “padded concentration room” defeats the purpose of the room.
Get Enough Snooze Time
Lastly, get enough sleep! If you were to go back and try to recall your last five, low-productivity, low energy days, guaranteed that tiredness played some factor. More sleep means better performance across the board, this is a no-brainer.