These simple hacks can help you be more productive at any kind of task.
In daily life, we find ourselves in situations that require concentration. However, we often notice that our mind is going elsewhere: we begin thinking about another task that we must do later, or our mind wanders off to something that has recently impacted us.
We want to be productive in our day, but it seems like we simply do not have enough time, and we blame it on our lack of concentration. Well then, let us look at some things that can help ensure that our mind remains focused on the one task we have set out for ourselves.
1. Organize your day
Usually, we have several tasks to accomplish, yet some are not as important or as urgent, or do not require the same mental effort. First, prioritize tasks according to their degree of importance (or by pre-established schedules — for example, work obligations). Once the schedule or agenda has been prioritized, organize the tasks within each period of time by degrees of difficulty, starting with those deemed most difficult. Leave what requires less effort for the end, when you may be tired.
2. Focus your work
When you have finished a task, spend half a minute thinking about what you will do next. Thus, you will map out your mental territory and be able to ascertain whether or not you are doing what you have set out to do.
3. Oxygenate your brain
It is essential to get enough sleep so that your body begins the day rested and restored. Exercise is important as well; for example, walk at a moderate speed for a minimum of 20 minutes a day. This enhances blood circulation, tones your muscles, and lowers stress on the nervous system. In this way, you will be able to tackle each task with a well disposed body, with a clear mind, and full of energy.
4. Bring order to your workspace
Choose an adequate place to work. Check the room temperature, lighting, and exterior noises. Pay attention to your work station or desk, as well as to the chair you are using. Make sure you eliminate distractions from your visual radius: that includes monitors and screens, whether from a mobile phone, a tablet, a computer, or the television (unless the screens are needed for the work at hand).
5. Eliminate possible distractions
If you work on a computer, do not leave your email and your social media outlets open. Do not listen to music containing lyrics, because it is very easy for your brain to follow the content. As for instrumental music, not all genres and all pieces have the same effect: classical music usually helps, but it can become a distraction if you know the score.
6. Hydrate your neurons
Dehydration affects concentration, so it is advisable to have a bottle or a glass of water always on hand. We need to develop the habit of staying hydrated even before we begin to feel thirsty; by the time we feel thirsty our body has already begun to be dehydrated, so it is not enough only to pay attention to our biological “alarm.”
7. Give your distracting thoughts an outlet
If, while we are immersed in a task, another pending task comes to mind, it is best to write it down on a sticky-note. That way, we have “parked” that action. Of course, it is best to decide when exactly we will attend to the postponed task — at a specific time after we have concluded the current one. By doing so, we will enjoy peace of mind, because we have allocated a specific date and time to the distracting task. Likewise, if you have to make phone calls or meet with someone, schedule that for a specific block of time to reduce interruptions.
8. Use pen and paper
If we are studying or developing a project, besides working on a computer or tablet, it is useful to write ideas by putting pen to paper. Speaking them aloud also helps fix our ideas better.
9. If you work with other people, respect their concentration
Do not interrupt to make a comment. Only speak if indispensable. If you want to talk about something, wait until you have both finished what you are doing. To protect your own concentration, communicate to others in your immediate surroundings what you are going to do, and how long it will take you, so that they are aware and can respect your need to focus. If you work at home with children, explain that you are going to begin an important task so that they will not be surprised by your sudden silence; ask them to collaborate, and involve them in a helpful manner in your work, as much as possible.
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia, and has been translated and adapted here for English-speaking readers by Martha Fernández-Sardina.