- KNOW YOUR LIMITS
This is something very few of us care to acknowledge. We like to think of ourselves as deadline-driven machines who can conquer any task in any given amount of time.
It’s important to realise your own individual capacity for concentration and honour it. If you feel your mind wandering from your computer screen an hour into your emails then TAKE A BREAK. Even if that means getting up from your desk, making a hot drink, even staring out of the window for a few minutes to refresh your mind. You’ll find that the time you spend not actually concentrating is improved by accepting that your mind doesn’t run on a timer.
2. MAKE A LIST OF PRIORITIES, NOT A TO-DO LIST
Lists are an important tool of productivity. I run my life on them. Ticking completed tasks off is a powerful source of validation of your efforts and helps you feel like you have things under control.
My advice would be not to constrain yourself to time. Of course, we all have deadlines that need to be met. But instead of writing a ‘To-do list’ that has a strict time schedule, make a list of priorities in terms of importance. This will allow you to recognise which tasks need to be the most imminently completed without feeling overwhelmed. The aim is to feel like you have an abundance of time, not a lack of it.
3. WORK IN NATURAL LIGHT
Sleep disorders are epidemic and it’s partially to do with our lack of daylight during office hours. Scientists conclude that our circadian rhythms – our body’s internal clocks – are disrupted by our lack of exposure to daylight. Feeling that midday slump in the office? That will be why. Even if your access to natural light is limited by the plan of your workplace, then take time at lunch to go for a stroll. It will do wonders for your concentration.
4. CLEAN YOUR IMMEDIATE ENVIRONMENT
We don’t all have to be masters of Feng Shui to recognise that a tidy workspace makes for a tidy mind. Our minds are cluttered enough, without having our environment replicate it.
Not only does having a clean workspace keep you focused by limiting distractions, it keeps you more organised. Work on developing your own filing system and invest in some desk organisers. You’ll know where everything is, you’ll waste less time and you’ll be better able to keep on top of things.
5. DO SOMETHING ELSE
If you’re unable to concentrate on the immediate task in front of you, then take a short break that sets your mind on something else. The aim is to keep moving. Keep your brain ticking by reading, going for a walk or cooking. Something that keeps your mind and body on its toes, but that allows you to rest from your original activity.