It happens to all of us – we start working on a priority, but find we can’t keep our thoughts focused on the task at hand. As our world becomes increasingly connected, you probably have a collection of devices demanding your attention at any given moment, making it challenging to stay on the right track.
If you’ve ever started delving into your to-do list, only to realize you’ve wasted the last hour scrolling through social media or reorganizing your email inbox, this post is for you.
The Myth of Multitasking
First, let’s debunk a common misconception about productivity: the idea that people can get more done by juggling several tasks simultaneously. As we now know, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
You might think you’re on a roll when you’re constantly shifting between tasks, but the truth is that your brain performs better when you focus on one thing at a time. When you try to keep multiple balls in the air at once, the performance of each task suffers, compared to if you focus on each item on your to-do list one by one. The trick is learning how to eliminate distractions, so you can be better at what you do.
Bring Mindfulness Into Each Task
A lack of mindfulness is one reason we have so much trouble concentrating. One way to improve your focus is to start each assignment with a brief meditation session. Use the time to think about what you need to accomplish and set your intention to give it your best.
Build in Breaks
After an hour or two of working, it’s natural to hit a mental wall where you feel like you can’t concentrate anymore. Trying to work without stopping for breaks is a surefire recipe for burning yourself out and spending the rest of the day scrolling mindlessly through your phone. Instead, try structuring your workday according to the Pomodoro technique, which encourages working in short cycles, interspersed with brief periods of recharging your energy.
Use Creative Visualization
If you tend to be a visual thinker, you may see more success with staying on task if you picture yourself checking off each item on your to-do list. For a larger project with multiple steps, break it down. Ask yourself what it would take to finish each stage of the process, and envision yourself wrapping them up in the correct order.
Control Your Environment
This piece of advice is especially relevant for anyone whose studies or work have moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re spending all your time at home, it can be all too easy to get distracted by leisure activities or household chores. Before you know it, you’ve spent the past couple of hours watching a movie or tidying the living room, instead of doing whatever you should have been working on. To avoid this, physically separate your living space from your working space. If you find the TV too much of a temptation, designate a different part of your home as your “office,” instead of working on the couch.
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