Have you ever complained about the lack of time? A better question will be – how long are you able to stay focused on a task without getting distracted?
Concentration and focus — Do they mean the same thing?
I am using the words focus and concentration interchangeably because they are different measurement units of the concept called attention, just like we can measure time in units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years and decades. Concentration refers to your attention quotient in the short run, while focus refers to your attention quotient in the long run.
Your ability to concentrate on a particular project till its successful completion determines your success at workplace. It is funny to observe that people are always complaining about how busy they are and are rarely worried about the need to be more productive. As you begin to improve your concentration muscles, your productivity improves significantly. You achieve more in a day than what distracted people achieve in a week. It does not matter what profession you are in, the ability to concentrate on your work is the best quality you can develop.
Steps to optimise your concentration powers
* Begin with an outcome in mind: If your current occupation is a milestone, what is your final destination? Never let a day pass at your office without knowing what you want from your day. I am not talking about the salary or perks which are not always in your end, I am talking about how you will spend your day at work to feel good at the end of the day. If you are starting on a project, ask yourself what needs to be done in order to make the project a success. Discuss the outcome at the beginning with the various stakeholders, so that everyone knows if they are making progress or not. Vagueness dampens your ability to focus. Get clarity and get started.
* Respect your time: Procrastination is just a fancy excuse used by people who cannot stay focused on a particular goal till they achieve it. Build a daily work-plan even if you are not staffed on an urgent task. Treat yourself the way you want your employer to treat you. Bosses always respect people who are proactive and manage time optimally. Do not worry about how you will meet the deadline, focus on a better question about how you plan to beat the deadline. Do not extend your coffee breaks, gossip breaks, or smoke breaks so much that you cannot focus on your work. Do not fall in love with the idea of stretching your work. Complete your work in time and then relax for rest of the day.
* Get creative about the process: I have realized one thing — no matter how mundane the task is, there is always a better, faster and efficient way of doing it. How creative are you about your projects at the workplace? It is very much possible to be creative within the boundaries of operational freedom given to you. Always look for what I call the smarter-cuts. They are far better than the short-cuts people take at their workplace. Model the best performers at your office and learn as much as you can from them.
* Fear is the biggest enemy of concentration: A lot of people are so fearful of the projects that might come their way that live in a constant state of worry and self-doubt. Be confident and tell yourself that you can handle anything that can be assigned to you at your office. A fearful mind is looking for excuses to leave rather than reasons to focus and persist. Your mind always finds what it is looking for. When a project is assigned to you, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Do you look forward to it, or do you look for ways to dodge it?
* Get emotionally involved: It is easy to concentrate on things that you are emotionally involved in. Thus comes the need to find meaning in your work. I am reminded of an interesting study done at a call centre where executives used to call people to ask for donations for an under-privileged school. The employees were divided in two groups. Half of the employees were made to read thank-you letters from the poor students who were funded by the call centre, while the other half were never given any letters. Over a period of one month, half of the employees who knew what impact their work was making became more productive, raised more funds and worked for longer hours compared to the group that made calls without any emotional attachment. Before you complain that your employer does not give you thank-you letters, I just want to tell you that you can thank yourself. Look for the meaning your work is adding, and you will feel more focused on a daily basis.
* Minimise distractions: Keep your smartphone away. You do not have to answer every email the moment it hits your mailbox. Social media is a non-stop carnival which continues 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you are logged in, then you will surely find something that will catch your attention and distract you from your work. As a matter of practice, I keep my phone on no-internet mode when I am at work. I miss a few WhatsApp texts and personal emails, but then I have realized that the world can easily operate without me.
* Multitasking is the enemy of concentration: So many scientific studies have proven that multitasking can kill brain cells. When you begin your day at office, take projects one step at a time. Allocate hours to projects you have to work on, and respect the budgeted allocations.
Develop the power of concentration not just for professional benefits, but also for the good things it will bring to your personal life. You will sleep better and will not feel stressed. Boredom is experienced by people who easily get distracted. Nurture your concentration muscles and live in a state of flow.