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7 Tips To Manage Attention and Avoid Overwhelm

7 Tips To Manage Attention and Avoid Overwhelm

Have you ever felt so burdened by all the things you have to do that you can’t even figure out how to start? If so, check out the following seven tips to manage attention and avoid overwhelm.

1. Eliminate Distractions

Have you ever noticed that it takes you almost as long to begin an assignment or chore as it does to actually complete it? Since it takes some time to find the drive to begin, distractions could destroy your productivity in a hurry. The simple act of beginning to work already takes some time, so it’s important to avoid distractions that would cause you to have to re-start over and over again. Silence your phone unless you’re expecting a monumentally important phone call. Close every browser window except the ones that are necessary for the task at hand. If you work in an office and are working on something important with an impending deadline, kindly ask your co-workers to refrain from interrupting you for an hour or two except in case of emergency.

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2. Get Up and Move

When your eyes start to glaze over, you need to take a break. Forcing yourself to continue working without a break despite the fact that your concentration is dead and gone is not efficient. Would you rather keep working at a snail’s pace or walk away for a moment so you can return with revived focus and vigor? Go outside for a quick walk and a hit of energy from the sun’s rays. Kick off your heels and do a few squats and push-ups on a wall or counter to get your blood flowing. You could even skip back and forth joyfully if no one’s watching. At best, you’ll feel an immense burst of positive energy, and at worst, you’ll feel silly and laugh at yourself, both of which will provide you with a much-needed break from the daily grind.

3. Prioritize

If you have an innumerable to-do list of things that are going to eat up your entire work day, it’s easy to become so overwhelmed that you don’t know how to start. Write down everything you need to do in a big list and rate each item on a scale of 1-5 in order of importance. Knock out the most difficult or important tasks first so your largest sources of stress will be gone as soon as possible.

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4. Chunk It Up

Are you working on a huge project like a full-length book, elaborate website design, or new business venture? Tackling a monster of a project without a clear list of action steps could stress you out before you start, so break it down into tiny steps. While you might feel a heavy burden initially, you will feel that weight lift off your shoulders with each check mark you make, developing positive encouragement that will keep you motivated to continue.

5. Turn on Some Tunes

According to a study at the University of Miami, listening to music at work could increase creativity and efficiency. Dr. Teresa Leisuk, the researcher behind this study, suggests that music is beneficial because it puts the listener in a positive frame of mind that is more receptive to new ideas.

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6. Know Thyself

Do you feel like there is a certain time of day when your brain is in top-notch condition and you can accomplish anything? Is there another time of day when you just can’t seem to concentrate no matter how hard you try? Be aware of what time you are at your best and plan accordingly. For example, if you have a tough time focusing in the morning, you might want to start your day with mindless tasks like answering emails, doing paperwork, shredding documents, and organizing files. Save activities that require the highest concentration for the time of day when you are at your best.

7. Start Your Day Strong

At the beginning of every day, ask yourself, “What are the three most important things that I must accomplish today?” Trust your gut instinct and write it down. Don’t make a longer list because if you do, you might conveniently “run out of time” before you get around to your biggest priorities. It’s funny how if you focus on the important things, the rest tends to take care of itself.

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How do you stay uber productive at work?

If you have any additional tips that would help our readers manage attention and avoid overwhelm, please drop them in the comments!

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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