Increasing Your Focus

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

If you are like me, you constantly feel as if your attention is being pulled in several different directions.  Most of us wear several different hats at work, and have to constantly be ready to switch gears depending upon what is going on that five minutes.  This is especially true if you work with multiple clients.

For example, so far by 11:00 this morning I had:

  • responded to multiple client questions in person
  • responded to multiple client questions via e-mail
  • answered incoming calls at the front desk while the receptionist was on break
  • logged incoming FedEx packages
  • fixed a leaky sink faucet
  • started typing a blog entry

And I wouldn’t even classify this as a “busy” day.

Sometimes having to switch hats quickly will result in difficulty with focusing, which can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Work toward increasing your focus with these suggestions from the March 2012 edition of the Mayo Clinic’s EmbodyHealth newsletter:

  1. Screen out distractions. Start by turning off the TV, putting down your phone, and logging out of email.  Not convinced it’ll help?  Try this experiment:  Eliminate noncritical screen time for two days and see how much more you get done.
  2. Plan for peaks and valleys.  Are you a morning person?  Then don’t squander that time on email.  Instead use it to tackle projects that require your full concentration.  Low energy in the afternoon?  That’s the time to go through your inbox or catch up on your filing.
  3. Put it out of your mind.  Too many mental notes make for a cluttered mind.  All that unfinished business saps your mental energy.  So dump it.  Put whatever’s on your mind on paper or capture it digitally.  Think of it as off-site storage.
  4. Train your brain.  Any skill worth having requires practice.  Learning to focus is no different.  Invest time in mastering attention training or meditation – both are great ways to practice taming distractions and improving focus.
  5. What’s the payoff?  Not only will you get more done, you’ll also enjoy more flow – when you’re so absorbed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.  Flow creates a sense of fulfillment and engagement and, yes, even contentment.

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