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5 Simple Ways To Skyrocket Your Concentration For Success At Work

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Before you go on to read this, I want to ask you one thing. Are you giving me your full attention? Unfortunately, the answer is probably no.

In fact, studies at the University of California suggest that our ability to focus has dropped dramatically over the last decade, particularly at work.  And it looks like technology is the main culprit.

But do we really need studies to tell us that we’re struggling to concentrate? I definitely don’t. I struggled with focus for a long time. As a freelancer and a millenial, there seemed to be all the time in the day to get things done, and all the entertainment in the world to make sure that they weren’t done immediately.

Improving my concentration has been a product of two things; structuring my routine to minimize sensory distractions and strengthening my ability to focus to reduce emotional distractions.

These two factors; sensory distractions – such as if your Facebook tab is flashing while you are trying to write a report,  and emotional distractions – such as anxiety, fear, worry or anger – are the biggest obstacles that prevent you from concentrating.

What I’ve composed here are 5 ways you skyrocket your ability to concentrate at work, simply by working on these two barriers:

1. Emphasize your why

Going back to the basics of motivation and thinking about rewards and punishments is actually very beneficial. Most of us forget why we are doing things on a day to day basis, and that leaves our attention open to other avenues.

If you have your mind focused on why you are doing the work, whether it be to reach a larger goal, to feed your family, to move up in a company, or to travel at the end of the year – you will keep your motivation high enough to stop you from being swayed too easily by simple distractions.

Likewise, negative reinforcement can often be even more effective. What will happen if you don’t finish the job on time; will you miss spending time with your family? Will it stop you from any chance of promotion? Will it mean you’ll have to skip out on going out with friends?

Try writing a list of both the rewards and consequences down on two separate post-it notes, and keep them on either side of your desk.

“Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.” – Simon Sinek

2. Set email, text and social media windows

These three are the biggest time killers in your life. And unfortunately, you can access all of them right from your computer.

What you need to do if you are to be productive at work, is to set specific windows for when you can and can’t use them. Email is best reserved for the morning, say between 9:30am and 10:00am, and in the afternoon, say between 4pm and 4:30pm.  

Text and Social Media should be used very sparingly, no more than 20 minutes a work day. Give yourself 2 x 10 minute blocks, or 4 x 5 minute blocks. But outside of that have your phone on airplane mode and your social media accounts off (or blocked).

 

3. Use web apps to keep you on track

When it comes to web apps to boost productivity, there are dozens to consider. These can make a huge difference to your habits. I generally look for three.

  • One to block websites for a pre-specified time, such as Self-Control or Focus
  • One to time my work with the Pomodoro method, such as the Marinara Timer
  • One to sync my documents, I find Evernote works well for me.

 

4Strengthen your focus muscle with exercises

Meditation is the quickest way to strengthen your ability to focus, and research suggests that it takes as little as 8 weeks to see measurable improvements. However, there are other ways to increase your attention span.

Here are some practical ways to improve your concentration:

  • Practice mindfulness throughout the day
  • Memorize facts or quotes
  • Exercise your body
  • Take cold showers
  • Read difficult books

Remember that in the same way you’d build your body for the gym over time, you don’t want to overexert yourself – but you also want to increase the mental weight over time.

 

5. Listen to the right type of music

Music has been found to be a very powerful tool for workplace productivity. And that’s great, because there has never been an easier time to listen to music while you work. It’s important to know however that not just any type of music works. Some types of music are better for energy, some for focus and others for creativity.

For repetitive tasks that require little cognition, you want positive, up beat tunes – think Pharrell Williams Happy. If you want to boost your creativity, you want to leave out any songs with lyrics, as your brain will instinctively try to comprehend them (unless they are in a foreign language), and this takes an extra level of energy. For focus you want something repetitive, without many peaks or troughs.

As technology makes it easier to become distracted, your ability to concentrate will be an increasingly valuable professional asset.

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato

Improving your concentration doesn’t take a genius, it just takes someone who’s willing to focus on routine and consistent practice. Work on the tactics above and you’ll start to see your concentration at work skyrocket in no time.

How do you stay focused at work? Let us know in the comments!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Benjamin Fishel is co-creator of Project Monkey Mind – where he helps young professionals and solopreneuers channel their passions, improve their mindset, and lead a world-changing life. Do you want to get more out of your morning in less time? You can download our FREE eBook: Morning Mastery: the simple 20 minute routine for long-lasting energy, laser-sharp focus, and stress free living.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tim Denning

    May 3, 2016 at 5:11 am

    Ben I stay focused at work my not letting my phone distract me every five seconds and giving my undivided attention to my customers. I also spend one day a week in a quiet space so I can smash out any presentations or written proposals that I need to do. Thanks for your article.

  2. Dennis

    May 2, 2016 at 4:43 am

    I will emphasize my whys. This will give me the driving energy and I will incorporate all the others factors as I have found all to be relevant. I like you.

  3. Alex

    Apr 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for the tips; will try those apps this week!

  4. Kristen

    Apr 24, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Listening to instrumental music is a big way for me to focus on pounding out a lot of work … anything with a lot of emotional lyrics usually distract me too much.

  5. Chris Targett

    Apr 23, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Emails and social media are my biggest downfall at my day job, but I seem to block them out when I am working on ym own projects outside of my day job. This goes to show that my why is stronger when working on projects that get me going, as I am more focused on the work.

    I do like the idea of listening to songs with lyrics, or how about a thought provoking podcast, I could see that working?

    Thanks for the article, all the way from the UK

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Success Advice

How to Overcome Stage Fright in 5 Simple Steps

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Fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia (which literally means fear of the tongue) is the apprehension that one experiences when speaking in public. It’s reported that 1 in every 4 individuals reports some sort of anxiety when presenting ideas in front of an audience. Regardless of one’s personal or professional background, being able to communicate ideas confidently and eloquently is of utmost importance. So, how can you overcome stage fright?

Here are 5 simple steps to help you overcome the fear of speaking publicly or in a group:

1. Success Visualization

A great deal of the fear we experience stems from the negative self-talk that goes on in our minds. Thoughts such as “I don’t think I can do it; I’m going to forget my notes; what makes me think people want to listen to me?” The first step in trying to counter the negative self-talk is through what I call Success Visualization. It’s a well-known scientifically-proven fact that the best way to counter negative mental chatters is with positivity.

Find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for at least 15 minutes, create a mental image of the speech being a complete success. See the audience cheering and learning. See the equipment working properly. See yourself sharing your ideas with confidence. After all, no one goes to a speech to see a speaker embarrass themselves. Visualize what you want (success), not what you dread.

2. Purposeful Practice

How many times have you heard this well-intentioned advice: “Practice makes perfect”? You might wonder, “I’ve practiced over and over again, why am I not improving?” We’ve been told to practice, but no one ever told us how. In his bestselling book Peak, Anders Ericsson introduces the concept of purposeful practice that he defines as a focused process toward a well-defined and specific goal.

What we’re all engaged in is called naive practice, which is repeating a particular task and expecting to get better. That kind of practice as it relates to public speaking is highly ineffective. There is a myriad of skills that need to be mastered in order to become an effective public speaker. As such, purposeful practice is the right way to go since it allows you to focus on one skill at a time with timely feedback on what is and what isn’t working. Always practice with a goal in mind!

3. Energy Reversal

Science claims that we experience the same physiological changes whether excited or stressed. Our adrenal glands release epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol which are the flight or fight chemicals. From a physiological perspective, being ready to fight, or afraid, ready to run away, are two sides of the same coin. Henceforth, we can channel that same energy resulting from stage fright to psyche ourselves up for the speech.

Positive affirmations such as “I am excited! I rock”, can help trick your subconscious mind into believing that you’re excited. Our subconscious mind is impersonal. It doesn’t discriminate or rationalize, it accepts as true and brings to us whatever we suggest. Positive powerful autosuggestions sink deep into our subconscious mind, and manifest themselves in the way you feel, think, and act. Never tell yourself not to be afraid! Well, I mean always tell yourself you are excited and ready to rock.

4. Action

No great results are to be obtained without consistent and persistent actions. Many of us attend speeches, workshops, and seminars expecting to get the desired outcomes right away. It doesn’t work that way, it never did, and it never will. The three previous steps mean nothing if you don’t have a structure that you can use to help reach your goal.

Knowledge alone won’t bring any result. Knowledge coupled with deliberate, systematic actions, will. What are you going to do? Are you going to join a local Toastmasters Club? How many times a week are you willing to practice? Do you have a support group? You reading this article is vibrant proof that you’ve had enough of stage fright. So, why not grab a pen and paper, and write your next action?

5. Know your purpose, audience, and materials

Three things must be absolutely clear in your mind before giving a speech: Your purpose, the audience, and your materials. First, on a blank sheet of paper, at the very top; make sure you have this question answered: Why am I doing this? Or in the form of a similar statement: By the end of my speech, the audience will have learned. Without a purpose to give you direction and bring value to your audience, you don’t have a speech.

Next, Who am I talking to? Before getting on stage, basic information about the audience’s age group, cultural background, and level of knowledge is essential. Those insights empower you to appropriately frame your message, so you can engage the audience and get your message across more effectively. Speaking isn’t about you, it’s all about the audience.

Finally, make sure you’ve mastered your materials. Specifically, the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion. Part of why we are afraid results from doubts of not being fully prepared. Never get in front of an audience without having fully mastered your materials. Complete mastery of your materials will boost your self-confidence which will, in turn, reduce your public speaking apprehension.

I hope these techniques serve you well as they have me and the many others who’ve attended my workshops. Your willingness to try, fail, and improve is what makes magic happens. As you may have realized by now, all you have to do to transform your fear from a foe to a friend is to S-P-E-A-K despite your fears.

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Success Advice

3 Steps to Overcome Your Brain Biases and Become a Better Leader

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If I asked you what time it was, you would likely look at your watch or a clock and read the time out to me. And if I were to ask you where you were, you would likely tell me the exact place, city, or state. If I were to then ask you who you were, you would likely identify yourself by your name, demographics, and perhaps a work description. On the surface, answering these questions correctly would indicate that you were not delirious. But are these answers technically correct?

Biological research indicates that superficial orientation to time, place, or person is actually far from accurate. Rather, leaders might benefit from tending toward a non-dual awareness of the world, or at least offer themselves the opportunity to see the world this way. For time, place, and person, the biological realities differ from what we might initially think.

1. Don’t let the past dictate the future

We are not ever-present in the moment, nor should we be. In the human brain, the past, present, and future are all represented at the same time. Although we consciously organize our experiences using this segmentation of time, each of these networks can intrude upon the other. In fact, what you remember can influence what you can imagine for yourself in the future as well.

As a leader, ensure that you frequently examine your memory for positive reminders and biases, take advantage of your presence circuits by incorporating mindfulness practices into your day, and use your “possibility” circuits to imagine or simulate future scenarios. In fact, in the brain, imagination is a lot like reality.

Using all three components at all times will help you to become aware of biases and could also help you escape traps or an impasse. For instance, when a possible solution for product development is vague, thinking in terms of what you want and then reverse-engineering this process to make what you imagine could be helpful.

Walt Disney saw great success after building Disneyland in Anaheim, California, but outside interests began crowding his theme park. When he decided to build another park in Florida, Disney didn’t let the experience of California dissuade him. He expanded his vision to something greater — a city of tomorrow. He created fake companies to secretly purchase acres upon acres of land near where Interstate 4 intersected with the Florida turnpike so his company could develop the area around the theme park.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

2. Think beyond your reach

We are not where we think we are. The notion of “place” has become increasingly irrelevant in a globalized world. With the increasing interconnectedness of societies, cultures, and economies, leaders need to be careful not to think of themselves too locally. When leaders are global in their thinking, they are likely to elicit more widespread cooperation from international markets.

Ask yourself, “What communities beyond my local community do I want to impact?” and “What communities am I impacting?” When you take this approach, it can help your advertising strategies, for example, become more congruous with specific or global markets. Also, leaders who think globally will be more aware of competition from afar and opportunities for collaboration, too.

Jack Ma can be credited with being a global thinker for founding Alibaba, allowing Chinese consumers to access domestic and international markets that they could not previously access. By moving into e-commerce, online banking, and cloud computing, Alibaba has expanded into India and Southeast Asia. Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform has even enabled farmers in Rwanda to sell coffee in China. This is a perfect example of thinking beyond your reach.

3. Connect the body and mind

We are not what we think we are. We are made up of 50% human and 50% bacterial cells. And water comprises 60% of our body weight. So we are basically bags of water and bacteria — with a dash of human cells thrown in for good measure.

Also, though we might think of ourselves as being separate from other people and things, many people or things you encounter in your life are stored in your brain’s memory centers. Our brain tissue contains images, voices, and other attributes of people and things, too. We are not actually as separate as we think.

Take care of your bacteria, and they will take care of you. Having the right balance of bacteria is of paramount importance to effective functioning because the wrong balance can make you depressed or anxious. Taking a probiotic can help restore this balance. Understanding that you are part human, part bacteria can change the way you take care of your moods by essentially reminding you to take care of your gut.

Mindy Grossman, the CEO of WW International — formerly Weight Watchers — is a good example of someone who understands the mind-body connection. Grossman has led the company’s focus from strictly weight loss to wellness through healthy habits. Part of the transformation includes a partnership with meditation app Headspace to help members maintain a positive mindset.

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi

When you engage in non-dual awareness by recognizing that your brain fuses and connects time, places, and people, your leadership capacities might also be enhanced. As Warren Bennis, founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, suggests, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.” And your “self” is more intriguing and mysterious than you might first imagine.

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Success Advice

3 Ways to Optimize Your Life for Success

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Welcome to the 21st Century! The era of the Internet and computers, lack of focus and superficiality. I know it sounds scary, maybe a little more exaggerated, but it’s true. We live in a world of short posts and 3-minute videos. We barely engage in deep learning, deep thinking, and deep focus to produce iPhone-level products or services. So, the majority of us are actually a failure, thousands of miles away from achieving our life goals and business visions. How do we turn things around? We need to optimize our lives.

Here are 3 tried and tested tips that will help optimize your life for success:

1. Upgrade your sleep

When I started my freelance writing career—about seven years ago—I was passionate and excited at the beginning. I’d fill my To-Do list with 6-10 items, worked until 12 am, set my alarm to go off at 3 am, and had my running shoes close to my bed before I went to sleep. However, I barely accomplished anything. I usually became weak and bored before noon.

I noticed that I was putting a huge strain on myself. I was sleep deprived, which is the primary reason why I didn’t have the energy and the drive to accomplish my tasks. Many studies have shown that sleep-deprivation affects productivity.

As soon as I began increasing my sleeping time from 4 hours to 7 hours, my whole life changed. I started producing a lot and earning a lot more than before while also improving my health. With more sleep, I get the emotional energy and willpower I need to read, learn, and optimize my career.

“By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” – Arianna Huffington

2. Read every day

I get it. You’re in the middle-class struggling to survive. You simply have enough to deal with. Reading? That’s not included on your to-do list. Well, if that’s you, then you’re not alone. The global literacy rates are at an all-time high at 84 percent, which means people don’t read as much anymore.

We already have enough on our plates. In fact, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the reading culture among American adults has drastically declined. That’s a big issue in our world.

Nothing can prevent you from reading, not even your plate that’s chock-full of other life’s priorities. If you want to produce more and impact the world around you, you’ve got to read more and learn more.

Take a look at the visionaries and business titans in our world. All of them are avid readers and avid learners. Bill Gates is a bibliophile and Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, reveres books. In fact, Knight customized his library to the extent that, before you enter into his library, you have to take off your shoes and bow.

So, what would you do next? Take Roald Dahl’s advice, captured in this beautiful line of the poem: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray / go throw your TV set away / and in its place, you can install / a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

3. Use Pomodoro to time yourself

You can’t go far in life if you can’t stay totally focused on a task. If you want to achieve your goals, you have got to stay laser-focused on a single task before jumping on to another. Why? Because goals are not achieved in one session, they’re achieved in a series of tasks, one after the other.

To install the focus habit in your system; therefore, you need to use a time-management kind of “system” that will keep you firm and attentive on a specific project. Pomodoro is that time-management tool that will help you stay focused.

It’s an excellent app that lets you set a timer for a particular task. You can set it for 30, 60, or 90 minutes and stop working when it goes off. I use it all the time, and I can’t imagine my work life without it.

“I know when I stay focused, good things will undoubtedly happen.” – Marc Trestman

Optimizing your life for more power, passion, and productivity is not about working hard late at night or running multiple projects at a time. It’s about maintaining your health and recharging your energy (having a deep, quality sleep), updating your knowledge (by reading every day), and staying focused on a project—until you accomplished it (by using Pomodoro technique to boost your concentration).

Of course, developing these sets of habits is not easy. You’ll fail and get frustrated, but as the productivity guru Robin Sharma beautifully puts it, “all changes are hard at first, messy at the middle, and beautiful at the end.”

Which one of these three ways to optimize your life resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts below!

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Success Advice

If You Want Your Business to Grow, You Need to Increase Your Capacity in the Following 4 Areas

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Every entrepreneur must come face to face with the reality that there is only a limited amount of time, money, and people that you can use within your current position. The question is how do we increase or maximize the things that we find limiting?

As we walk through our hectic and often over packed ten, twelve, or fourteen hour work days, one of the questions that we should be asking is “What can I do to get more, to do more?” Instead, we just put our heads down and plow through the ever growing mountain of work. We are limited by capacity.

Webster’s dictionary defines capacity as “the maximum amount that something can contain.” As an entrepreneur, we have to be a little more creative than the average person and find ways to increase our capacity.

Below, we’ll identify the four areas where we need more capacity and ways to get more with less:

1. Time

Every human on this planet is granted twenty-four hours a day. That is it. Your capacity is a total of twenty-four hours. Within that amount of time you must manage several different demands. Our goal is to buy back our time, when we can, and operate at peak performance when we are accomplishing our daily task list.

First, without staying in performance shape, you will lose the ability to stay at optimal performance levels. Our bodies are truly a machine with an amazing capacity, but when it is abused by lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and lack of exercise, you are reducing the capacity at which you are able to work and function. The closer you are to peak performance, the more you are able to accomplish in a shorter amount of time.

Second is our mental condition. Here is what my experience has taught me. If I am mentally rested, I can think and make decisions faster because I can reason more quickly in addition to understanding the circumstances and information at an extremely fast pace. 

When your brain is healthy, it becomes easier to absorb and process information at a lightning fast rate. Taking the time to allow your brain to rest will give it the ability to function at peak performance.

Third is our ability to train and delegate. So often, entrepreneurs are control freaks. No one can do it as good, as fast, or with the same passion as they can. While that may be true in most cases, you are only one person with twenty-four hours in a day. 

You’ve got to delegate and accept people’s help. If you add one person that’s willing to give you eight hours of work a day, you have now bought back hours in your day to focus on activities that will generate more income and grow your business. Why wouldn’t you want to add more hours to your day by delegating out the appropriate task to qualified individuals?

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

2. Money

Money tends to be a sensitive topic. We all have beliefs that were formed through our childhood on the concept of money. With many different views and beliefs on this topic, let’s just focus on the fact that money is a tool that will either help grow the company or a tool that limits a company’s growth.

It is always amazing that the faster a company grows, the greater the challenge of money becomes, and this could potentially cause the company to implode on its own success. How do we then increase the capacity and have more money available to keep the company healthy?

Here are a couple of things to watch out for: 

  • Keep an eye on your budget and get accurate figures. 
  • Look at your Accounts Receivables. If they get too long, they could cause significant cash flow issues. 
  • Find investment opportunities. There are many private investors that are often willing to invest in companies that have true growth with solid foundations. 
  • Look at additional profit generators, products, or services that fit within your current business model. 

Each of these are ways to increase the capacity that money contributes to the growth of your business.

3. Space and Supply

I will never forget exactly where I was standing when I had a manufacture call and tell me they were unable to supply anymore products. They had sold us everything they had, and they weren’t going to have anything available to sell for at least another six months. At that time, we were selling customer printed t-shirts and had tens of thousands of orders that we needed to fulfill within the next thirty days.

Space and Supply are tied closely together. Space is often associated with the production. Do you have a space large enough to meet the demands of the supply? If production can only create 1,000 products a day and buyers need 5,000 a day, there is a conflict. 

A business needs to understand that challenge, and there are only 3 solutions to this problem: The business figures out how to increase production within the current workable hours, adds more workable hours with the equipment and space, or adds more equipment and space to increase production.

Space and supplies are assets that can be used towards the business advantage. Here are a few questions to ask when making decisions based on space and supply. 

  • Evaluate your supply channel. Are they able to maintain a solid supply of your raw product materials to match your growth as a company? 
  • Are there back up supply manufactures that can create a safety net for your raw products? 
  • Evaluate the amount of space you have available along with the time the space is usable. Can you run a second or third shift with the current space and equipment?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. People

Your employees are likely going to be the most important way to create more capacity. We talked briefly about delegating to qualified individuals to increase capacity around your own personal time. The next phase is to create more capacity by adding additional, trained people. 

You need to create leaders of leaders instead of you being the leader of followers. Don’t miss this because the greatest of all companies focuses on increasing their capacity by training leaders of leaders and not just a loyal following.

Entrepreneurs tend to be a lonely bunch of souls. Too often, we are misunderstood and looked at with slight amount of annoyance. Others just don’t always know how to take someone that is passionately thinking outside the box. 

People skills are a must in order to have more than just yourself work to achieve that dream. As an entrepreneur, develop the social skills to work with individuals that are different than yourself.  

Here is a 3 step plan to have great capacity with people as your allies:

  1. Start by learning how to delegate your own tasks to buy back your time. Identify the tasks that are easiest to delegate and document how you do them. This will give you a specific job description, set achievable goals, and create a daily action plan that is now something that is teachable. 
  2. Use this system and apply it to the other things you are currently doing. I would suggest building out an organization chart and dividing the different tasks you do within the company. Then create a plan that will allow you to hire the right person and move you onto the next area in the organization that you will systematize. 
  3. Finally, create the culture. Culture is like a child, it will grow whether or not you pay attention to it. So be intentional. Learn what it takes to build a culture that attracts the employees that want to be there and grow with the company. 

Each of these four areas has an incredible amount of potential to increase your capacity, and allow your business to grow. Don’t attempt to tackle everything at once. Identify just one area that you will commit to grow within the next three to six months. Take action and implement. 

What is your next step? Share with us below!

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