September is the perfect month to refine your goals and with them, your focus. Let’s continue setting distractions aside and reigning in our attention.
13 . Become An E-Mail Master
A few ways to do this:
- Eliminate the expectation of immediate response times. The quicker you respond, typically the less useful your response.
- Quit with the CC’ing everyone on everything phenomenon. Just stop it. Bosses, stop asking for it. Please.
- Change the cultural expectations by talking about what you expect. I actually get work done at 8pm while my family watches TV. I don’t need you to respond at 8:35PM, yet, you wouldn’t know that unless I first told you. Meet together with those you most frequently e-mail with and discuss when people should be expected to respond.
- Ask yourself, “what’s the goal of this communication, and how can I eliminate steps to reach that goal?” (ie. first email subject line: lunch at 11:45 at Mi Cocina on Commerce?”).
14. More Trees. Less Brick.
Are you familiar with the experience of feeling completely unable to concentrate due to mental fatigue? Well, psychologists studied people at that precise moment of exhaustion, and what they discovered is fascinating. Group A took a short walk through a busy downtown. Group B walked through various natural environments (parks, etc). Guess what happened? Group A’s walk did not help them at all upon returning to work, but Group B proved to have significantly better results in their ability to focus on key tasks.
Even reviewing photos of nature can have the same effect, according to the Attention Restoration Theory. If your mind is in a constant state of chaos, review photos of nature, or take a walk through the local park. Your work will benefit.
15. Fight For Your Right To Prioritize
Your frontal lobe is the area of your brain responsible for focus. It functions just like a muscle, which means that it tires easily. Every time you overcome a distraction, you sap resources that reduce your capacity to effectively do it the next time. The key to making the most of your frontal lobe is to start your morning by setting priorities in order of mental effort. Rather than allowing your day to be dictated by the external voice that is loudest (or pitchy-est), actively decide what work will require your best mental focus and do that first. In particular, fight for the first two hours of your day. Set meetings for later in the day. Don’t allow your most precious mental resource to be robbed by a boss or colleague carrying on about a meaningless topic.
Miss previous distraction tips? Find them all, here.
Image via Barbara Marcella Photography