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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Improve your focus, give your brain a break

Have you ever found yourself in the difficult position of having to complete a task yet found the task to be less than exciting and wondering if there was some way to get through the challenge with your sanity still in tact. Often in work situations we are responsible for tasks and actions that are needed to be completed but these tasks are not fun.

One of the approaches that I have found when working on focus has been to use a 20 minute rule. This is a unique motivator I found while in college when I had to study for exams. The basic idea is to allow yourself to get into the groove and leverage your mind's ability to remain intensely focused for short periods of time. I have heard of studies that have found that our minds will start to wander after as short a time as 20 minutes (I couldn't find any specific one so I can just tell from my personal experience)

What I do is set a timer, I have a countdown watch that is set to 20 minutes. I turnoff the phones, blackberries, and email alerts; to effectively get into your groove you will have to be certain that there is no interruptions so that you can train your mind that it is okay to be focused. I have a small note pad nearby in the event something pops into my mind, that will need to be addressed but is not what I am focusing on, so that I can write it down to address later. Then I set the timer and am focused for the 20 minutes straight.

When the alarm goes off I stop what I am doing right then and there and move away from the project and reward myself for the focus time. The key is to reward yourself. I recommend do a little physical exercise and get your blood moving like take a short walk get outside for a brief moment. I keep the break to no longer than 5 or 10 minutes so that I can get back to focus on the task at hand.

After doing this for awhile I found I can focus and get into a flow quickly and the ability to complete my task lists improved noticeably.

Try it out for yourself and let me know how it works.

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