We’ve all struggled through times where the last thing we want to do is the task we have to do. Anything might be more interesting: making the next drinks round for the office, organising your stationary cupboard; staring mindlessly out of the window…
Bruce Lee once said “Concentration is the root of all the higher abilities in man”. If you want to be like Bruce Lee (and who wouldn’t?), you need to improve your concentration game. I’m no zen master – I’m certainly not like Bruce Lee (yet) – but when I need to get stuff done, here’s how I do it.
1. '2 minute rule’
I can’t emphasise how useful the ‘2 minute rule’ can be when you have a list of tasks you need to complete but really can’t be bothered to start. It’s split into two parts.
In the first, if you have a task that will take fewer than two minutes to complete, do it. What’s two minutes? Think of all the times you’ve not washed up straight after lunch, or the times you’ve left your emails unread.
The second part of the technique is to try to turn all of your tasks into things that you can start in 2 minutes. This might sound impossible, but here’s an example: that article that you need to write that could take you an hour or so, just write the first sentence (<2 minutes). You’ll soon find yourself writing reams now you’ve started.
2. Regulate your time
Another way to prevent procrastination is to mold your day around set blocks of time, with defined spaces in between in which to check Facebook, make delicious buttered toast, or get the definitive answer to which is better: Bacon and egg or bacon and sausage.
May I introduce to you the Pomodoro Technique. Using this technique, users split their day into 25-minute blocks, with a five or ten-minute break in between for defined procrastination. Use your phone alarm timer to keep things accurate. The beauty of this technique is that it doesn’t deny you your time to daydream; it builds it into your working day. I bet you a tenner that if you use the Pomodoro method to help you concentrate for one day, you’ll notice the impact on your productivity.
3. Gamify your goals
Sometimes, technology seems like the thing that’s pulling us away from our work; making it more difficult to concentrate. Must. Keep. Off. Facebook.
However, new tech can be a fantastic way to improve concentration, too. Just look at the bourgeoning health and self-improvement app scene. My go-to app for concentration is something called Chains.cc. It’s super cheap on the App Store, and if you’ve got tasks that you need to complete on a daily or regular basis each week, you can create a category for it and start building your chain.
For example, every day at work, I’ll make sure that I spend some time organising my calendars. It’s a repetitive task, and frankly, a dull one, but it facilitates everything else that I enjoy doing, so it needs to be done. Every day that I do this task, I tick it off in Chains.cc, extending the chain by another day.
If I don’t complete the task, the chain breaks and I go back to the beginning. Bummer. Visualising your progress in this way means you’ll build up a routine, and routine leads to higher levels of concentration.
Hopefully one of these three strategies will be of some help to you next time you’re faced with that spot of book keeping you really can’t be bothered with. If you do adopt a strategy and it works, please do share your success – I’d love to hear form you. Just leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch.