One of our readers across the pond, Helen, has written a fab guest post for us this week – cuppa at the ready? Here goes:
Concentration in the 21st century is not as easy as it used to be. Constant mobile phone messages and notifications from social networking apps can make it very hard to stay focused.
A lack of focus or concentration can often lead to lower productivity at work, more mistakes and possibly even your pink slip (P45 in the UK!)!
Sometimes we all struggle to focus at work. Indeed, it can often be difficult balancing emails, phone calls, important deadlines and everyday tasks.
So, to help make things a little easier, here are five simple strategies that can help improve your concentration without even leaving your desk.
Use Sticky Notes
The sticky note has for many years been one of the most useful pieces of office stationery. Ironically, nobody ever wrote a note to create the humble sticky note, it happened by accident. A failed attempt to manufacture a super-strong bonding agent led to a glue that was adhesive but easy to peel off.
A simple “get milk on the way home” sticky note can free up the mind to concentrate on higher priority tasks. Messages of importance on sticky notes can remind you to focus on more valuable tasks.
At times of waning concentration, Inspirational quotes written on a sticky note can motivate you.
A pop-up notification on your smartphone or computer can often lead to distraction and a break in concentration. Checking a to-do list on your phone may tempt you with a quick game of Angry Birds or even post a tweet, whereas a sticky note can be stuck to almost any surface where it is easy to get your immediate attention, without being a huge distraction.
Keep a Pen and Notepad Handy on Your Desk
Recent studies have shown that taking notes with pen and paper rather than laptops can improve the ability to retain and understand ideas.
Typing notes on a PC can often lead to mindless fact-processing and less concentration on the task.(source)
You can also use a notepad to clear the mind for concentrating on more important things while keeping a hard copy of the ideas. In effect, you are clearing space on the brain’s internal hard drive to process new tasks.
You can also use your notebook to doodle. Doodling was previously seen as a sad waste of time that reveals more of your inner self than any productivity. However, more recently scientists have found that doodling can help keep the mind focused, enabling it to grasp and retain new information.
A study by The Lancet, a medical periodical, encouraged a group of students to doodle while listening to a list of names. When tested later the group were found to remember 29% more names than a control group of non-doodlers.(source).
Sunni Brown, author of “The Doodle Revolution” describes doodling as a thinking tool: “It can affect how we process information and solve problems.”
By having a doodle pad by your desk you can improve your concentration and maybe see ideas that previously were not there.
Declutter Your Desk
Scientists have found that clutter can affect your focus and how you process information. Research showed that less clutter can make you more productive, less distracted and able to process information better. (source)
The stress and anxiety of clutter can sometimes cause a break in concentration. Basically, you will be too busy thinking about how to clear the clutter to focus on anything else. The solution can be as easy as a new inbox tray, a desk or pen tidy and the use of colour-coded folders (we love anything that is a good excuse for new stationery…).
Highlighters and the use of colour to help concentration
It’s a scientific fact that colours can help us remember important details such as facts or figures. Memory makes up an important part of the concentration process. After all, not having to remember facts or tasks is one less thing to concentrate on.
Highlighters can be used to emphasize key facts, notes or ideas and steer your concentration towards them. By mixing up colours you may be able to flick through ideas more quickly and process the information better. This clearer presentation can often help increase concentration and productivity levels.
Like any other skill, you learn to concentrate. Much of the technology which should enable us to be more productive can be more distracting. In this digital age of communication, there is still a need for more traditional resources such as pen and paper. Writing things down is associated with more creativity and positivity and can help maximize your concentration.
We think these tips are fab – what are your favourites? What else do you do to improve your concentration in the age of constant information overload?
Our guest writer Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com, and as you can tell, a fellow stationery addict. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.
P.S. Don’t forget our Silly September Sale – loads of stationery, silly prices!