Five simple techniques to maximize your focus

Taking input from modern brain science studies could increase workflow. Studies using the latest neuroimaging and cognitive testing are showing us how the brain focuses and how easily the brain is distracted. The good news in this research area is that the brain can learn to ignore distractions, making you more attentive. Here are five simple techniques to maximize your concentration.

  1. Take a break and get more done
    Next time you try to push it to the limit, don’t be surprised if all you can think of is a coffee break. The brain consumes 20% of the energy produced by the body, and efficient energy supply is crucial, explains Professor David Attwell of University College London. So, to get the most out of your brain, take a break and get an energy boost.
  2. Don’t be a lazyhead
    Not all distractions are external. Sometimes it’s you, or more specifically your brain. The reason why you choose to read that incoming email, even if it interrupts your workflow, is because the brain is lazy. Complicated work is seen as a threat and the brain questions the situation: “Am I really going to solve this?” That is why some of us tend to push an important deadline forward whereas an incoming email gets our immediate attention.
  3. Capture the momentum
    Most people focus best in the morning or late at night, says leadership development expert and co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute David Rock. He also claims that 90 percent of us do our best thinking outside the office. In his book Your Brain at Work he explains that the brain can only deliver high-quality thinking in small quantities, in a limited amount of time. Rock also claims that a fresh mind is a limited momentum that it is important to hold on to while it’s there.
  4. Draw up to-do-lists
    The human brain has evolved very little over the past 10,000 years and despite our cultural and linguistic complexity, the brain still finds it easier to visualize things. Studies even show that the brain processes visual input 60,000 times faster than it does text. So, what you do when you write a to-do-list is to actually draw an image to stimulate your brain’s memory. Here’s a tip: try using mind-mapping or graphs instead of taking notes at your next meeting.
  5. Conflicts dulls your mind
    Our brain capacity is not infinitive, and discrepancies between coworkers is also a battle of brain resources. For instance, a speaker who feels ignored in a meeting situation instantly presses the brain’s emergency button. The speaker keeps going but with reduced confidence, which in turn may lead to a subsequent problem, a conflict. Frustration and conflicts steal a lot of important time and energy from our brains. One might say this dulls your mind, according to Kristina Bähr, a Swedish pediatrician and neuroleadership coach, in her podcast Hjärnpodden (the Brain Pod). In other words, always avoid pointless conflicts. Such an approach clears your mind.

Finally, some good advice from another expert, Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at University of California, San Francisco. In his latest book, Soft-Wired, he focuses on how the new science of neuroplasticity may change the way we think.

“It’s important to consider what you should not be doing quite so much … Most of us waste far too much time passively receiving information from TV, computer and smartphone screens without translating what we see, hear or feel into any useful action … I strongly encourage you to consider changing your own life, in these and other ways. Take this subject seriously and your brain will thank you!”