An Article about a Natural Approach to Gaining Better Focus

This article was forwarded to me from a friend. It is written by Dr. Rob for MSN Health & Fitness. This advice offers a method for improving your concentration that’s not far different than what I’ve been sharing as an expert in helping people increase performance, productivity and satisfaction by decreasing distractions. To view the original article, links and find out more about the author, please follow this link.

Q: I am having difficulty staying focused on my job. I work at a high school and my environment is not library quiet and is often either too hot or too cold. I have many interruptions and can’t seem to complete a task. Is there something natural to take that helps to stay focused?

A: Sounds like you are working in a very open, spontaneous and interactive environment. Needless to say, it would be hard for anybody to focus on a specific task while dealing with frequent interruptions.

That said, the most natural solution would be to enlist your administrator’s help in relocating to a more worker-friendly area of the office. Or you might rearrange your workday in a manner that schedules in specific times for student visits and phone conversations, plus do-not-disturb times dedicated to completing assigned tasks. Taking a pill, natural or otherwise, would not protect you from a highly distracting workplace environment.

When referring to a person’s ability to focus or concentrate, we imply that their thoughts are narrowly channeled toward what they are:

  • Currently doing (playing, watching a movie, working on a job assignment).
  • Intending to do (gathering information needed for a presentation).
  • Wanting to complete (homework, project, others).

If thoughts, feelings or one’s environment disrupt the ability to complete tasks in a timely or mistake-free manner, there may be a problem with focus or concentration. More often than not, distractions are the main reasons for this concern. These can be grouped into two categories: Internal and External.

Internal distractions are driven by your own thoughts, emotions and physical well-being. For instance, have you ever tried to do homework on an empty stomach or when you were very tired? If so, you know it can be hard to concentrate. Other internal distractions include but aren’t limited to:

  • Poor organizational ability.
  • Impaired ability to read or understand (eye or hearing problem, dyslexia).
  • Worry, anxiety or depression.
  • Job dissatisfaction.
  • Time of day (too early or too late).
  • Medications or supplements (stimulants, fatigue-causing drugs, others).
  • And lack of exercise.

Even though attention deficit disorder (with or without hyperactivity) can be a significant cause of internal distraction, I do not think that is contributing to your lack of focus. I say this because you did not mention having ADD/ADHD as a child, nor did you express problems with impulsivity (speaking before thinking, gambling problem, others), distractibility (cannot follow conversations, easily bored, others), or hyperactivity (constant talking, trouble sitting still, others).

External distractions are related to the environment. In regard to your workplace, there are lots of reasons for your inability to fully concentrate. These include:

  • Noise.
  • Constant interruption (telephone, student needs, co-workers).
  • E-mail, inter-office mail, public address system announcements.
  • Uncomfortable office air temperatures.

It is important to know that each and every one of us has a different temperament, coping mechanism for working in a busy environment and the ability to maintain focus amid a storm of chaos. We can only do our best while adapting to the situation at hand.
Robert Danoff’s Top 10 strategies for helping you stay focused at work include:

  • Prioritize tasks into what is important and urgent. Accomplish these first, then complete others in a timely manner.
  • Ask for help. If you are constantly interrupted by phone calls or impromptu student visits, meet with your supervisor in order to provide a more organized structure.
  • De-clutter your workspace, leaving only one project to be completed at a time.
  • Noise cancellation devices, such as earplugs, may help improve your focus on the task at hand.
  • Privacy. See if you can relocate to another area when your assignment requires attention without interruption.
  • Temperature control. Ask the maintenance department to provide better regulation of the heating and cooling system in your office.
  • Create solutions that will provide for a better work environment.
  • Nurture yourself, and provide positive feedback with your accomplishments.
  • Stop fighting the tide. Learn to accept and expect interruptions. Instead of getting frustrated, just go with the flow.
  • Don’t look too far ahead. Step back, take a deep breath, smile and exhale. Now you’re ready for the task at hand!

Robert Danoff, D.O., M.S., is a family physician and program director of The Family Practice Residency, as well as the combined Family Practice/Emergency Medicine Residency programs at Frankford Hospitals, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pa. He is the medical correspondent for CN8, The Comcast Network, a regular contributor to Discovery Health Online and a contributing writer to The New York Times Special Features. (Read his full bio.)

© 2008 Microsoft

About The PriorityPro
Natalie Gahrmann, an international expert, empowers professional women to ignite their passion, demonstrate personal leadership and exude greater confidence. Her background in business acumen and leadership development is instinctively applied through 1-1 coaching, workshops and keynote presentations. She can help you gain clarity, focus and direction so that you accomplish more of what's important to YOU!

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