The average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 sec in 2015, putting us now below the 9 second attention span of a Goldfish. The average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour. Media overload is the sixth top cause of stress in the U.S. including all forms of Media ranging from television to social media.
This paints a picture of a distracted society lacking focus and concentration. So, how do we improve?
1) Establish a Morning Ritual
How you start your day sets the wheels in motion for the rest of the day. If you wake up late, rush out the door, and skip breakfast, you carry this distracted pace into your day.
Wake up early and meditate. Meditation is a yoga practice (called dhyana) that people have been doing for thousands of years. We now know it not only helps to cultivate a calm mind throughout the day but also helps to improve memory and keep the brain structures young.
Eat a healthy breakfast rich in protein and whole grain that sustains you throughout the morning. This morning nourishment allows us to concentrate better and serves as the initial fuel to energize us all day long.
Get clear on how you want your day to go and affirm that in your mind. Bring to mind one important task that you need to complete well today. Establish that task as what you will do in your mind. Plant this positive seed of progress and accomplishment in your mind each day.
Give yourself enough time so you aren’t rushed and walk out the door clear and calm. While commuting, listen to something that inspires you.
2) Prioritize Your Tasks
Prioritize your to do list and begin with the most important task that you least want to do. The morning is our best thinking time. So, do the hard work first.
Sometimes you have to check email and respond to your team so you don’t serve as a bottleneck. But consider that most emails are not in immediate need of an answer from you. Begin to save emailing until mid-morning and encourage more self-reliance. If you delegate and allow the team to function without your constant involvement, they’ll involve you less.
Try to finish one task entirely before starting another. We now know that multi-tasking is not necessarily a productive way to function. There is a meaningful sense of accomplishment in bringing tasks to conclusion.
3) Reduce Distraction
When our mind is distracted we are not fully present to the task at hand and cannot concentrate. Eliminate distraction at the office by turning off sounds and notifications on gadgets, reading less news, requiring your team to set appointments to meet with you, putting your phone in a drawer and turn it off, blocking of time on your calendar for you to get work done.
At other times improve concentration and focus by putting less chaotic imprints into your mind. Watch programming that is inspiring or funny, read books that help you grow as a person, listen to serene music, and spend more time in quiet. When we listen or watch violent, chaotic, or angry material we aren’t helping ourselves to focus later.
When we learn to harness the senses, we can also learn to concentrate even when the environment around us is loud and chaotic. This is a way to practice what is called pratyahara in yoga. We take in a lot with the eyes and rely heavily on what we see. Using the other senses helps us to become more aware of them. One way to practice harnessing the senses is by sitting quietly with your eyes closed, bringing your full attention to each sense, and then letting that sense go. Bring your full attention first to your hearing and listen to all sound in the room for 10 full breaths. Then let that go and concentrate fully on feeling the temperature of the air and the feeling of the fabric touching your skin for 10 full breaths. You can then move to smell and even taste.
Start the day right, prioritize well, and reduce distraction. Soon you will realize the cumulative benefits including an improved ability to concentrate and focus and more clarity and calm in your days.
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Tarra Mitchell is incorporating her distinctive background in business and yoga to contribute to the great conversation around leadership and consciousness. Her upcoming book, The Yoga of Leadership, shows how personal wellbeing is connected to success to inspire and empower leaders to lead healthier, happier lives, and better connect with and engage their teams.
Watch Tarra’s author video below to learn more about The Yoga of Leadership.