Have you hit a writers’ block on your debut novel? Has your blueprint for the next world-changing social media network gone awry? Are you at work and staring blankly at your computer screen? If you’re struggling to stay focused then you’re not alone. Around 45% of us cannot work for more than 15 minutes straight before being distracted, with 53% estimating that we lose at least an hour a day because of interruptions, according to market research firm United Sample.
Almost 60% of interruptions are caused by email, instant messaging, social media or switching between applications or devices. The good news is there are simple steps you can take to get back on track – instantly.
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1. Switch on airplane mode
We are connected around the clock to all the information known to humanity – but this constant flow of knowledge isn’t making us smarter, only slower. A study by the University of London found that the relentless stream of information – web, emails, calls, texts – is as bad for our brains as losing a night’s sleep. Average IQ scores fell ten points when subjects were given a series of problem-solving challenges while being bombarded with calls and emails. Pick a time to switch your phone to airplane mode – or off – every day to stem the flood.
2. Pour a cup of Joe
A strong coffee not only provides an energy boost, it also increases alertness and improves sustained focus. And the best bit is that the more tired you are, or the longer you have to spend on a given task, the more potent its effects are. A dose of 3mg of caffeine per kilo of bodyweight, which equates to about two filter coffees for a 75kg person, improved steering accuracy during a one-hour drive, according to findings published in the Human Psycho-pharmacology journal.
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3. Chew gum
If you want increased concentration without the caffeine jitters – when you’re working late at night, for example – chew gum to clean your mind as well as your mouth. In a study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, subjects who chewed gum when attempting to solve verbal and maths problems performed 10% better than those without gum.
4. Declutter your desk
Albert Einstein asked that “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” And he’s right – if you work in a creative industry, because a messy desk is associated with greater creativity and outside-the-box thinking, according to the journal Psychological Science. But if you need to stay focused on more conventional tasks, give your office or desk space a good once-over.
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