Focused work is a prerequisite for efficient work. But what do focus and, in this context, flow actually mean? And how can you learn to work with concentration? Are there simply unfocused and concentrated types? And what about multitasking? How are concentration and focus related?
Questions about questions that we want to address in a moment. You can begin to focus on this text to achieve harmony.
What concentration and concentrated work are –
Wikipedia provides a very respectable definition of concentration. According to this, it is “the deliberate focus of attention on a certain activity, the achievement of a short-term achievable goal or the solving of a given task.”
So concentration is not an arbitrary process, it requires your will. It is an active process of thinking and not an accident. It can be controlled accordingly – from the inside as well as from the outside. If you want to focus, you can do this. But there is no question that the results are different. For example, people are concentrated differently in different settings or are distracted at different rates. Overall, maintaining concentration and focused work is one of the most challenging things in everyday life.
Concentration is willful focusing. Focusing at this point can be understood as determination: the goal (which can also be a certain sub-task) is at the beginning, the willingness to only deal with this now follows. Concentrated work must therefore be understood as working on one thing with a goal.
Concentration is a process that can be influenced. For example, your ability to concentrate depends on your mood, digestion, alertness and much more. At the same time, most of the stimuli that have nothing to do with the task at hand mean a distraction and thus a disturbance of concentration. Concentration also diminishes over time. This means that the time window for concentrated work is always limited. Then there must be a break. The only exception is the so-called flow – that is, being in the flow, working through the night without compulsion or the forgotten lunch break because the activity was so captivating.
The flow state
The happiness researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi shaped the flow theory significantly. He assumes that this flow experience can only be enjoyed by those who are not overwhelmed or under-challenged and who can do their job in a playful (creative) way. This means that you can experience a flow when you are familiar with your task and you can act it out while you work – which is not the least the main motivation for many freelancers.
A flow experience is interesting because it frees you from the need to actively concentrate. People with frequent flow experiences in their activities report that things happened by themselves. For this to happen at all, all disruptive factors must be eliminated. In addition, a flow usually ends due to external interruptions. In order to get into this state, however, you first have to be focused – and then you may slip into the flow, which completely relieves you of continuing to concentrate actively.
The flow is thus the ideal final state of concentrated work. It begins with the focus (the setting of goals), is created through concentrated work and made possible by the interplay of the right factors. Creative professionals swear by this. But basically, a flow can be achieved in all activities without exception, as long as they can be tackled and mastered by you with motivation.
The flow is a feeling: You are unmolested by everything that has nothing to do with the task. You feel motivated all the time, enjoy your work and get absorbed in it. And what’s more: the lucky one doesn’t have an hour.
Why am I unable to focus?
A banal question, isn’t it? You now know that concentration and focus don’t just come, they want to be wanted. It is also clear that various things hinder concentrated work massively. The classics:
- Social media
- Hunger, tiredness, thirst, smack of nicotine
While the above factors can all be turned off well, there are a few more that require observation and planning. There is, for example, the fact that most people set priorities incorrectly and do not choose the right time window to concentrate on their work. In addition, unclear schedules often hinder concentrated work. If you don’t know what is coming up and when then your thoughts drift away more often.
And sometimes it’s the tasks themselves: you don’t want to concentrate on some things, you just want to get them over with. The thought of completing the task outshines the willingness to take on the task. Sometimes the only thing that helps is force that you have to exercise on yourself.
The last nuisance to be addressed here is multitasking. You are certainly familiar with this and it is also considered a skill, especially in times of constant availability and increasingly unclear areas of responsibility. The truth is, however, that multitasking divides attention resources enormously and thereby reduces performance. There is nothing wrong with pursuing an urgent task quickly and interrupting another. The emphasis, however, is on interrupting or finishing one task for the benefit of the other – and not doing two things at the same time. In addition, focused work is only possible with a clear focus. Really focusing on two things simply does not succeed.
Multitasking is an outgrowth of the performance and independence society. To be able to do a lot at the same time is considered a virtue. Studies have sufficiently proven that results then worsen.
How you can work more focused
Focus means choosing one thing. This brings us to the core of all concentration improvement strategies: priorities, priorities and priorities.
Accordingly, you should learn how to prioritize. Here we want to differentiate between two priorities: On the one hand, the temporal (what has to be done and when) and on the other hand, the overall priorities.
The time priorities result from the tasks that are due in the course of a day, a week, and a month. Fixed times for fixed areas of responsibility should become a matter of course. You can find out how you can design your time management here. The tip is very valuable. In the beginning, there is no. We will devote ourselves to this in a moment.
You also need to know yourself and your productivity rates. Everyone has a certain time window in which concentrated work is particularly successful. For many, this is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., around noon. Find out where yours is and always put the concentration-worthy tasks in this window.
The only efficiency helps with tasks that have to be processed above all. To become more productive and make the most of your time planning.
The other priorities are what you really want to do. It’s generally easier to work towards what you want, isn’t it? At this point, I would like to introduce you to Warren Buffet’s two-list strategy, which is known to be quite successful economically.
Warren Buffet’s two-list strategy
The two-list strategy consists in writing about 25 (professional) goals on a piece of paper. After a few days, you choose five of these and transfer them to another piece of paper, which is now your list A. The other 20 goals are your List B.
According to Buffet, list A is your unconditional to-do list, while list B is which list?
- Do it later list
The solution is: It is a must-avoid list.
Why is that? Well, out of the 25 goals, 5 are the most important to you. And we have already established that focus only works with one goal and that splitting up concentration leads to worse results. So why should you focus on goals if they are not really your priority?
Admittedly, eliminating all non-priorities does not always work, because non-priorities are often necessary evils. However, the two-list strategy is an excellent way of helping you understand what your focus should be. In addition, options can also be reduced to one, probably the best for you.
The other basics for concentrated work
Your work environment should be free from disruptive factors. This is one reason why the home environment is often not ideal, or at least the work area should be less domestic. In addition, all unnecessary media and channels (this includes Twitter, Facebook, dating apps, and e-mail programs) usually interfere. Ignoring or switching off is the solution here.
You can also stay focused by giving your body what it needs: water and food. Nuts, fruits, and dark chocolate in particular are considered absolute brain food by many. But basically, everything is allowed that makes you feel good and that enables you to persevere better.
Music is a double-edged sword: singing, in particular, is often distracting and music that is too variable can make people too curious. We recommend calm, instrumental music that does not change too quickly. But it works without music.
In addition, focused work means that the process has to come to the fore and not the result. Looking at the target does not change anything about the current situation. So concentrate on moving the actual towards the target – and you are already focused.
It can also be helpful to the only view and answer messages after your peak phase (whenever it is). This can make it possible to approach the really important tasks of the day with less distraction.
What is in focus
Only you determine. Be aware that focus and concentration come from you. How successful you are depending on the setting and you might even get into a flow. It is important that you manage to take on one single task at a time. Work on your time management and be aware of your priorities, because it is easier to concentrate on clearly defined tasks.
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