Divorce, Democrats & Distraction: Strategies For Regaining Concentration In The Workplace

Angelina Jolie files for divorce from Brad Pitt. Hints emerge that George H.W. Bush will vote for Clinton. NFL versus the national anthem.

The news today is enough to make your head spin. With so much going on in the world—serious or not so much—it can be hard to pay attention to work.

Luckily, according to a recent study, your brain is smart enough to compensate for concentration-breaking events. It turns out, when you are busy with a task that requires sight (say, lengthy doc review on a computer screen?) your brain reduces hearing so that you can focus.

“The brain is really clever, and helps us to concentrate on what we need to do. At the same time, it screens out distractions that are extraneous to the task. But the brain can’t cope with too many tasks: only one sense at a time can perform at its peak,” Jerker Rönnberg of Linköping University, professor of psychology with a focus on disability research, said to Science Daily.

Rönnberg and colleagues have investigated what happens in the brain when people are given a visual task, such as a student taking an exam or a person driving a car. The researchers were also studying how a person’s concentration changes when background noise increases.

Although findings show a high cognitive load in the form of a visual task impairs the brain’s response to sound in both the cortex and also in the parts of the brain that deal with emotion, there are other ways you can hone your concentration skills. One that don’t need scientific confirmation via a catscan.

First, ignore your e-mail. E-mail is the quickest way to lose your momentum on a task.

Instead, create a schedule for checking e-mail, like once every hour. This will give you an occasional, much-needed break from completing your more important projects.

Second, craft a To-Do list.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks at hand, your concentration starts to decline. It feels like too much to do in too little time.

Creating a to-do list is one of those basic, but still valuable tools for any professional. Create a to-do list for the day and for the week. If you can, assign dates to each task (you can modify them later).

Creating a to-do list will get you in the habit of writing things down, and it will also make it easier to focus on tackling one task at a time. Your reward? Crossing it off your list.

To-Do lists are also one of the many ways a lawyer can use Excel.

Finally, take a break—a physical break—when you feel your concentration waning.

According to an old Japanese study, a 15-minute nature-walk can drop stress hormones by 16 percent, blood pressure by 2 percent, and heart rate by 4 percent, reports Montana Public Radio. And, a recent study from 2015 suggests that the same health benefits you receive from a $20,000 raise can be experienced simply by living in a neighborhood surrounded by trees.

So, get up from your desk and get a small amount of physical activity. Although your workplace may be surrounded by aluminum trees, i.e., skyrise buildings, you can still take a walk about town for your health.

Plus, a 15-minute break outside the office will do a world of good by letting you forget today’s insane worldwide news.

-WB

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