"Blame the fact that you have attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.) or that you are an A-Type Personality - or just blame the fact that you have never been able to concentrate," said a man sitting on the plane next to me as I moved from reading a book, to reading board papers to stretching - all within 10 minutes.

"But if you keep doing that, you will achieve nothing."

I have neither A.D.D. nor do I have a strong A-Type personality (although some people may challenge that), but I do have problems from time to time focusing and for that matter being able to sleep through the night because I am thinking of a hundred things at once.

There lies the problem for many people from entrepreneurs through to the person who walks dogs for a living.

If we go back to the root of the problem, then we all realise that it is easy to fix. This problem is not insurmountable by any means and just requires a little "focus" which is the point really. It's physiologically impossible for the brain to multi-task and that is what many people who cannot focus tend to do. Not only does multi-tasking make your work 50% less valuable; it takes 50% longer to finish.

What multi-tasking does is it shifts your attention. If you are sitting having dinner with a loved one or a friend and they are texting on their mobile phone, you know that they are not interested in the conversation they are having with you. It's not that they can't sit still. It's that they don't find the conversation that they are having with you important enough to focus on. 

In the workplace, if your boss or co-worker tells you that a task is really important, yet your brain doesn't agree - then you will immediately put the task to the back-burner and if you complete it in the said time, without understanding the real meaning and importance of the task, you will end up wasting time and frustrating yourself. Chances are that you will also produce a sub-standard product.

We all want to be more effective and efficient and it all starts with our ability to focus on what is in front of us. I always say to people that are new to Marketing Eye, "don't check your emails as they come through, check them on the hour." I know they think I am stupid, but it breaks the focus. It's just like having your mobile phone next to your desk and having text messages come through all day long - it breaks your focus.

Here are 10 Ways You Can Improve Your Focus:


1. Set a goal first: If you have a clear goal in place you can work backwards so that you achieve it.
2. Turn off: Mobile phones, access to social media etc - you can only start concentrating when you have stopped getting distracted.
3. Do one important thing per day: If you have 10 important things to finish in the day, you will complete none of them satisfactorily.
4. Do everything in 45min to 1 hour slots: One thing - not a dozen. If you have a job that means you have lots of things to do in 5 minute increments - then put all of those things into the first hour of your day and then schedule the rest of your day accordingly.
5. Calm your mind: Meditate, do yoga or just take a minute out every hour to breath in and out slowly. It works wonders.
6. Be punctual: Being late sends messages to your brain that tells it that everything is going to be late from that moment on.
7. Declutter: clean your desk, home, car - whatever  you need to to ensure that there is no clutter in your life.
8. Exercise: The only way to be productive day in, day out.
9. Make yourself interested in the task at hand by understanding it better and knowing why it is important.
10. Prioritise: Put a to-do-list together and ensure all your prioritise are written down in order or deadline and importance.

By being healthy, relaxing and ensuring that your life is organised, your life will automatically improve and become more productive. Concentration drives intelligence, which simply is the ability to assimilate information and recall upon it whenever needed. Intelligence emanates from a person's ability to control their selective attention and you cannot start concentrating until you have stopped getting distracted.

Always choose accuracy over speed and the most important thing you can do is eliminate distractions - so turn that mobile phone off now!
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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

5 comments

  • Rudy Luss
    20/01/16

    Hey!, first time reader here. I very much enjoyed your article. I found it to be very useful. Keep up the awesome job! I'll be sure to share with my followers

  • Marianne Ruman
    Marianne Ruman
    26/12/13

    You're so awesome! I don't suppose I have read a single thing like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with a few genuine thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

  • Maxine
    Maxine
    05/12/12

    True story. I, myself sometimes get in the habit of multi-tasking and worrying, whether it is studying for an important subject, researching another assignment, cleaning the house, getting the urge to Tweet about something, worried about that Email that might not have been sent out...The list is endless. I agree completely with your suggestion to de-clutter. My dad always tells me to start work with a clear mind; no distractions. Exercising can be an amazing de-stresser, as the body's first response to stress is to 'flight' (fight-or-flight) and by deciding to be tense from all the stress, we can really set ourselves up for either a major migraine, or mental meltdown. I had a friend, who on the day of his exam, woke up at 6am to go for a run. It's amazing how some physical exercise, even yoga, can get our adrenaline pumping and stimulate an endorphin release throughout our body. Most people think they can get more done if they sit down at a desk all day and just go at it, but it's very important to give our bodies and mind a break from time to time!

  • Anthony
    Anthony
    05/12/12

    It's the most annoying thing when you're having a conversation with someone, they receive an SMS and then proceed to read the message and interrupt the current conversation.

    It's definitely hard to ignore when your phone goes off but sometimes I think we are more worried about what messages we are receiving and checking facebook updates than concentrating on real life interaction.

  • vyna n
    vyna n
    26/11/12

    I completely agree with you Mellissah. With my past experiences with school assignments, I've learnt that in order to work and concentrate best, I need to take out all distractions around me and place myself in a clutter-free room. When I'm crazily cleaning my area, you'll know it means I'm stressing and it's crunch time. Some of my friends would go to the length of forcing themselves to focus by deactivating their social media accounts during exam time!

    Though I do believe it is healthy to have breaks throughout the task. My internet marketing lecturer at the University of Melbourne conducted a study that supported that performances in the workplace is actually more productive when people have a 5 minute break on Facebook between tasks!

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