These days it feels harder than ever to just sit down and work. From the ding of an email, to the buzz of a text message, to the tweet of a tweet, it’s a wonder we can do anything but stare at our phones. Lack of focus has more of an impact than merely missing deadlines. There’s a direct correlation between concentration and mood, in that the more we tune-in to tasks at hand, the better we feel. Conversely, the more out of focus we get, the more we suffer. Here are a six tricks to boost self-esteem and improve concentration, so we can get things done and feel great doing them:
1. Find your Circadian Rhythm and Plan Accordingly
Are you a disaster before 10:00 am? Are you nodding off to Homeland by 8:30 pm? Determining which hours of the day you’re most optimal will help maximize mood, productivity and sleep. Our inner clocks influence our mental stamina, as they control the production of melatonin, which promotes sleepiness. Hampering with the natural rhythm of our bodies – and thus having to work off any leftover melatonin during the day – can lead to insomnia, irritation and the inability to focus. Keep track of your daily energy levels and plan to do the bulk of your work when you’re feeling your best.
2. Speaking of Sleepiness, Sleep.
So you’ve successfully blocked out those traumatic sleepless nights with your infant. Here’s a reminder: they sucked. Sleep affects mood. Lack of sleep makes us irritable, short-tempered, anxious and vulnerable to stress, all of which leads to feelings of attention deficit disorder. So not only does minimal sleep affect mood, but it lessens productivity and output, which leads to more stress. See where we’re going here? Put this vicious cycle to bed, literally, and get a minimum of seven hours sleep for maximum performance.
3. Prioritize Tasks
Make a list every evening before the workday – whether on email, in your old school Filofax or that cute Moleskin pad. By jotting down your to-do’s in order of importance, you are visualizing your tasks and – according to research – 95 percent more likely to do them. Completing tasks boosts self-esteem, because we all know that checking them off a list is badass.
Working out doesn’t just help you look fierce, but makes you feel like a rockstar, too. Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals like neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids that ease depression and boost mood. Movement also increases the temperature of the body, which has calming and stabilizing effects, making it easier to sit down and concentrate. So if you’re feeling that 2:00 pm slump, close out of Facebook and try a brisk walk or the seven-minute workout to get the wind back in your sails.
5. Live Clutter Free
You’re more sensitive to clutter than you think. Take it from Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The master of minimal pledges that a cluttered home or work space is often responsible for feelings of depression and lack of ambition. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your physical space dramatically affects how you behave and what you can accomplish. Get a purge plan in place and start asking yourself Kondo’s multimillion dollar question, does it spark joy? If the answer is no, you know what to do.
6. Zone Out and Meditate
Stressed-out minds can’t be productive, so if you’re feeling agitated, take a few minutes of your day to tune out and meditate. Thinking about absolutely nothing can provide moments of clarity that result in a tension-free, blissful state. Studies show that the right side of our brain, which is responsible for creating new ideas, will work actively upon regular meditation. It might sound counter-intuitive, you’ll actually improve productivity. Try it.