At some time or another (usually when we most want to concentrate!) all of us are prone to what I call Mental Leakage. When your concentration is threatened by distractions, interruptions, or your own wandering mind, these psychotherapeutic techniques work wonders! Learn them and be ready to call them up quickly before you totally lose focus and time.
- Transcending the environment means rising above physical issues that you can’t change. For example, when you get emails or voicemails you might tell yourself, Those constant beeps and alerts normally summon my attention and break my concentration, but now? I know that my colleagues are covering for me, so when I hear them, I will think ‘great teamwork’ instead of ‘Uh-oh – I’d better answer.’
- Constructive acceptance means accepting gracefully the things that can’t be changed. Writing employee reviews is stressful, but it’s part of the job, so when it’s necessary, I’ll do it as cheerfully as possible.
- Visualizing the ideal means picturing the positive outcomes of staying focused on your work. Filling out these compliance reports is so tedious, I will just keep a picture in my mind of the auditors coming back and saying, ‘Great job. No issues here.’ The mind follows the imagination, and the physical follows the mental.
- Positive affirmation recognizes that there’s a science to using a positive phrase like Just DO it! Or I’ve GOT this! to boost your spirits. First, you’re trying to program your subconscious mind through conscious thought to think favorably about the work in front of you. And then you’re trying to give yourself an adrenaline rush for energy. When you get a positive thrust in your mind from a phrase, there’s a positive physical reaction, too.
- Psychological counterpunching is useful when a counterproductive thought like, I wonder if I’ve got any emails – I think I’ll check, threatens your focus. You throw up a mental counter-punch: You’ll be disappointed later if you don’t finish this task now, and you won’t have another chance. And then you immediately follow it with your own best punch: Remember how great it feels to finish a project like this – you’ll feel great!
- Changing your internal computer chip means that once a pattern has been embedded into your “computer chip,” you must replace it. For example, if you’re trying to break a habit of burrowing into email several times a day, it doesn’t help to just say, Ignore email! Instead you have to reprogram yourself with a different behavior. When your hand reaches for your email device, turn your hand instead to a talisman that you keep handy for the purpose. Handle the talisman for a moment and return to your work.
You can learn more about these techniques and other time management solutions in my book, The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had.