Brief 

Productivity can be helped by such factors as the types of breaks you take, how you block off interruptions, how stimulated you are and whether you can master mental hacks, Scott Young writes. For example, getting unstuck could require examining why you’re stuck, and knowing what pushes you to quit could help you defuse this impulse.

 

 

Insight

How can you maintain peak concentration during difficult tasks? (Besides just chugging coffee, of course.)

Staying sharp can be tricky. Even when you desperately need to focus, it can be hard to stop a wandering mind. You might get stuck, unable to push past what ought to be a simple problem. Persisting through these moments of frustration can require a lot of willpower.

Below, I’d like to touch on ten tools I use to stay mentally sharp. While doing so, I’ll shine a light on some of the cognitive science that makes them work.

1. Take “Smart” Breaks

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. Taking your mind off a problem, at least temporarily, can even lead to a breakthrough. When your attention is diffuse, it’s easier to make the longer-range connections you need to solve creative problems.

Checking email or Facebook, however, can make it hard to return to the task at hand. If you need a break, the best strategy is to take “smart” breaks—activities that are unlikely to become an ongoing distraction. Some good ones include:

  • Briefly meditating or just sitting with your eyes closed
  • Going for a ten-minute walk
  • Stretching or doing push-ups
  • Getting a glass of water

The idea here is to make the break relaxing, not distracting.

 

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