Sophia Elias
October 13, 2014 6:00 am

By now, we’re all pretty deep into fall. Foliage has been admired, pumpkin spice lattes have been guzzled in abundance, and your messenger bag is packed with a now slightly messy pen-to-pencil ratio. Your new planner is clutched tightly by your side, but is packed with all the things you need to get done and still stay on top of your grades or work deadlines. This year, you wanted to avoid all moments of procrastination and all-nighters–this year was supposed be about unobstructed focus.

In our world of endless distractions however, concentrating on your work is no easy feat. Sometimes a little bit of outside help is needed to become the workload warrior you know you can be. And with this new school year upon us, there’s no better time to kick old habits to the curb. We could all use a little help when it comes to work, can’t we? Here are seven easy ways to boost your concentration.

1. Make a concentration playlist

If you’re anything like me, you need music to accompany you while you work. I must warn you though–listening to music while you’re working can be a double-edged sword, particularly if your feet are sensitive to dance beats. This is why it’s important for you to pick the right concentration playlist. If you’re as sensitive as I am, you may want to consider comprising your playlist of mostly classical or ambient music–even industrial sounds can help you zone in on your tasks.

2. Organize your workspace

A cluttered desk is a hindrance, both mentally and physically (ever have papers from 2012 literally close in on you?). So before you get started, put your pens in their rightful mug, throw away that empty bag of popcorn, and recycle any unnecessary papers. A clear desk will leave room for your brilliant ideas to grow legs and manifest into the beautiful beasts you know they were born to be.

3. Write reminders on a whiteboard. . . or a mirror

If you’re the type of person who needs in-your-face reminders to stay on track, having some sort of dry-erase board can help you zone in on your daily duties. They are also an engaging way for you to organize study sessions, map out million-dollar ideas and draw cartoon animals (only on breaks, though). I know whiteboards can be a little pricey, but dry erase markers work just as well on slabs of glass and mirrors.

4. Enlist the help of an app, like Carrot

When you enlist the help of a third party, you have more of an obligation to keep your promises. In fact, apps like Carrot To-Do ($2.99) will actually get mad at you for not staying on track. But if you appease Carrot with your task-killing skills, you’ll be graciously rewarded with upgrades, mini-games, and a digital kitten named Captain Whiskers. I know not everybody has an iPhone or an iPad, so rest assured, Carrot To-Do isn’t the only app out there to keep your tasks on track. Any.Do is available on Android, iOS and Google Chrome for FREE!

5. Try the pomodoro technique

Contrary to my initial thought process, the pomodoro technique is not about cooking a perfectly-crafted tomato sauce. It is, however, equally important. Basically, when you use the pomodoro technique, you’re working in 25-minute increments. Choose your task, set a timer for 25 minutes and get to work! Once your 25 minutes is up, you’re free to take a break and do whatever you want for three to five minutes. Once you’ve completed four 25-minute sets, you’re allowed to take a longer break (normally 15 to 30 minutes). As great as it is to relentlessly dive into an assignment, it’s important to take breaks! Your mental agility will be salvaged and your eyes will thank you (especially if you’re working at a computer).

6. Put the phone down!

Answering text messages and phone calls while you work may seem harmless, but it has been proven to spur a chain of digressions (e.g. “liking” a mouth-watering grilled cheese sandwich on Instagram may inspire you to Yelp grilled cheese in your area, and so on). Fun? No doubt. Totally imperative? Sadly, no. Cyberspace will still be there for you when you’re done with your assignment. So stick your nose in that book (or laptop) and put the phone in another room. You’ll get things done faster without the distractions, I promise.

7. Block distracting sites (temporarily)

While we’re on the topic of sticking your nose into a laptop, let’s talk about the never-ending distraction that is the Internet. Unfortunately, many of our assignments have to be done on the computer, but that still doesn’t justify scrolling through Facebook feeds on an arbitrary basis. Don’t worry–if you’re the type to get lost in cyberspace, there’s help. An Internet app, appropriately named Concentrate (for Mac), prevents you from accessing distracting websites and mail servers.

If you think it’s worth it, you can purchase Concentrate for $29 or start your free 60-hour trial right here. Check out some of these other site-blocking apps that let you figuratively “unplug” from the Internet. Which we all need help with anyway.

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