No room for error in Finance. Which is why concentration is critical. And we’re not talking about simply wearing headphones to block out a chatty cubicle neighbor.
There’s more to it. Concentration is a skill and discipline that can be learned … if you go about it the right way.
The following five exercises are a great way for you and your staffers to better zero in on pressing tasks — and bolster productivity and accuracy:
Exercise #1: Five More
Think about how athletes push themselves to greater and greater heights: They work beyond the point of exhaustion. Concentration’s developed similarly.
You can build your mental endurance by practicing the “5 More” exercise. When you feel like you can’t focus anymore or you notice your staffers having the same trouble, encourage them to process just five more invoices, make five more collection calls, work even five more minutes.
Your stamina gains will sneak up on you.
Exercise #2: To Infinity and Beyond!
When you have a job that requires particularly intense focus, like a reconciliation, try this exercise beforehand.
With your finger in the air in front of you, draw large sideways figure 8s (aka the infinity symbol) again and again. Do it with your right hand, then your left hand, then both hands. You’ll want to start by drawing really large sideways figure 8s and make the figure smaller and smaller until you’re drawing really tiny eights. Now you’ll be ready to tackle the task ahead. (You can always just imagine yourself drawing the figures, too.)
Feel concentration fading mid-job? Stop the work and do the figure 8 exercise again.
Exercise #3: Stillness
This one is a lot tougher than it sounds: Sit in a comfortable chair and see how still you can keep. The ultimate goal? Sit still without a movement of the muscles for fifteen minutes. (Five minutes is a good goal to begin with, then increase in five minute intervals.)
Exercise #4: Tunnelvision
“Out of sight, out of mind” is truer than you’d think. Try this: Cup your hands around your eyes so you literally have “tunnel vision” and are looking solely at your spreadsheet, aging report, etc.
Some staffers may be skeptical at first, but experts swear it really boosts concentration.
Exercise #5: Doodle
It may look like Tom isn’t hearing a word you say because he’s constantly doodling on that meeting agenda. Au contraire – in fact that may help Tom recall more of what you say.
Scientific studies prove that certain people actually focus better when they scribble as they listen. You might even try it yourself if you find that sitting still and focusing doesn’t give you the ability to recall what you just heard. You may just be one of those people who does better while doodling. (And cut Tom some slack.)
Finally, remember to give it time.
Getting into a state of concentration can take at least fifteen minutes, according to experts. (That’s more reason to set your email alerts for at least 30 minute intervals.)