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How to Focus Better: 4 Things Leaders Do to Concentrate at Work
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Corinne Keating,
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We’ve all looked up to someone in our lifetime because of their leadership style. Whether your role models are actually in a position of leadership or not doesn’t matter as much as the fact that their hard work, attention, dedication, and focus inspire you to push ahead with your own goals. So, what are these great leaders doing differently that gives them the ability to focus so well at work? To achieve the same level of concentration that they have, apply the following tips in your own life, and watch how others will start to see you as a role model, too.

1. They select the right leadership style.

Just because you’re in a role that allows you to lead other people and give them commands doesn’t mean you’re naturally good at it. Even if you’re not, you can take some important steps toward becoming a better leader. Step one is deciding that you want to lead the right way without becoming too internally or externally focused. While both types of focus and concentration help you guide the people around you, don’t let either one consume you.

Internally focused people spend their time entirely wrapped up in the staff around them. Whether it’s for your subordinates or your coworkers, you probably spend nearly every hour of your day answering phone calls, questions, and emails to help them reach their goals if you’re this type of leader. The problem in such a scenario is your lack of time and ability to achieve your own goals in pushing the company forward.

Externally focused individuals, on the other hand, concentrate much more of their time on the outside world—how competitors function and how they stack up against even the most well-rooted and funded companies. However, spending too many resources trying to compete might undermine the unique progress your own business could make.

Strategically focused individuals know how to provide internal care, keep an eye on external threats and still use plenty of energy to lead the organization where it needs to go. They don’t burn out as quickly as people who are too focused on one or the other type of motivation, and they inspire the people around them to take charge as well.

Sheryl Sandberg, for instance, advises using "ruthless prioritization" to hone your focus. That means devoting your focus and concentration to a few areas in which you're particularly strong and following through, rather than trying to focus on many different areas and only giving them half your attention.

While any two strategically focused leaders might go about their goals in different ways, they have one thing in common: They make use of several of the following strategies to stay focused in the right way. To lead like them, you have to do the same.

2. They take care of their health.

It might sound like it has nothing to do with your focus, but eating a good breakfast wasn’t just something your mom told you growing up. Eggs, oatmeal and other healthy breakfast foods actually improve your productivity and attention on your tasks. Some options for a hearty breakfast also reduce your cravings throughout the day, helping you stay focused and aware of your surroundings instead of distracted by hunger.

Powerful women like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ina Garten, and Beyoncé prioritize breakfast, relying on foods like eggs, oatmeal, and fruit.

Other methods also help you properly maintain a healthy lifestyle and improve your attention span. Make sure you get a good night's sleep every night—sleep deprivation has serious consequences on your work performance and productivity (not to meant your body and physical health). Try meditation or another activity that helps to relax and destress. Be sure to get enough exercise throughout each day to keep you healthy and stimulated. Once you’ve taken care of your body, your brain is much more likely to function the way you need it to to pay attention to the tasks you need to accomplish.

If you’ve taken steps to care for your health and still feel like you need a bit of a boost, try a stimulant from time to time. As long as you don’t abuse it, the caffeine from coffee and tea can help your mind feel more alert, so you get your own work done and lead others. Even chewing gum can improve your ability to focus. Try it yourself and see what happens!'

3. They minimize distractions.

Before you can achieve the mental focus to move past your distractions, you need to identify them. Some people might overuse Twitter, while others obsessively check their email. Maybe your distraction is completely off the wall, like the sound of a dripping faucet nearby. Whatever your distraction is, you need to identify it and eliminate it. Once you eliminate your distractions, you’ll be able to reach flow more easily and stay there while you knock out small tasks on your way to achieving larger goals.

If you constantly check your phone, try turning it off for a period until you get your most important tasks out of the way. If you feel hungry, keep snacks nearby. Arrange your workspace to make sure you can find everything. Some people even find that working offline for a portion of the day helps them stay focused, though it takes practice. Cater your strategy to your own lifestyle and no one else’s.

4. They cut themselves some slack.

When you’re looking to be the best leader possible, you might forget to take a breather from time to time. It’s tempting to stay on the clock long hours without any time off, and sometimes you might even force the people you manage to live the same lifestyle. Acting like an overachiever and forcing the people around you to work without breaks means you run the risk of losing great staff members and diminishing your company’s progress. The reality is that your brain, just like everyone else’s, needs some time off.

Do you think powerful women never take breaks? Think again. Shonda Rhimes take long baths to unwind, while Jennifer Lopez goes shoe shopping. Oprah Winfrey, meanwhile, prefers taking a nice walk.

Try apps that remind you and the people around you to take healthy breaks. While you’re at it, you might want to take the time to reward yourself—and your employees—for all their hard work. The reward can be anything you want, as long as it doesn’t undermine the healthy habits you established in step two. You’re more likely to power through each task when you see a fun payoff at the end, and the people you lead will definitely consider the work more manageable if you’re open to their motivational needs.

Now that you know the steps to focus better as a great leader, we’re sure we’ll be hearing about your accomplishments soon!

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