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Are you easily distracted and overwhelmed by detail? Do you shy away from taking on tasks that require a long-term commitment and a good facility for concentration? The ability to concentrate is not innate - it is a skill that can be learned. Try these techniques for improving your capacity to focus on the job at hand.

Have you noticed that you feel sluggish and lethargic when you get back to the office after a long lunch? If you found that pasta in cream sauce impossible to resist, or tucked into a large steak and plenty of potatoes, you have directed your body's energy towards digestion, rather than mental work. Your brain is simply taking a break while your body deals with the challenge you've just sent to your stomach. If you know you'll be facing a challenge in the afternoon, eat something lighter, like a simple sandwich with lots of salad, or perhaps a small plate of vegetarian fare (without the cheese-heavy sauce!). Try it once and see how much sharper your mind feels. Instead of wanting to stretch out under your desk and have a snooze, you'll feel more alert and ready to focus on the remaining hours of the workday.

It's easy to lose your ability to concentrate when you've been sitting in one place for a long period of time. If you're finding every excuse under the sun to avoid the job you really should be focusing on, it's time for a change of scene. Get up and away from your desk and take a brisk walk - outdoors if you can, where stuffy air-conditioning does not regulate the air. If you can't get away from the office environment, stand up and move around - allow yourself 10 minutes to recharge your batteries. Go and chat to a workmate or try some simple stretching exercises that will release tense neck muscles or rigid shoulders. Breathe deeply and clear your head.

Have you earned a reputation for being approachable at any time of the day at work? If you find you're constantly being interrupted by workmates and their problems or comments, try shutting your office door, or moving to a quieter space for as long as it takes to get the present job done. Is there a meeting or conference room that is not being used? Take your work in there and shut the door after you. There are no excuses for not completing the task if no one is there to interrupt your train of thought.

If you work at home, you are faced with many more challenges to your concentration. Demanding children, lonely neighbors, unwashed dishes and Oprah are all hazards that lurk ahead of you, just waiting to distract you from your daily work goals. If you're feeling like you might succumb to temptation, set yourself an achievable goal - say 20 minutes without a distraction. Make sure the answering machine is on, the TV and radio are firmly OFF, and make a pact with yourself that you simply won't answer the doorbell if it rings during that 20 minutes. Once you have mastered this first step, you will find that the feeling of achievement is so rewarding, you will want to extend your periods of intense concentration further and further - with the direct result that you will get more done in less time, and with a lower level of stress.

Are you comfortable and relaxed in your work area? While you don't necessarily want to paper the walls of your office or cubicle with pictures of your kids and pets, it is important to add a few touches that express your personality, and stamp an impersonal office environment with something that is uniquely yours. A couple of plants are also a nice touch, perfectly professional, and can have a calming, centering effect, improving your state of mind and your ability to concentrate. Take some time to adjust your chair so that it is comfortable and offers appropriate back and neck support. Look at the lighting too - would you find it easier to spend longer at your computer screen if it had a glare screen over it?

If you work alone or in a small office, you might want to consider the benefits of aromatherapy. Although essential oils like lavender can help you to relax, there are other varieties that can help to clear your mind and help you to focus. Try a citrus blend, with invigorating lemon overtones, or basil, which gives off a refreshing rather than soothing aroma.

These techniques are designed to help you focus your mind and meet your goals. Once you have incorporated some of these approaches into your day, you will find it increasingly easy to concentrate on even the most mundane tasks, and finish every job to a satisfyingly high standard.