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The following is a guest post by Sam Horn, an author and consultant.

For the full, gallery version, click here.

When TV newscaster Diane Sawyer was asked the secret to her success, she said, “I think the one lesson I’ve learned is there is no substitute for paying attention.” 

Are you thinking, “I agree, but HOW do we improve our ability to focus and maintain attention — no matter what?”

These five F-O-C-U-S tips can help you concentrate better — whether you’re working in a busy office, studying at school, sitting in a meeting, or trying to finish a project.

1. F = Five More Rule

There are two kinds of people — those who have learned how to work through frustration, and those who wish they had. From now on, if you’re in the middle of a task and tempted to give up — just do FIVE MORE.

Read FIVE MORE pages. Finish FIVE MORE math problems. Work FIVE MORE minutes. Just as athletes build physical stamina by pushing past the point of exhaustion, you can build mental stamina by pushing past the point of frustration.

2. O = One Think At a Time

Samuel Goldwyn said, “If I look confused, it’s because I’m thinking.” Feeling scatter-brained? Overcome perpetual preoccupation with the Godfather Plan — make your mind a deal it can’t refuse. Yes, the mind takes bribes. Instead of telling it NOT to worry about another, lesser priority (which will cause your mind to think about the very thing it’s not supposed to think about!), assign it a single task with start-stop time parameters.

3. C = Conquer Procrastination

Next time you’re about to postpone a responsibility ask yourself, “Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it’s not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?” Those three questions can give you the incentive to mentally apply yourself because they bring you face to face with the fact this task isn’t going away, and delaying will only add to your guilt and make this onerous task occupy more of your mind and time.

4. U = Use Your Hands as Blinders

Picture your mind as a camera and your eyes as its aperture. Most of the time, our eyes are “taking it all in” and our brain is in “wide-angle focus.” We can actually think about many things at once and operate quite efficiently this way (e.g., imagine driving down a crowded highway while talking to a friend, fiddling with the radio, keeping an eye on the cars beside you, and watching for your exit sign.)

5. S = See As If For the First Time

Want to know how to be “here and now” and fully present instead of mindlessly rushing here, there, and everywhere? Frederick Franck said, “When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.” Evelyn Underhill said, “For lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.”

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