Messy desk
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1. Simplify your environment
Humans are biologically programmed to pay attention to new stimuli, says Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted. At your computer, close superfluous windows, turn off Twitter, and disable automatic e-mail notification. Put unnecessary papers out of sight, and turn off your cell phone's ringer.

2. Build up your focus
Chronic multitaskers may have weakened their ability to focus, says Christine Hohlbaum, author of The Power of Slow. Set aside a block of time—even if it's just five minutes—to deal with a mentally challenging task; once you accomplish that, extend the time further.

3. Embrace discomfort
People often give up on difficult tasks in order to escape to something easier. "Any project that takes mental effort, or involves critical thinking and creativity, is going to be a little painful sometimes," says Jackson. When you hit a wall, don't point-and-click—push past it.

4. Take breaks
Humans work in cycles; we can concentrate for a period of time but then need time to rest. Every hour or so, take a quick walk around the block, or just step away from your desk for a few minutes.

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