By Dirk Zeller

When you need to concentrate, seek out a quiet place or a quiet time of day. The ambient noise of the world around you — humming computers and copiers, ringing phones, the drone of conversation — can distract you, reducing your focus and thereby diminishing the effectiveness of your time management.

You may not want to change your work hours to the graveyard shift, but to maximize your focus and time, look for opportunities to reduce distracting noise. Shut your door if you have an office. Seek out an unused conference room.

Despite your best efforts, you may not be able to eliminate the sound distractions that interrupt your focus. So when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Seriously. Create your own noise — white noise — you know, that smooth, even drone that seems to level out the sound challenges. Think ocean waves, a gentle rainstorm, the wind rustling through leaves. Look for CDs of soothing music or use a small fan to create a constant low-level noise. These types of sounds don’t affect your focus, but they do block out other noise.

Some people swear by classical music. Some studies indicate that classical music helps concentration and creativity. Each person responds differently to music. Find what works for you — whatever drowns out other sounds and is easiest for you to tune out.

Inevitably, when you sit down to slog through a project that demands intense concentration, a random thought zips into your consciousness like the annoying whine of a mosquito.

Whenever this happens, follow a tip from those who do yoga. In order to reach a true state of meditation, they focus on their breathing and allow those stray thoughts to flit past their consciousness; they don’t fight those thoughts, but they don’t let them settle in, either. It’s as though a round of tug-o-war has just ended, and you drop the rope at your side; though it’s still there, you’re not fighting with it. Figure out how to be present with it.