Do you spend more time during the day browsing social media than actually working?
It’s common to question how to increase your focus, but few people have the willpower to improve their attention span without some extra help. This article will walk you through the reasons why
Modern technology has changed the world in radical ways, and not always for the better. Thanks to Facebook notifications, email alerts, and near-constant text messages and phone calls, the average office worker is distracted every three minutes. Even worse, it often takes as long as 25 minutes to regain focus after getting distracted.
If you think your goldfish has a short attention span, think again. A 2015 study from Microsoft shows that the average human can focus for just eight seconds before getting distracted, a number that has shrunk in recent years due to the constant influx of new technology options.
These facts make it clear that the odds are stacked against us in regards to focus, but there are techniques to try to regain your attention span.
Though the world is filled with all too tempting distractions, there are time-tested ways that you can stay away from them and concentrate on the crucial tasks in front of you.
Not sure how to start? This guide will get you going.
A caffeine boost at critical times during the day (when you first wake up and in the midday slump) will help you focus all day long.
For an even more prominent benefit, ditch the coffee and drink
Before you begin a task, take a few moments to clear your brain entirely. Even just a minute or two of science to think about what’s coming ahead for you will make it less challenging to keep your focus and create a better overall result.
You might not realize how much brain drain you experience from keeping 15 tabs open on your browser each day, but the truth is that trying to do too many varied tasks at once will make your performance suffer in all of them. A better option is to focus on a single job at a time and to see it through completion (or at least to a good stopping point) before attempting something new.
Email is an easy way to kill your productivity in the world today, and social media is almost worse. Even if you feel like your business could fall apart without near-constant checks, try logging out for thirty minutes or even longer at a time to prevent yourself from breaking your concentration when you need it most.
Too hot or too cold working conditions can compromise your focus, which is why it’s so important to ensure you stay comfortable. Studies show that the most productive temperature tends to be between 68 and 77 degrees, so adjust that thermostat to keep things comfortable.
Though too much background noise is a painful distraction, a study reported in Scientific Reports reveals that listening to background music can help you focus on your thoughts, so long as you like the song. So, experiment with what kind of music works for you, and enjoy the extra focus that comes from freeing your mind from distraction.
Different times of the day are better for various tasks, and it pays to be aware of these changes in productivity. For instance, many people do their best work in the early to mid-morning, and the hardest time to stay focused is usually around 2-3 PM. Set up your most cognitively challenging tasks for first thing in the day, and reward your tired mind later by taking on less strenuous tasks. Or, better yet, give yourself a break by going for a walk.
When you decide to focus on a task in front of you, you also need to identify what is worthy of your attention. Take the time to make a priority list of what you want to focus on for the day, week, month, and even year, and you’ll have a much better idea what tasks are taking valuable time away from what you care about.
Taking a break isn’t a crime of laziness; it’s a sign that you know how to get the most out of your mind. Regular breaks (either every 25 or 50 minutes) will actually make you more productive than working straight through. So, set a timer at your desk and take a walk around the office every time it goes off. You’ll come back refreshed, refocused, and more productive than before.
We all struggle to stay engaged during long meetings, but you can give your mind an extra boost by doodling while you listen. Research shows that doodling keeps you more awake and alert, and it will create a tangible improvement in your cognitive performance and recollection afterward, so you’ll get more from the meeting overall.
Rewarding the behavior you approve of will go a long ways towards keeping your mind focused and productive throughout the day. Likewise, the more you complete a destructive action (like checking your email constantly), the more your brain will be trained to continue doing it. For this reason, it’s important to take time to internalize when you aren’t giving in to distractions and praise yourself for doing so. Eventually, this positive feedback loop will make it easier to resist temptations in the future.
Does part of your productivity problem come from a reluctance to begin? Your brain is incredible at finding almost endless distractions to occupy you if you don’t want to do something important. For this reason, it’s a good idea to stick with tasks that excite you during the times of the day when your focus is most likely to flag, like in the mid-afternoon.
Too much stress will suck your energy away and make it almost impossible to focus. For this reason, it’s important to take part in mindfulness training like meditation. Meditation works to bring yourself back aware of the present moment so that you can acknowledge your stressors and let them pass you by without causing overly strong emotions.
A meditation practice need not be fancy. Just take five minutes to yourself to concentrate on nothing but your breathing and the present moment. In a matter of minutes, you’ll feel your heart rate slowing down and will begin to let go of your stress.
Silly as it sounds, chewing gum can improve your focus and productivity. Researchers speculate that this is because chewing gum increase oxygen flow to your brain and refreshes that parts responsible for your attention span. Likewise, chewing gum also seemingly improves your long-term memory and adds a bit of insulin into your blood to give you a boost of energy.
Not a gum fan? Any chewy snack will do, but take care not to go over your daily calorie counts!
Finding your focus might be harder than ever these days, but taking control of your life will make it easier for you to make decisions not to let procrastination win. By following the tips in this article, you can cut out distractions and begin completing your best work now. Trust us, the effort it takes to learn these new habits is entirely worth it.