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First, let’s understand exactly what we are trying to achieve. Focus is the mind’s ability to put all its attention and effort into a specific task or concern. Your brain works in the same way that a camera lens does, in that it can see the big picture and also hone into a certain thing. With focus, you can learn to dedicate yourself to a single task while filtering out any distractions or problems.
What makes focus so important is the way it operates. When you decide to concentrate on a task, your mind goes through all kinds of cognitive processes. Like a computer, it looks at a problem and tries to find all possible ways to solve it. Because of this process, your brain uses several resources, such as memory and logic, to come up with an answer.
To illustrate this, imagine that you’re about to go into a job interview. Before it starts, you’re given a few minutes to review your resumé. So, how would you get ready for your interview? The obvious answer is that you’d focus on your qualifications. However, the beauty of focus is that you can find specific things to lean on. Some people might spend more time on their previous work experience. Others may concentrate on their certifications and awards. While there’s no specific answer, there are plenty of options at your disposal. By learning how to focus better, you can start to find the different pathways and choose which one fits your needs.
As you can see, the mental aspect of focus is an important part of your life. Now, let’s understand why you’re learning about how to focus better. You see, keeping your eyes on a task can be hard. As mentioned before, many people struggle to fulfill certain assignments because they can’t seem to concentrate. If so, what could be giving them such a hard time? Here are five possible explanations as to why you can’t seem to focus.
At first, this might sound like the most obvious reason. If you’re at work and you get distracted, it can be very hard to keep to your tasks. It’s easy to lose focus when you have a loud coworker or a power outage. However, some interruptions can be sneaky. One of the biggest culprits for poor work performance and focus? Look no further than the phone in your hand.
A statistical report by Perillon showed that 70% of American workers have their phones within eye contact at the office. That’s a lot of people who want their phones nearby at all times, especially during their work hours. While your mobile can be a handy device, it comes with a lot of distractions, from social media to texting. In fact, Zippia once reported that 55% of workers found their phones to be the biggest problem at work. So, if you often check your apps, it could be diverting your focus away from your tasks.
Chris Bailey, who wrote the book Hyperfocus, once held a TED talk about getting your brain to focus. During the talk, he mentioned that when you’re in front of your computer, with your phone nearby, you only focus on one task for 40 seconds. It goes down to 35 seconds if you include social media. After that, you tend to switch to another task. So, why is that?
According to Chris, it could be a matter of overstimulation. He argued that our brains aren’t necessarily distracted, but that they are overloaded with dopamine, the hormone that causes us to feel pleasure. Whenever you do something new or different, such as switching websites or changing tasks, your brain produces dopamine. Because it makes you happy, you keep doing this to steadily stimulate your mind. So, by the end of the day, you’ve overloaded your brain with dopamine and you’ve lowered your attention span as a result. What’s worse is that if you do zone out or lose focus, it can take more than 20 minutes to reorient your mind to that task.
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to learning how to focus better is your health. Both mental clarity and physical wellness are necessary to keep your brain functioning. In other words, you have to be healthy in both your mind and body to focus well.
Mentally, the biggest problem you’ll face is stress and its effects. Being stressed out can make it hard for you to focus your attention on a single thing. It’s the proverbial thorn in your side, constantly nagging at you throughout the day. Stress can come from a lack of confidence, a fear of failure, or a sense of being overwhelmed. In all these cases, it can cause your mind to overheat and fall apart.
Physically, sleep and fitness are the main factors of your productivity. Studies show that 1 in 3 US adults don’t get enough sleep. If you’re one of these people who can’t seem to secure eight hours at night, you need to change that. Poor sleep can lead to poor energy and difficulty in concentration. It’s also bad if you’re eating too many unhealthy things and not doing enough exercise. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, such as staying in your bed for most of the day, you’re only taking energy out of your body. When that happens, all the mental focus you need drops.
Sometimes, the reason that you’re not focusing is a lack of motivation. If you have an assignment at work that feels drab or boring, you might not care enough to do well. When that happens, your mind might not put its total effort into finishing the job quickly. For example, you might procrastinate on your weekly report until it’s Friday.
Alternatively, you might have the wrong kind of motivation pushing you to focus. Ideally, you should do your work to finish the job and satisfy your requirements. However, what if you’re only working because you want to fill in the hours? Or, what if you’re working because you’re afraid of being punished? Motives like that can make it hard to focus, especially since they can cause more stress than satisfaction. Even if you do the job right, you might fuel your fears and push yourself harder.
Lastly, the one aspect you need to consider to learn how to focus better is time management. You most likely know that every day has 24 hours. When you take out sleep, you have about 16 hours or more of time to do what you need. The problem is that many people think they have all the time in the world. They could procrastinate or do meaningless things, like checking their social media apps while at work.
When this happens, your focus goes away. After all, in your mind, you feel that it’s unnecessary. Then, when it’s close to the deadline or the end of the day, you suddenly panic. The problem is that even if you think it’s time to focus, you’ve already lost precious hours you could’ve used elsewhere. Plus, the panic will make you worry more about doing the job instead of doing a good job.
Now that you know the reasons why you struggle to concentrate, it’s time to change your brain. These five tricks will help you learn how to focus better and make the most of your attention!
Prioritizing different tasks and errands is the first step to managing your focus. Remember, focus can’t jump between one task or the other without serious repercussions. If you want to maximize it, you need to learn what to focus on first and why.
To make things easier, look for a time management or priority system to help you get things done. For example, you can try the Eisenhower Matrix, where you label your tasks based on how “urgent” and “important” they are. You could also try time-blocking, where you set hours of the day to concentrate on one specific goal or objective.
Another way you can prioritize your tasks is by “eating the frog”. No, you don’t need to go and catch frogs for dinner. The phrase was popularized by author Brian Tracy in his book “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time”. There, he emphasized the importance of doing the most difficult and unwanted tasks first. By doing them at the start of your day, the rest of your time feels much easier and more relaxing.
As odd as it sounds, taking a break can help your brain focus. Think of those long work shifts or class days that you’ve gone through. Eight hours or more are dedicated to learning and doing all kinds of tasks. It can be a headache, both figuratively and literally. So, taking a break can give your mind enough time to recharge.
That said, it’s not enough to have some rest. If you want to learn how to focus better, you should also know how to rest better. One way to use your time well is to do something that doesn’t force you to think. For instance, you can take a nice stroll around the block or spend some time listening to your favorite music.
A clean workspace or environment can help your brain focus better. Visual signs of clutter, such as a messy desk, can be a focus breaker. Imagine trying to write a report, only to get distracted because you have so many papers on your lap!
The best way to start is by looking at your workspace and organizing everything. Think carefully about where certain things should go, like your office files or your personal decorations. Avoid mixing and matching your items to different shelves or spaces. In addition, you can add some whiteboards or time-block schedules. Placing them in the office can help you keep your eyes on the prize.
Lastly, remember how I said that the phone is one of the biggest distractions? Like it or not, it has to stay out of your sight to keep your focus smooth. If you need it for work, make sure to turn off any notifications from apps that aren’t work-related. Muting your social media will keep you focused at work, not the next Tweet. If you still struggle to handle that, consider handing your phone off to a colleague or in a cupboard. That way, it won’t disturb you as you go through your tasks.
Lastly, a good brain needs the right fuel and energy to push forward. If you want to know how to focus better, you need to treat your mind right. So, for starters, don’t let yourself live a sedentary lifestyle. Being inactive can make your mind feel bored and unhappy. Instead, do some movements or take time to stretch and loosen your body.
For food, don’t rely so much on sweets. Candies and other snacks aren’t as effective in giving you energy as you think. They’re made to be a delicious sugar rush, jumping your energy levels for a short while. It may taste good, but it doesn’t last. Worse yet, if you want more, you end up ruining your blood sugar levels and putting your life at risk.
Instead, learn to manage your cravings while you work. Turn your attention to drinking water and avoiding snacks between meals. If you do need a pick-me-up, consider healthy alternatives like fruits or whole foods. They take longer to digest and carry healthier amounts of sugar than processed food. If you are used to eating sweets, take it slow and reduce your sugar intake by the day. You’ll soon find that you can live without that kind of energy. When that happens, you can train your mind to learn how to focus better and live healthier!
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