Focusing is hard – like really hard. At least if you haven’t trained yourself to do it and to do it well. Learning to focus and maintain it is not something that comes to most people naturally. It’s something that takes time and dedication to master. The average person has about an 8-second attention span, and this is shrinking quickly due to our growing connectivity top the world through technology. But acquiring the ability to focus on the task at hand can be your most valuable skill.
Why? Because devoting your attention utterly and entirely to one task can allow you to accomplish it in a fraction of the time it would take if your efforts were divided among many different things at the same time.
Focus is like a muscle you need to build. Many are under the impression that they are just not focused and that’s all there is to it, but studies have shown the more you practice and learn to focus the better you become at it.
At first, you should aim to focus in bursts with breaks in between, and the better you get at gaining and maintaining concentration the longer you can go between breaks. As a start, you can probably aim for 25-30 mins of solid, uninterrupted concentration followed by a 5 min break. Remember losing focus after a while is normal, so you should break your streaks up so you can give your attention to your work for a lot longer increasing productivity.
With the right combination of the right mindset and some tools at your disposal, it is possible to set yourself better up to focus a lot better.
I will list out some tips and tricks to help you pay attention to what you need to do; many (if not all) of which I employ while writing this article:
This is the step that many miss and probably never think about, but preparation is essential. Preparing your mind to focus significantly increases your level of concentration.
Just let your body calm down for a minute or two before you start working.
This can be really difficult as there is so much in the modern world that can distract from work. There are things in, and even out, of your control that can demand attention, pulling you away from your precious task. Even so here are just a few things you can do to minimize the chance of these unwanted occurrences:
- Put your phone on to “Do Not Disturb” mode AND place it out of arms reach (preferably in another room)
- Disable all notifications on your computer
- Close all unnecessary programs and tabs (in your browser)
- Close the door of the place you are in (if you can hang up a do not disturb sign)
- Ask those around you (friend and/or family) not to bother you (this is a simple but powerful lesson)
- Schedule a designated ‘Focus Time’ for yourself to get work done
Check your wasted time with Rescue Time
One thing at a time
Despite what you may have heard multitasking does you no favors when it comes to productivity. The effect on the mind is to pull it into too many different directions giving only a little bit of energy to each task.
It is better to do one task absolutely and entirely than to have 100 half finished or ‘just good enough’ tasks.
If you are looking for more on the power of dedicating yourself to a single task at a time, I suggest picking up The One Thing by Jay Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan and Deep Work by Cal Newport.
Mediation can be used to increase concentration significantly by encouraging you to clear all distraction from your mind.
We live every day with random thoughts (both critical and irrelevant) running through our minds all the time. Meditation can give you an escape from that. If you can just set aside 10 minutes a day to eliminate any random thoughts and to just focus on the present can be powerful.
The skills you learn from mediation are transferable and can allow you to concentrate and maintain it for a lot longer.
Listen to music
Life is noisy, especially if you live in a big city. Train, planes, cars, sirens or even your next-door neighbor invite unwanted sounds into your work environment.
Listening to your favorite tunes can assist in drowning a lot of it out. According to studies from the Wake Forest School of Medicine published in Scientific Reports, having music playing helps you dial in on your own thoughts.
But you have to like the music.
I personally listen to music without lyrics whether it be classical, trance or even just white noise, though it’s all down to personal preference if you can jam out to Def Leopard or Skrillex it will work.
“Given that musical preferences are uniquely individualized phenomena and that music can vary in acoustic complexity and the presence or absence of lyrics, the consistency of our results was unexpected,” researchers said.
Caffeine and/or Nootropics
I won’t go into too much detail here but in case you missed find it here
On top of caffeine also using a good nootropic (one designed for increased cognitive function, memory and focus boosting). Again if you want to look at my nootropic guide for beginners