In our highly technological world, distractions are all too common, and focus has seemingly become a super power in of itself. Turns out, focus not only guarantees improvement in the quality/quantity of your work, but it’s also what many successful people deem as the most important “skill” that led to their success.
So how can you become more focused today?
1. Put down your phone
Specifically, put down social media. It’s a no brainer that the vast majority of young adults use some form of social media to stay connected with their friends and family. But even when used strictly for business, social media can very easily pull you into a hole of distraction. Most of us have been on an instagram binge, but have you stopped to think about how much time that actually wastes? If you’re focusing on a task, you need to put down your phone (I put mine face down) and resist the urge to swipe through your feeds.
2. Read a book
Reading is a cognitive skill, one that requires a variety of neural networks to fire off simultaneously. If you’re reading and get distracted by something, you’ll probably find that you didn’t quite understand the last sentence you read - go back and read it again! Train yourself to sit down and read relentlessly for an extended period of time. Start with just 10 minutes of focused reading, then 20 minutes, and so on. I personally try (emphasis on try) to read one book every single week, because I understand the positive implications it has on my mind. Plus, I’ve rekindled my fondness of reading.
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3. Create lists
I’m a business school graduate, so lists are my bread and butter, but there are more profound implications of list keeping than just good habit. Keeping a list will minimize risk of multi-tasking, which can be poisonous to a focused mind. Lists also help prioritize our responsibilities, so we can address the serious matters early in the day, before we get bogged down by afternoon fatigue. Create a list, organize the things that need to get done, and don’t move on to the next item of business until the prior is complete.
4. Take breaks
When I was working four jobs, I would force myself to complete various tasks throughout the day. Even when I was tired and grasping for mental clarity, I performed the tasks necessary. There were errors, I occasionally overlooked certain things and my high standard of work began diminishing. It wasn’t until some time later in my career that I began taking breaks when I felt fatigued and absent minded. Boy did that help. Even a 10 minute walk outside can help declutter your mind and regain focus. Some of the best ideas I’ve had, have come after taking a break from an extended period of work (ideas like starting my blog, Millennial Moderator.)
5. Find a “quiet place”
This could be literal or figurative. The reason why libraries are popular in universities is that students can expect a pre-meditated place to study and complete assignments. Their dorms may or may not be quiet, but the library is an icon to them, a place that says “when I’m here, I get focused and get work done.” For other people, myself included, listening to a particular type of music has the same effect. When I put in my airpods and listen to lofi music, my mind instantly knows it’s time to get serious- because it has been conditioned to do so. Now while this is a great way to train focus, don’t use it as a crutch, because one day you might find yourself without headphones or a library nearby! Working outside could also be conducive to productivity - just make sure you have comfortable outdoor furniture to set up your workspace.
In general, becoming aware of when you are/are not distracted can help you better understand what’s getting in the way of your mental focus. If you find yourself sleepy and unable to focus on your work, maybe you ate too big of a lunch and your body is in a food coma? Or perhaps you feel overwhelmed with things that have to get done today, so you decide to write a list?
I hope these five tips help you become more focused! If you have any comments or thoughts, please tweet at me.