Keeping your mind on task is not easy. It is something everyone struggles with at some point, yet it is so fundamental to being productive. So, what can we do about it? Well, it is important to understand how you pay attention and how your focus is whilst you are working. By knowing this you can work on improving it.
There are many different things you can do to maximise your ability to keep your attention on tasks. Here is a list of 8 ways to improve your focus.
Now when you hear people talk about mind and body as being “together as one” it can sound a little bit hippyish. However, the truth is your brain takes up 20% of your energy resources even though it is only a small part of your whole body mass. It needs energy in order to function effectively. In order to keep the blood pumping around and delivering that much-needed oxygen, you need to have a healthy heart. Exercise allows your body to work effectively and more efficiently in so many ways. If you can do 30 minutes of exercise a day, that will help your brain work much more efficiently and thereby allow you to keep your focus for longer periods.
Now, this is something everyone knows about but most people fail to actually do. Water is absolutely essential to the body’s ability to function. Your body is 60% water and needs it to perform almost all of its functions. Without it, we will die. We can survive over three weeks without food but drink no water and you will be dead within the week. This is why drinking water is one of the fundamental ways to improve your focus. In terms of attention, water allows the body to function at its best. Much like exercise keeping yourself hydrated ensures your body and mind are working well and thereby your brain can focus much more.
Get Some Perspective
One interesting aspect of attention is that it can be lost because you simply are overwhelmed with the number of things you need to do. In today’s society, we are constantly bombarded with things we “must” have or stuff we “must” do now. This barrage of stimuli can overwhelm us. This increases stress and hinders our attention. By taking a step back and getting a little perspective you can prioritise what you really need to focus on. This refocusing on what is important will strip away all the little things that may be bothering you and clouding your attention.
Turn Off Those Distractions
This is something I know I struggle with. You just settle down to work and *ping* goes another message or email. “Oh go on, I will just take a look at this one last message”. This is possibly the easiest way I am distracted. Justifying it to myself by saying “oh it might be important” or “it can’t wait”. The thing is, it almost certainly can wait. So, before you settle down to work, turn off those notifications so that the next *ping* doesn’t distract you. I think this is one of the most effective ways to improve your focus.
Over the last couple of years, mindfulness has become quite the “in” thing. There is such a thing as mindful eating, mindful cooking and even mindful walking. I know this because I have tried all of them. The reason that it is good for your focus is that it is essentially all about training your brain to pay attention. In mindfulness meditation, you practice focusing your attention on your breathing. By doing this on a daily basis you train your brain to be able to stay focused for sustained periods. If you are interested in mindfulness take a look at Headspace. It is a great place to understand it a little more and see if this is something for you.
Break Down Your Tasks into Steps
Much like getting some perspective, breaking your work into small tasks can help you stay focused. When you have a large task or project to do it can often feel extremely overwhelming. However, by breaking it down into manageable steps, it will help you stay on track without getting swamped by the bigger picture.
Take Regular Breaks
One of the things that our mind cannot do is focus non stop for hours and hours on end. It needs time to rest. One of the best ways to do that is to break your work down into one-hour segments and take a 5 or 10-minute break after each hour. This will allow your brain to just settle and rest for a while, allowing it to refocus when you go back to your task.
Another method for focusing your attention for a sustained period could be to reward yourself. After 45 minutes or an hour of concentrating intently, reward yourself with a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. Even these basic rewards can act as a great motivator when trying to focus your attention.
A Little Extra Tip! Be Kind to Yourself
One extra thing I would say on this topic is to be kind to yourself. No, seriously, research is now showing how it benefits you. If you are struggling to keep your attention for sustained periods don’t feel bad or insult yourself for it, as so many people do, including yours truly. Encourage yourself to maybe improve a little next time. This positive self-talk can go a long way to helping you improve your ability to stay concentrated.
These are just a few ways you can enhance your attention and thereby maximise your working time. If you have done all these and still need to be more productive it may be time to outsource some work. Take on a Virtual Assistant and you can utilise their time to maximise your productivity as a business.
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