Focus is a lot like using a mental muscle. The more you work on building it up, the stronger it will get. The best ways to help you focus are often down to a number of things. Improving your mental focus is totally achievable but it may not be as easy as you think at first. You’ll need to make a real effort and change some of your daily habits to make your focus razor-sharp.
So, if you feel like the time has come to improve your focus and need some help in making it happen, read on…
Improve mental focus
First things first. Before worrying about staying focused, you might want to assess how strong your mental focus is right now.
If you are someone with good mental focus you will;
- Find it easy to stay alert
- Be able to set goals and stick to them
- Take breaks and go straight back to work
If you are someone who’s focus needs improving you will;
- Find yourself zoning out and/or daydreaming
- Be easily distracted by your surroundings
- Lose track of what you’re doing.
- Think of how to stay focused at work
If you relate more to the first set of statements, your focus is already fairly good and may just need a little more practice to make it great. If you relate more to the second set of statements then you need to work on your mental focus that bit more. It may take some time but adopting good habits and being more mindful of your distraction ‘triggers’ will help.
Another way to improve mental focus is to learn how to eliminate distractions. Distractions often prevent us from focusing on the task at hand. These distractions could come in the form of background noise, online or interruptions by peers and colleagues, and while sometimes it’s as simple as turning off the radio, it’s far more challenging when it comes from people.
BlockSite is a website blocker and stay focused app available on desktop and mobile, that empowers users to stop procrastinating and stay focused. Users are able to increase productivity by removing distractions from their life and work.
By blocking distracting websites and apps, BlockSite helps you focus on what you need to do instead of being distracted while online. You can read more about it here.
You might also want to start setting aside specific times to be left totally alone. Look for locations where you know you’ll be undisturbed whether in the workplace or at school. Private rooms, coffee shops or libraries are often the best places to start.
While learning to do the above, you should also take in consideration that while multitasking may seem like a great way to get a lot done, it turns out that we’re not great at actually getting the stuff done.
Juggling multiple tasks at once can dramatically cut down our productivity levels and makes it much harder for us to go into detail on tasks that are important.
Think of your focus, like a spotlight. If you shine that spotlight on one particular area, you can see things very clearly. If you were to try to spread that same amount of light across a large dark room, you might instead only glimpse the shadowy outlines. Focus on getting one thing at a time done and then moving on to the next task in order to improve your mental focus.
You could also try practicing mindfulness. This can involve learning how to meditate, but it can also be as simple as trying a quick and easy deep breathing exercises such as taking several deep breaths while really focusing on each one. When you feel your mind starts to wander, gently guide it back to focus on your breathing.
Taking care of your wellbeing will help to increase your concentration. Physical activity, dietary choices and weight are all factors that can contribute to how well you concentrate and function. For example, if you skip breakfast, it is unlikely that by lunchtime you will be able to perform tasks to the best of your ability due to hunger pangs.
Additionally, research has revealed that individuals who work out and practice sport can perform better on cognitive tasks than those with bad physical health. When compared with a group who led a more sedentary lifestyle, the group who were in good physical condition performed better on tasks testing sustained attention. A study of older adults also specified that exercise improved brain function. All participants who exercised for between 75 minutes and 225 minutes per week showed elevated attention levels and an increased ability to focus.
Research also unearthed a connection between weight loss and improved memory and concentration. Researchers say that factors such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes, which often result from obesity, might impair the brain. They suggest that as people get back to a healthy weight and the associated problems disappear, their cognitive issues will vanish, too. If you have tried all the above and you are still wrestling with your inability to concentrate, grab yourself a large coffee. Caffeine has been shown to affect the alerting and executive control networks of the brain and has clear beneficial effects on concentration and attention.
Your wellbeing also comes down to ‘me time’ take some time out here and there from social media, emails and cell phones to focus on. One way to help you take the much needed ‘digital detox’ here and there is again with BlockSite. It’s often tough trying to take time away from social media and the online world and takes a lot of willpower but luckily with BlockSite, you don’t need any. You just add the sites you want some time out from to a block list and every time you try to reach them, you’ll be redirected elsewhere. Find out more about how to overcome your addiction to social media here.
Focus while studying
While studying we often try to focus on the same topic for a long period of time. After a while you’ll often find your focus starts to break down and it becomes difficult to devote mental resources to a task. Ultimately, this means your performance in exams may suffer too.
We’re often distracted while studying by our digital devices. Notifications on cell phones, the TV in the background and the music that we’re listening to while studying. All these things take our focus away from the task at hand and don’t help us stay concentrated.
Traditional explanations in psychology have suggested that this is due to attentional resources being depleted, but some researchers believe that it has more to do with the brain’s tendency to ignore sources of constant stimulation. Researchers have found that even taking short breaks and shifting your attention elsewhere can dramatically improve mental focus.
Additionally, BlockSite enables you to get in the zone according to the Pomodoro technique. You can break down your work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes long and then take short breaks in between, creating distraction free time slots just to concentrate on your work. Simple.
Shift your attention to something unrelated to the task at hand, even if it is only for a few moments. These short moments of respite might mean that you are able to keep your mental focus sharp and your performance high when you really need it.
Focusing and getting work done
Building your mental focus is not something that will happen overnight. Even professional athletes require plenty of time and practice in order to strengthen their concentration skills.
However it’s important to recognize the best ways to help you focus and how in the long run it will help you get things done.
If you are struggling to accomplish your goals and find yourself getting sidetracked by unimportant details, it is time to start placing a higher value on your time. By building your mental focus, you will find that you are able to accomplish more and concentrate on the things in life that truly bring you success, joy, and satisfaction.