Many people tend to feel that the amount of focus they can have is limited. They think it’s static, something they are born with rather than something that can be improved.
There are many things you can do to improve focus. Here are some tips that you can implement immediately, that does not require practice or skill:
- No Multitasking – No matter who you are, and how good you think you are at multitasking, multitasking is the bane of focus. Diverting your attention to multiple things causes your productivity to drop heavily. Not to mention, finishing one thing at a time and getting one thing off your to – do list gives you some peace of mind.
- Two To-Do Lists – Ironically, following the multi-tasking tip I say that you should have two to-do lists. However, this is actually helpful. Most people who actually who put in effort to get things done usually have a to-do list, which is good. However, a better way to manage their “to dos” is by having two to-do lists. One for things you need to get done immediately, and one for which you can write things you have to do that come up, in essence what you can call a “Brain Dump”. This “Brain Dump” is used for any to do lists that you think of to write on. The other main to do list, you should have at most 3-5 things you need to get done. Don’t put more. Have you ever had those times where you felt overwhelmed by having too many things to do? If you have too many things that you have to do, it gets to be draining as you realize your list is never-ending.
- Reduce Distractions – When you are focusing and doing work, you want to keep your distractions to a minimum. It takes our mind some time (I say around 2 minutes at least, maybe more) to develop momentum or flow while doing work…and while it takes one notification from your phone or social media to interrupt your flow immediately. Then you have to develop that momentum again which takes more effort than continuing your flow. While having easy access to emails, phone notifications, etc. is very convenient, they are a true burden when it comes to actual focused work. If you really need access to your phone, either do work for a set amount of time in which you can work, or at the very least limit your notification sound or pop-ups to the ones that really matter.
- Take Interest – Whether the work you have to do is the most mind-grudgingly task you ever did, you can relieve this problem by opening your mind and trying to do your best to enjoy and learn something about the work you are doing. Say you are doing some boring chores such as cleaning the bathroom, you can say to yourself, “this is improving my discipline”, or “this is developing my character by putting in work”, things that take the positives of what you are doing rather than focusing on how boring the task is.
Those are a few things you can do immediately to improve your focus. However, there are a few other things you can do to improve your focus but would take some time or practice to develop. The great thing about these practices is that you can significantly improve your focus over time:
- Active Practicing Your Focus – Have you been out of school for a while or maybe just the summer and realize that when you go back to school, or do some mind intensive work, that focusing is a lot more difficult than it used to be? That’s because focusing is like a muscle that can be built or degraded over time just like if you were out of the gym for a long period of time. However, you can build that focus and see that over time (if you track yourself) your mind can focus over long periods of time as long as you push yourself a little bit every day. Medical students who have to study 5-8 hours a day usually weren’t born with that capacity, they developed that focus over a long period of time because of the constant need for studying.
- Meditation – While many may scoff at the New-Agey idea of meditation, studies of meditation have shown that it can improve focus (among may other assortment of benefits). You can practice meditation to help with your focus.
- Limiting Social Media – This is kind of different and one I feel is crucial. Social Media while great for building connections and learning about things that are going on, Social Media tends to create this vacuum of stimulation that saps your ability to focus. Social Media feeds are ALL about getting you to click on the article, meaning controversial headlines, shocking events, things that make you enraged, etc. All that stimulation numbs your mind from being able to focus on less stimulating tasks, such as studying, your mundane work. This makes your focus very difficult. To me this is a longer skill that takes a while to develop as opposed to being able to cut off immediately.