Edition: February 26th, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS
- Excerpts from article by Katie Walsh , Lydia Ramsey Pflanzer , and Jessica Orwig, published on Insider.com
Whether it’s fatigue, distractions, lack of motivation, or something else entirely, our inability to focus digs a hole in our productivity and limits our chances of success.
First and foremost, we need to understand this — maintaining focus starts with taking care of your mental space and your body.
By eliminating distractions, investing time in maintaining physical and mental wellness, and instituting healthy habits, you can improve your concentration and productivity.
Here are 13 tips to help you enhance your ability to stay focused:
1. Minimise multitasking
- Multitaskers might seem superhuman, but they pay a big price, according to a study.
- In a sample of 100 students, about half identified themselves as media multitaskers. The other half did not.
- The test examined attention spans, memory capacity, and ability to switch from one task to the next — and the multitaskers performed poorly on each test.
- Meditation is a sure way to enhance focus because it takes a great deal of concentration. Scientific experiments agree.
- One study revealed that students who meditated for just 20 minutes a day for four days performed better on certain cognitive tests.
- Another study found that people who meditated regularly were less likely to engage in “mind-wandering” and were generally happier.
3. Exercise regularly
- Exercises aren’t just good for the body. They promote brain health too.
- This is important for memory capacity and concentration.
- Scientists think regular exercise may help stimulate the release of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
- Some studies suggest that this factor helps rewire memory circuits to improve their functioning.
4. Create a to-do list
- To-do lists not only help you prioritise what tasks you need to get done first, but they can also serve as a record of the loose ends.
- Moreover, incomplete work could eat away at your concentration.
- This stems from something called the Zeigarnik Effect, which is the tendency to remember incomplete tasks instead of completed ones.
5. Try a small amount of caffeine
- Studies suggest that caffeine may, in moderate doses, help to boost focus — particularly in those of us who are fatigued.
- But don’t get overzealous with the coffee, or you might get caffeine jitters, which typically reduce your ability to concentrate.
- You can try a cup of tea, which won’t give you the quick buzz like coffee but can provide you energy for a longer period.
6. Take breaks
- In a study, subjects were asked to perform a simple computer task for one hour.
- Those who were allowed two brief breaks during that hour performed consistently for the entire time whereas those who weren’t offered a break performed worse over time.
- So whether it’s watching cat videos, taking a walk, or a brief nap, it is critical to take the occasional break from work.
7. Listen to the right music
- Some studies have found that listening to background music without words offers better performance compared to white noise or silence.
- Another study found that the time spent on a certain task was longest when listening to no music.
- So the type of music you listen to and the type of work you’re doing at the time matters.
- Be conscious of your productivity and choose what music is right for you.
8. Train your brain to focus
- Your brain is a mental muscle.
- Some studies have found that people who are easily distracted benefit from ‘brain training’ exercises.
9. Try the ‘time-blocking’ technique
- The Pomodoro method is a time-blocking technique that can help compartmentalise your tasks into manageable 25-minute intervals.
- To use the pomodoro method work for 25 minutes, taking five minute breaks after every 25 minutes. After four of these intervals, you can take a longer 15-30 minute break.
- This method of time blocking gives you the needed break in between work sessions to help you maintain focus longer and more sustainably.
10. Stare at a distant object for a few minutes
- Many of us spend most of our waking hours staring at a digital screen, which can strain our eyes and actually make it more difficult to focus on, and therefore process, what we’re looking at.
- To refocus the eyes, just stare at a distant object for a few minutes.
- One doctor suggested the “20-20-20 rule”: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at an object at least 20 feet away.
- The idea behind the 20-20-20 rule is that the eye is a muscle and like all muscles it benefits from exercise.
- If you don’t periodically refocus, your vision can become a little blurry or fuzzy after work.
11. Get a good night’s sleep
- One of the main symptoms of chronic sleep loss is poor concentration.
- Getting a solid 7-8 hours ahead of a busy work day could be the difference between being frazzled and being laser-focused.
12. Work offline
- If you can disconnect from the internet, there are fewer things to distract you from the work at hand.
- Eliminating those online distractions can keep you from finding tasks to flip between and help you focus.
- Designating time to look through social media, rather than checking it constantly throughout the day, can help you stay on task.
13. Designate your perfect study/work spot
- Focusing requires a lot of willpower, and so does making decisions.
- According to a concept called ego depletion, we have a finite amount of mental energy, and both decision-making and willpower can drain it.
- To save that energy for concentration get rid of excess variables that require you to make decisions, like choosing where to work.
- Try working from the same location whenever you need to focus.
- That way, when it’s time to get the work done, you won’t have to waste time deciding where to go.
Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)