If there is one thing that matters to most people in life it’s the ability to stay focused because staying focused can help their personal and professional career in many ways. If you want to pass your exam, for example, or you have an interview ahead, being able to maintain your concentration in general will help you accomplish such tasks with ease.
However, staying focused… or telling yourself to stay focused especially on some mundane assignment is easier said than done and can be very challenging when you are surrounded by so many incessant distractions.
Whatever the cause you are into, either trying to run a marathon or complete a degree course, your ability to stay focused throughout the entire duration of your projects makes all of the difference between success and failure.
The good news is that, if you are finding it difficult to achieve constant focus in any area of your life, there are several techniques or, rather, things (let’s keep it less pompous) that can help you get the task done. Here are some of those things (6 of them, in no particular order) which – believe it or not – do help with improving your focusing ability, in general, and help you remain determined to complete a task.
Make A To-Do List the Night Before
Making a to-do list for the next day (so, before going to bed for the night) can help you accomplish quite a few things the next day. Sure, the items you put on your to-do list can sometimes add up quite fast and it might be difficult to find the drive to successfully accomplish all of them.
But the good news is that having a written plan of action does help with increasing productivity. Numerous studies have already shown this and, without going into too many technicalities, just know that it has something to do with the unconscious power within us. The unconscious (or subconscious if you prefer, it’s the same thing) power is much bigger and much more powerful than our conscious power (thus, our willingness) and where our lack of will fails us our subconscious makes us succeed… if we put it to work properly. And that’s where the to-do list comes into play.
Besides, you have most likely heard the “sleep on it” phrase quite a few times by now. This phrase is based on the same unconscious power of our brain, and it’s true in many cases.
This is why it is important to plan your day ahead. Having a to-do list will help you accomplish your task faster and also help you avoid wasting precious time and stressing your energy on trivial and unimportant tasks.
The best way to achieve your goal with such a list is to write down your tasks in order of importance. This allows you to work on the most urgent tasks first when you get up in the morning while your brain is still fresh and your energy level still high.
Avoid Online Distractions
Distraction is an enemy that makes us all lose concentration of our activities and achievements.
To focus fully, you need to know how to avoid the different distractions around you. Of course, there are lots of distractions that can derail your focus but you need to train yourself on how to avoid them. Yes, training is hard and it’s even harder when you are a full-time procrastinator (like the author of this post used to be) and how just the idea of training can pull you back into your comfy bed, or back to playing video games on your computer. But, the truth of the matter is, that willingly training yourself to do something is how you accomplish things in life. Including gaining the ability to stay focused.
So, how do you train yourself to stay focused?
Well, the solution is that you need to play it safe by working on a few tasks at a time. This might be in form of opening just some few browser tabs at a time. The more tabs you open the more you are multi-tasking, and the more likely you will get distracted.
Another way to avoid online distractions is by first focusing on the tasks you need to complete and then giving yourself 5-10 minutes every 2 hours (ok, make it every 1 hour) to check your Facebook, Instagram, email, or other social media sites that you usually waste your time on (and I’m not sorry to say it that, yes, these sites are indeed a waste of time if at the end of the day they’ve not made you any money, or have not made you healthier, happier or a better person in general).
Get Enough Sleep
It’s no secret that depriving yourself of sleep most nights of the week can have a negative impact on your short and long term memory, including affecting your ability to concentrate on tasks and to stay focused. And please note that I am not talking about having white nights every once in a while (it’s normal for an adult to have sleepless nights from time to time), but wasting many nights in a month, month after month for years. This can seriously impact your behavior and the capacity of your brain, so please keep this in mind if you wish to be healthier and more productive.
According to research, the recommended amount of sleep for persons above 18 years to 60 years old is 7 hours (or more) per night, while those older than 60 years can go 9 hours per night. If you’re constantly NOT getting these numbers of relaxing sleep each night you shouldn’t be surprised that your ability to focus suffers.
If you just can’t seem to get the sleep time that your body needs and wish to improve on this aspect of your life here are a few things to try out:
- avoid drinks that contain caffeine after lunchtime;
- take time to relax your body by either reading a book, take a warm bath, listen to some slow music;
- make sure your bedroom is quiet with an ideal temperature of about 60 and 67°F (15.6 and 19.4°C);
- switch off every electronic device in your bedroom, so the lights from these devices will not affect your brain and disturb your sleep (this particular point is something that the author of this article will safely vouch for as he’d tested it for several weeks on himself with positive results).
Try any, or all of these things for a year and you’ll see how much more refreshing your sleep will be and, as a consequence, how much your life and the ability of your brain to function will improve.
Give Yourself a Time Limit For Each Task
How you manage your time effectively goes hand-in-hand with your to-do list. On your to-do list write about how long it will take you to complete each task (and you need to be factual about this estimate).
Then try to finish each task according to the time limit you’ve set. Doing this will make you concentrate on completing the task ahead instead of wasting more time with chatting up friends and checking your emails for things that are usually not important, let’s be honest about it, but which will definitely add up to the hours you’ve set for completing the tasks.
You can also get your tasks done faster by breaking up time-consuming tasks you have on your schedule. This way you won’t be overwhelmed doing too many difficult tasks at once.
Multi-Task Less… Even If You Are a Woman!
Multi-tasking is not so good for the brain as many people think. Some people think that multitasking allows them to accomplish different tasks at once and it’s true for many things (particularly for easy tasks) and especially if you’re a woman (we all know how women are much better at multi-tasking than men). However, doing multiple tasks at once actually puts your brain in a confused state and slows it down.
This is why every time you move from one task to another, you will have to reset your mind to your new task which also slows your work productivity down. This is why it is not recommended to multi-task so much… at least not multi-task important projects anyway, so learn to give your brain a well-deserved rest from time to time. Just make sure you don’t put it to rest all the time or else you’ll have a hard time convincing it to do anything 🙂
Exercises are not only good for the body but an excellent stimulant for the brain (it sheds laziness of thinking and acting). Working out daily has proven to be an effective method to improve concentration, learning ability, and to also boost our retentive memory.
It also helps to reduce stress and anxiety including improving mood swings. Research has revealed that those who work out have a greater amount of brain control, which is normal when you think about it because active people care about their life more than others and they will, thus, control their life more than complacent ones do.
The bottom line…
The bottom line, dear reader, is that whatever you are presently dealing with, whether its lack of sleep, online distractions or any other symptoms that affect your lack of concentration and, thus, your ability to stay focused on your goals will more often than not also negatively impact your productivity, as well. And we don’t want that.. not if this is what is paying our bills anyway.
This is why it’s very important to follow the 6 directions mentioned above to improve your life in general, but also your ability to stay focused on what you need to accomplish personally, or professionally.