The time wasted due to a racing mind can lead to stress and anxiety. Your lack of focus can also degrade the quality of your relationships. If you find it impossible to complete tasks in a reasonable timeframe it’s time to take a strategic approach. Even if your focus is already high, you take a proactive approach to keeping it that way. The tips below will help to improve focus and attention span.
1. Reduce Distractions
Let’s first begin with a challenge many of us are facing while working remotely, distractions. Between the kids, pets, and those you’re sheltering at home with—it can be challenging to sit down and get work done. So, you must identify a variety of ways to keep these distractions to a minimum. This might include getting up before everyone else, hiring a babysitter for the kids, and working somewhere behind a closed door.
Pre-pandemic working in the bedroom was strongly discouraged as the bedroom should be a place reserved to rest and connect with your partner. But, if it’s the only place you can focus while working from home, work in the bedroom. Create a system where you clear things out or store things away so that when you are done for the day your bedroom remains a bedroom, not your home office.
2. Manage Digital Distractions
We need to be available to our clients and colleagues, but that doesn’t mean that we need to instantly respond to every phone call, email, or text message.
Between personal and professional digital notifications we check our phones an average of 96 times per day. This doesn’t include how often we check the communication channels on our computers, notebooks, and laptops.
This constant checking disrupts our focus and minimizes our attention span, often resulting in tasks taking longer to complete. It also contributes to mental fatigue which further decreases our focus.
Manage digital distractions by checking your phone and communication once per hour, or less. You can also use communication management apps and set multiple blocks of unplugged time each day.
3. Create A Daily To-Do List
Self-discipline is a skill we can develop. One of the ways to develop self-discipline is to break tasks into small and measurable mini-goals and mapping out these goals as part of your daily to-do list.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephan Covey and the Franklin Covey Planner suggests creating an “A, B, C” priority list. This method can be applied to both your personal and professional tasks. Here’s a basic overview of this systematic approach:
- Create a master to-do list for the week and month
- Add these items and task that pop up during the week to a daily to-do list prioritized as:
- A—must do
- B—should do
- C—do if you have the time
- Before you end each day, check off what you’ve completed for the day and determine what your A, B, Cs are for tomorrow
This system keeps you organized and provides a sense of accomplishment. It also challenges you to be realistic about your timeframes. Finally, determine what you can delegate on this list. By delegating you can focus more time on priorities and get more done as you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
Multitasking has its time and place, but your constant state of doing everything at once may be why you can’t focus. So, schedule in times that you monotask by dedicating your undivided attention to people or tasks. This time must be 100% unplugged, that is unless you are video chatting or talking on the phone during this time.
It may be uncomfortable at first, as being constantly connected is a habit, but over time you will find that you are highly productive during these blocks of time. This might look something like reading and responding to daily emails when you arrive to work, then you monotask for a 1 to 2 hour block of time to focus on your largest or most challenging task of the day. Or, to ensure quality time with your partner, kids, or friends—unplugging and giving them your sole attention for an hour or two each day.
5. Take A Break
A break may be all you need to regain focus. It can sound and feel counterproductive as you may want to keep trying to focus, but even 10 minutes away can help you clear your mind and get back on track. Mix in a variety of breaks:
- A 10 minute break. Maybe a quick call to a friend or a walk around the block.
- Taking your full 30 or 60 minute lunch break. Maybe lunch with a friend.
- A 10 to 30 minute meditation. Consider a guided meditation designed to improve attention span.
- Breaking on something for a day or two if you aren’t making progress.
- Doing a full or micro-workout.
- Don’t work after hours or on the weekend.
- Use one of your personal days.
- Take a weekend getaway.
- Go on a vacation day.
6. Exercise Your Brain
Our brain is an organ, not a muscle—but it can be exercised. If your struggle with concentration is chronic, it’s time to consider exercises and activities that help you maintain focus. Here are a few ideas:
- Read a book
- Play a board game
- Play a musical instrument
- Do an art of a craft
- Memorize things like phone numbers
- Up to one hour of digital gaming per day
- Sudoku, a word search, or crossword puzzle
- Download a brain training app
- Solo or guided meditation
7. Exercise Your Body
We mentioned exercise above as one of the many breaks you can take to regain focus, but exercise can help you focus in a variety of ways. Exercise pumps vital oxygen to your brain and body and releases endorphins that help you focus. The more regular your fitness routine, the more brain-boosting benefits you will enjoy. Depending on the type of sport or exercise you choose, you may also exercise your brain and body at the same time. Any physical activity that doesn’t require you to work on autopilot will exercise both your brain and body. This includes dance, yoga, Pilates, most fitness classes, and every sport. Rhythmic and repetitive exercises can help you get into “the zone” which is the ultimate feat in focusing.
8. Spend Time In Nature
Spending time in nature has a variety of health benefits, including lowering the activity in your prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is activated when we ruminate, so if your lack of focus is due to any kind of rumination, spending time in nature can help. Not to worry if you live in an urban environment, as a city park or time in a tree-lined area can have the same effects. This can be time sitting in silent reflection, meditation, a solo or group picnic, reading, walking, or hiking. Bonus points if you exercise outdoors as you will enjoy two brain-boosting benefits.
The more time you can spend outdoors the better, but you can feel the difference in 30 minutes or less. Also, consider a nature excursion, camping, or a full day spent at a forest, waterway, or park.
Many of Holmes Organics’ clients utilize our hemp-derived CBD oil to calm and soothe their minds when they can’t focus. Turn to any combination of CBD and the tips above to improve your daily concentration.