🌼10 ways to boost your focus and concentration skills (POWERFUL)
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You sit down to work, and after a few minutes, everything else except your work starts to seem interesting.
The birds start calling your name, your phone is begging you to check the notifications, and you wonder if someone has sent you a really important email that you ought to check now.
I know that feeling. And from experience, I know that these are all tricks of the mind to distract you.
Focusing for long periods is a skill we all need to develop. Alas, it’s also one that few master. At work or at school, those who succeed at a high level have figured out strategies to build and protect their focus so they can get meaningful work done every day.
Ever since I was in high school I’ve been obsessed with finding out ways to grow intellectually and be more productive. I’m still a work in progress. But after a few years of experimentation, here are some things that help me work with utmost concentration for long periods of time, even on boring things.
#1 Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
Let me first address the elephant in the room — digital distractions. Smartphones and laptops are indispensable parts of our lives. Unfortunately, with all that they enable us to do, they also give us innumerable opportunities to be distracted.
The best solution for this is to put them out of your sight so you don’t spend energy resisting them. Put your phone on airplane mode and/or place it in another room. You can check your phone after you’re done.
Block all notifications, especially those from social media apps. If possible, uninstall those apps from your phone — you can always use those websites on your laptop if you wish to.
Also, keep anything else that distracts you out of your workspace (or out of your home). For instance, if my guitar is in front of me, I will start playing it when I feel bored. Or if there are tasty cookies in the kitchen, I will want to get up and have a couple.
All these things break your distraction and, in the latter case, are not good for your health. Remove them.
If you’re using your laptop for work (as I am), you can’t put it out of sight. In this case, you can block anything that distracts you — apps, websites, games, etc.
For this, I use Cold Turkey Blocker, which is the toughest website blocker on the Internet. Once you start a block, you can’t do anything to remove it.
#2 Have Your Yay! Moment
As a kid, I stumbled upon an extremely useful trick to get my homework done. I would always do my homework before I went out to play with my friends in the evening. This meant that I had something to look forward to after I finish studying.
If I postpone my homework until later, I virtually had no motivation to complete it.
This trick still works fantastically for me. At the end of the day, I often schedule something I love doing — exercise, reading, watching a movie, meeting a friend, etc.
When work gets tough or boring, I remind myself of these little treats that are waiting for me later in the day. These Yay! moments also motivate me to finish work quicker with a heightened focus.
#3 Have a Clean Workspace
How you do anything is how you do everything. If your surroundings are messy, your mind is also the same.
The moment you enter a cluttered workspace, you see items that remind you of what you were doing yesterday. Each thing clutters your mind with unwanted thoughts.
Benjamin Franklin would end his day by putting everything away so when he comes back in the morning, his workspace is clean. Having a clean space allows you to get started with what you have planned and not get distracted by other projects.
Read also: 6 secrets to being more productive each day
#4 Split Your Tasks Into Two Categories
I’ve worked with many task management systems, but a few months ago I stumbled upon a simple system that I can actually follow. I divide my tasks into two categories — Deep and Shallow.
Deep tasks are the ones that require substantial cognitive resources — like writing this article. Shallow tasks are ones that don’t.
Once you’ve divided your list into these two categories, you can then schedule tasks depending on your energy levels.
Since I have the most energy in the mornings, I try to work on as many deep tasks as possible. I then switch to some shallow tasks later in the day. In the early evenings, I often get a “second wind” of focus where I can tackle a deep task for a couple of hours again.
By knowing your energy levels and matching them with your tasks, you can work with the natural rhythm of your mind and body to be more productive.
#5 The Day Always Starts the Night Before
Let’s say you have an important test, a crucial meeting, or a marathon to run tomorrow. What would you do the night before? Get a good night’s sleep right?
Well, guess what? Every day is equally important. We often waste our evenings in “pseudo relaxation” (I’ll get to that in a moment) and delay going to sleep on time. Then we either get up late the next day or feel tired throughout. That’s not a great way to start the day, is it?
The day begins the night before. Every night gather your forces and rejuvenate to prepare for the next day. It’s a crucial part of being focused.
#6 Get Away from Pseudo Relaxation
What activities do you find relaxing? Binge watching? Scrolling through social media? Watching YouTube videos? I, too, used to find these things relaxing.
However, when you analyze your state of mind after indulging in these things, you will realize that they don’t relax your mind at all. They only stimulate it. That is why I call them pseudo-relaxation. They’re the biggest trap of all.
Because we never get any quality relaxation, we don’t perform at our best the next day. So take breaks that actually refresh your mind and body. Go for a walk, exercise, listen to uplifting music, spend time with your loved ones, practice yoga, or read.
Find your own ways to relax deeply every day. Once you do that, you will have much more mental energy every day.
#7 Heighten Your Awareness
Often we get distracted and don’t even know it before a few minutes have passed. This is because we’re not aware enough of our thoughts and feelings.
If we’re aware when our energy is dropping or our focus is waning, we can do something about it. This means taking a short break to breathe, doing some stretches, or making your favorite hot beverage.
How can you develop this awareness? Meditation is the way. When you meditate, not only are you training your mind to concentrate, but you’re also increasing your awareness of the present moment.
With regular meditation, you will find yourself much more receptive to your body and mind. Awareness of my energy levels has helped me tremendously to tweak my days to achieve optimum focus.
#8 Prepare Before Each Task
Before you start working on a task, take a few minutes to soak it in, especially if it’s a big task. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when faced with tasks like “preparing a sales proposal” or “studying the chapter on cost accounting.”
One thing to know about your mind is it likes simple things. The moment it encounters complexity, it wants to run away. So as you sit down to work on any task, take some time to break it down into smaller checkpoints.
This way, your mind knows that you have a simple, clear, and actionable plan to achieve your goal.
#9 Environment Is Stronger Than Willpower
Crafting a working or studying environment is an investment that you will not regret. If you constantly find yourself unable to focus, it may have to do with the environment that you’re in.
It’s not the best idea to work from your room where your comfortable cozy bed is always inviting you for a quick nap. (Of course, working on the bed is the worst of all).
So find a spot where you do nothing but work. This could be a corner of your home with a desk, a separate room, an office, a library, or a cafe. The point is this — every place develops its own vibration depending upon the kind of thoughts prevalent in that space.
Have you ever found yourself getting hungry the moment you walk into a kitchen or a supermarket? Or have you ever felt an instant wave of peace when you enter a church, temple, or monastery?
All these places have been used for a clearly defined purpose. And so whenever someone walks in, they can’t help but be affected by that vibration.
The same is true for your workspace. Working at the same place every day will prime your brain to be focused as soon as you sit down.
#10 Unstimulate Your Brain
If you look at the lives of a bodybuilder or an athlete, you will see that they train hard but also take their recovery and rest seriously.
Similarly, cultivating focus is a full-time job that never stops. Like it or not, the things you do when you’re not working also affect your level of focus.
This means that the end of the workday is not a ticket for indulgence. You still have to be disciplined about not binge-watching late into the night or checking social media obsessively.
All these things release unnatural amounts of dopamine in the brain. Eventually, the brain gets used to these high levels of dopamine and stops deriving any pleasure from work. Work, then, becomes too boring because your brain is looking for that same dopamine high all the time.
A high level of focus requires you to unstimulate your brain even during non-working hours.
Replace stimulating activities instead with things that relax your mind and body (see point #6 above). Learn to embrace boredom instead of reaching out for a dopamine hit.
Read also: 7 types of people who get far in life
A Quick Recap
Here are the ten ways that will help you deepen your focus:
- Out of sight, out of mind: Anything that distracts you shouldn’t be in your sight
- Have your “Yay!” moments every day that you look forward to
- Having a clean workspace goes a long way to keep your mind clean
- Split your tasks into two categories and then schedule them according to your energy levels
- Start your day the night before with quality relaxation and a good night’s sleep
- Get away from pseudo relaxation that does nothing but stimulate your brain
- Invest time in heightening your awareness using meditation
- Prepare before you start any task
- The environment is stronger than willpower so invest time in crafting one that keeps you focused
- Unstimulate your brain in daily life to be able to focus better.
CONTRIBUTED BY Shivendra Misra
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