How to Stay Focused
Staying focused can help you accomplish almost anything, from studying for a test to finishing your work an hour early. Staying focused can help improve your professional life, help you listen to people better, and also help you come up with a solution to problems at a quicker speed. If you want to know how to stop checking your Facebook or phone every fifteen minutes and to stay focused on the task ahead of you, just follow these few steps.
- Get Organised
- Staying Motivated
- Improving your focus
- Adopting an Alpha State
- Keep an organized space. Whether you’re doing work in your office or studying at home, having a clean space can help you focus and get your work done with much more concentration. Remove anything that can distract you from your work and isn’t relevant to the task. Clean off your desk to include only the things you need to work, leaving just a few photos or mementos to help you relax a bit.
- If you spend just ten minutes cleaning your space at the end of every day, you’ll be able to maintain your new organized lifestyle.
- If you don’t need your phone to do your work, put it away for a few hours. Don’t let it clutter your space and distract you.
- Make a to-do list. Making a to-do list at the beginning of every day or week can make you feel more focused and motivated to continue your work. If you make a list of all the things you have to do, no matter how small, you will feel more accomplished when you check those items off your list and move on to the next task. This will also keep you focused on one task at a time.
- You can separate your to-do list into three lists: things to do that day, things to do the next day, and things to do that week. If you finish the tasks for that day but have some time left over, you can move on to the next set of tasks.
- Prioritize your tasks. Put the most important or hardest tasks first. It’s better to save the easier or more manageable tasks for the end of the day, when you’re more tired and less compelled to complete the hardest tasks. If you put off the hard tasks until the last minute, you’ll be dreading getting them done all day.
- Include breaks in your to-do list. You can reward yourself with breaks. If you finish three tasks, you can have a small snack, or make a quick phone call to your friend, for example. This will make you even more focused on completing the tasks at hand.
- Manage your time. Managing your time goes hand in hand with making a to-do list. Next to each item on the list, write about how long it’ll take you to accomplish each task. Be realistic about this estimate. Then, try to complete each task within the confines of each time limit. This will make you less likely to slack off or g-chat with your friend for an hour instead of actually getting anything done.
- You can break up more time-consuming tasks with shorter, easier tasks. That way you won’t be overwhelming by too many tough tasks in a row. You can think of the shorter tasks as a mini-reward.
- Find your purpose. Having a purpose to finish your work will keep you motivated and will therefore keep you focused. Part of the reason we lose focus is because we can’t see the point of whatever task we have to get done and would rather be doing something else. Once you find your purpose, write it down, or repeat it to yourself to keep your energies in the right place. Your purpose can be the key that unlocks the door to your focus.
- If you’re studying, remind yourself about why it’s important. It may not be important for you to ace one quiz or test, but it is important for you to succeed in the course that will factor in your quiz or test grade, and it is important for you to get good grades so you can achieve your career goals, whatever they may be.
- If you’re doing work, remind yourself why your work is important, and why the work you do really matters. If it really doesn’t matter to you but is a good means to an end, remind yourself of all the things you can buy because of the work, or about all of the fun things you can do once your work day is over.
- Pinpoint your goal. What is your goal for completing your task? Is it to simply get done with the work or school day, to save up enough money to buy a boat, or to advance your career? Your goal could also be just to clean your whole house so you can throw a fun party, or to run for 40 minutes without giving up so you can be in better shape. The goal can be the carrot at the end of the stick that makes the task worth doing.
- Repeat your “focus mantra.” When you know exactly what your purpose and goal are, you can create a focus mantra that you repeat to yourself whenever you get distracted. It can be just a simple phrase that you repeat when you’re getting sidetracked that helps get you back in order. You can just say something like, “No more Facebook, no more texting, no more TV until I get my work done. When I get my work done, I’ll be ready to ace the chemistry test, and when I ace the chemistry test, I’ll get an A in the class!”
Improve your Focus
- Improve your focus stamina. Though you may think that you’ll always be easily distracted, anyone can improve his or her focus with a little motivation. All you have to do is pick a given task, and give yourself 30 minutes to work on only that task without any distractions — without even getting up. Then, when 30 minutes passes, see if you can extend that focus time by 5, or even by 10 minutes. Keep going and see how long you can build up your focus stamina.
Though you should take a break at least every hour, learning to focus for longer will make it easier for you to complete the tasks ahead and to focus for even a shorter period of time.
- Read more. Reading tests your mind’s ability to stay focused on just one task at a time and can improve your focus. If you’re always flipping through the channels on your TV, constantly switching radio stations, or texting five friends at a time, you’ll be slowly losing your ability to focus on just one task at a time. Set aside at least 30 minutes to an hour to read each day. You can read the newspaper, a novel, or a work of non-fiction. It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you focus on reading it well and avoiding distractions.
- When you’re done reading, ask yourself what you’ve read. What was the main idea of the passage or article? Who were the main characters? What were the main arguments made by the writer? See if you’ve really paid attention to what you’ve read.
- Learning to focus on written material will help you write and to absorb written information as you study for tests or take on projects at work.
- Don’t procrastinate. Procrastination is the thief of time. Avoid delaying any of your activities by leaving things to be done for tomorrow, next week, or next month. Rather have them done now and move on to the next project.
- Multi-task less. Though you may think that multi-tasking is great because it allows you to accomplish a variety of tasks at once, you’re wrong. Multi-tasking actually confuses your brain and slows you down, keeping you from being fully engaged in any one task. Every time you switch back and forth between two tasks, you’ll have to slightly reset your mind, which will slow you down.
- This is where the to-do list comes in handy: it will make you more motivated to finish your tasks one at a time.
- Avoid distractions. Distractions are the enemies of focus. If you want to be able to focus fully, then you have to know how to avoid a variety of distractions. If you can do this, then you’ve won half the battle for truly being able to focus. Here are some ways to avoid distractions:
- Don’t get distracted online. You should aim to have as few Internet tabs open as possible. The more tabs you have open, the more you’ll be multi-tasking and the more likely you’ll be to get distracted. You can give yourself five minutes every hour or two to check your email, Facebook, or any other social networking sites that you can’t live without. Then you can slowly wean yourself off of these sites during the day.
- Avoid texting or g-chatting for non-work related matters while you’re doing work. This is a huge time suck and a big distraction.
- Don’t get distracted by other people. Don’t let other people throw you off task, whether it’s people in your study group, your colleague, or your friend who is always asking for favors. Put the personal stuff off until after you get your work done, and you’ll get your work done faster and will be able to enjoy personal engagements more.
- Don’t get distracted by your surroundings. If you’re in a loud environment, listen to calming music or invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. Though you may be tempted to look around and see what everyone else is up to, allow yourself to only look up every 10 minutes or so to stay focused.
- Avoid too much caffeine. Though one cup of coffee or one cup of tea a day can help you feel a bit more energized and ready to start your work day, if you have too much caffeine, it can make you too hyped up to focus, or even jittery or shaky after a few hours. It’s better to stay hydrated and drink just one cup of tea a day than to fill your system with so much caffeine that you feel too jumpy to get anything done.
Adopting an Alpha State
- Sit up straight in a chair in a relaxing position, back straight, feet flat on the floor, and arms resting on either your lap or an arm rest.
- Close your eyes. Visualize yourself in a place that brings up feelings of calmness and serenity.
- Still visualizing, take deep breaths. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Do this slowly, taking at least a second for both inhaling and exhaling. Do this multiple times at a constant tempo until you feel relatively calm.
- When you feel calm, on the inhale, with your eyes still closed, look up (activating the visual cortex). On the exhale, look down and open your eyes slowly (all of this is at the same tempo that you have been breathing at).
- Focus. You are now in Alpha state, a highly focused state in which your brain is willing to focus on whatever you choose to do. The real implications of this are that whatever you choose to do next will be much easier to focus on, and you won’t be distracted as easily.
- Keep in mind that the Alpha state is very close to the Theta and Delta states (the brain states that you have when you sleep), so you must do this while you are awake and sitting up so that you don’t fall asleep.
- If you want to go back into beta state (the default state of the brain when you are awake), just try and shake it out, walk around and you will revert back.