Focusing is a skill that can be learned and improved.
It’s not something that you either have or don’t have. And it’s not a matter of intelligence or talent.
Focus is about your ability to concentrate on a topic, maintain your attention and resist distractions.
I am sure that you are as busy as ever. There are so many things to do, and you can’t do everything simultaneously, but I have a question for you. Why is it so hard to keep focused when easier than ever before to access information, learn the answers to questions in a matter of seconds, and have every solution readily available to us? So how do we overcome these distractions?
This head-scratcher of a question has puzzled philosophers, scientists, and regular folk like you and me since the beginning of time. The ability to focus is crucial in achieving success in any area of life. Be it professional or personal.
Some people believe that the root cause of this problem is that our attention span has decreased significantly over the past couple of decades. This claim does have a large amount of scientific evidence to back it up. The following study by NCBI found that the average human attention span has declined since 2019.
But if we take a closer look, there may be more to this story than our attention spans getting shorter. The way we live today creates more opportunities for distraction than ever before. In the past, if you wanted to watch a movie, for example. You had to go to the store, rent or buy the film, and then sit in front of your TV to watch it.
Nowadays, we can stream movies on our phones while commuting, working out, or even taking a bath. We have constant access to social media, email, and the internet, making it difficult to resist the urge to check our notifications every few minutes.
All of this constant stimulation can lead to what’s known as “attention fatigue.” This is when our brains become so overstimulated that it becomes difficult to focus on any one thing for an extended period. An interesting study was conducted with several participants over 3 hours. They were asked to complete various tasks requiring different levels of attention.
They found that the participant’s ability to pay attention decreased significantly as the day went on. This suggests that our brains have a limited amount of “attentional resources” that get depleted as we use them throughout the day.
Did you know that our mind naturally wanders off when we attempt to focus? Surprising that we are designed to be daydreamers and wander off. It’s called the “default mode network,” which is the mode our brain goes into when we’re not focused on anything. The default mode network is responsible for various functions, such as daydreaming, mind-wandering, and self-reflection.
So what does all this mean? It means a healthy amount of daydreaming is actually good for us! It allows our brains to take a break from the task and recharge.
But when our mind starts to wander too much, it can become difficult to focus on the task. This is why it’s essential to find ways to engage your senses and keep your mind active when trying to focus. Looking to brush up on how you can enhance your memory? Check out this blog post found at Hubspot, the curiosity of Caroline Forsey on 5 Scientist-Approved Techniques for Improving Your Memory.
Now, if you are serious about flexing your concentration muscle, let’s get started with analyzing your habits and figure out how you can change them.
The first step is to become more aware of when you’re losing focus. You can do this by keeping a journal of everything you do throughout the day. For each task, ask yourself whether or not you could stay focused on your focus. You need to understand what’s happening inside your beautiful brain and then keep reading. I will get that noggin under a microscope for you.
Here are some tips that can help you improve your focus:
- Analyze your habits and figure out how you can change them. Are you one of those people who like to check their email or social media sites every 10 minutes or pick up your phone the moment you open your eyes in the morning?
Well, I’ve got some news for you: that’s not a good idea…Sorry. You’re not doing yourself a favor since, according to James Clear, “Each time you get distracted, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track.” So if you’re checking your email every 10 minutes, that’s 2 hours and 30 minutes of wasted time each day!
- Find ways to engage your senses other than looking at a screen. Yes, your feelings. This is an aspect I brought up in an earlier article, “5 Ways You Can Practice Self-Love Today To Instantly Feel Happier“\. I dived into the importance of using your sense and how self-love is key to a happy life. When trying to focus, finding ways to engage your feelings is essential. This can be anything from listening to music or white noise, chewing gum or eating mints, to using a standing desk or taking a walk.
- It’s not uncommon that stressful and emotional situations draw our focus away and, in turn, fill our minds with anxious thoughts. Stress and unease are bound to happen like bad weather. You can’t avoid it but can be prepared for it. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to relax and de-stress. This can be anything from yoga or meditation to reading or listening to music. If you require additional suggestions, read this blog post, “The Best Ways To Keep Calm And Carry On.”
- When was the last time you mapped out your diet for the next day or week? I am guilty of this as well, we get busy with work and life, and the first thing that falls to the wayside is our diet. But what we fuel our bodies with directly impacts our focus. I learned early on that starting my day with Omega 3’s fortified with DHA(found in fish or taking a daily supplement) helps to improve my overall focus. Combining this along with a spoon of MCT oil is a game-changer.
Combine this with Lions primary and coffee, and you have a recipe for being on the fast lane towards better focus. A great article that spans more in-depth on the topic of Omega’s and stress is a piece by Keith Pearson, “How Omega-3 Fish Oil Affects Your Brain and Mental Health”.
Now heading into my personal favorite and will help you far beyond just focus.
- Drumroll, please…exercise! As if you didn’t see that one coming, but seriously, there is much back research to support the claim that exercise can help improve focus. An article by Nancy Barile, “Exercise and the Brain: How Fitness Impacts Learning,” dives into how exercise helps improve focus. I aim to fit my gym routine in the morning before my kids and wife are up and running around because I know if I wait until later in the day, it’s not happening.
I am a big fan of at-home workouts that are 45 minutes or less so I can get my sweat on and return to my family. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay. Just find what works so you can make it a habit.
These are just a few tips to help improve your focus, but trial and error is the best way to find out what works. Everyone has a different focus level, and what works for one person might not work for another. Patients and persistence are your allies in your pursuit of better focus.
Start with one tip and work down the list until you find a combination that works for you. Remember, it’s not about perfection. Please don’t expect your mindset to become similar to Bradley Cooper in the film “Limitless” overnight.
I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to reach out and let me know how these tips work for you. Have additional advice, tools, and suggestions that you want to share? Don’t hold them all to yourself now. Jokes aside, we would love to hear from you, so drop them in the comment section below.
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I like to leave you with a quote.
Lodge JM, Harrison WJ. The Role of Attention in Learning in the Digital Age. Yale J Biol Med. 2019 Mar 25;92(1):21-28. PMID: 30923470; PMCID: PMC6430174.
MM;, B. M. A. M. T. F. L. (n.d.). Effects of mental fatigue on attention: An ERP study. Brain research. Cognitive brain research. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15913965/
Forsey, C. (2021, June 10). 5 scientist-approved techniques for improving your memory. HubSpot Blog. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-improve-memory
Pearson, K. (2017, December 5). How omega-3 fish oil affects your brain and mental health. Healthline. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-fish-oil-for-brain-health
Exercise and the brain: How fitness impacts learning. Hey Teach! (2022, January 24). Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://www.wgu.edu/heyteach/article/exercise-and-brain-how-fitness-impacts-learning1801.html
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