When you’re overworked, grind mode becomes second nature. However, long days, high expectations and the constant pinging of emails, messages, and alerts can have a major impact on your ability to focus. Many studies show that even the healthiest adults don’t have the ability to focus on one specific task for more than twenty minutes at a time. For many professionals, this doesn’t cut it. After all, our careers depend on our ability to focus for long periods of time.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to improve your mental focus. And if you are an entrepreneur, here are some tips to stay focused while you’re working from home.
Meditation is a physical exercise for your overloaded prefrontal cortex. According to stress management experts like Stacey Shipman’s simple act of settling your mind, is imperative. You’re building focus that helps you determine the steps you need to take to reach goals. The best times of day to try meditation are right after you wake, during lunch and at the end of the workday.
Get Rid of Distractions
Admit it, you saw this one coming. While it may sound obvious, people often underestimate just how many distractions prevent them from concentrating on the task at hand. Such intrusions might come in the form of a radio blaring in the background or a video game temptation or perhaps an obnoxious co-worker who constantly drops by your cubicle to chat.
Minimizing these sources of distraction often sounds easier than it really is. While it might be as simple as turning off the television or radio, you might find it much more challenging dealing with an interrupting co-worker, spouse, child, or roommate.
One way dealing with this is to set aside a specific time and place and request to be left alone for a period of time. Another alternative is to seek out a calm location where you know you will be able to work undisturbed. The library, a private room in your house, or even a quiet coffee shop might all be good spots to try. I also just picked up some Bang and Olufsen H9i noise cancellation headphones which are great!
Mindfulness is a hot topic right now, and for good reason. Even though people have practiced forms of mindfulness meditation for thousands of years, its many health benefits are only recently starting to be understood.
Build your willpower. Voluntary attention and willpower are intimately entwined. Our willpower allows us to deliberately ignore distractions while staying focused on the task at hand. It would serve your attention span well to review our in-depth article on strengthening your willpower.
Exercise Your Body
Not only can you compare exercising your mind to exercising your body, doing the latter directly benefits the former. Researchers have found that students who engaged in moderate physical exercise before taking a test that measured attention spans performed better than students who didn’t exercise. The researchers found that exercise primarily helps our brain’s ability to ignore distractions, although they aren’t exactly sure why. I would venture to say that the discipline it takes to push through the pain of a workout strengthens the same supply of willpower that we used to ignore the itch of distractions in order to keep working/focusing.
Fight the TL;DR Culture
Besides being a cool bar trick and providing you a fount of poems to recite at the drop of a hat, memorizing stuff is an excellent way to exercise your mind muscles. Make it a goal to memorize a poem or a verse of scripture each week.
Read slowly. Fight the TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) culture. With the rise of tablets, e-readers, and smartphones, some studies indicate that reading e-content, in general, has gone up nearly 40%. This is a good thing, right? You’d think so, except that slate recently did some research with the help of website analytics company Chartbeart that determined that only a paltry 5% of readers who start an article online will finish it. 38% of readers never scroll beyond the first few paragraphs. So, to say that reading has gone up would be misleading. What we’re actually doing is more scrolling, and less engaging. If you haven’t picked up a book in a while. I challenge you to do so tonight.
Practice attentive listening
Focus isn’t just useful for intellectual endeavors. It’s also an essential interpersonal skill. The ability to be fully present with a loved one or friend builds your rapport, intimacy, and trust with them. At the same time, trying to focus all your energy on someone else strengthens your concentration muscles overall. It’s win-win. So next time you’re talking with your main squeeze, put away your phone and listen as attentively as possible.
The more curious you are about the world, the greater the stamina of your concentration will be when it comes to any endeavor. William James suggests a simple experiment to test how staying curious about the object of your attention can prolong your ability to stay focused on it. It’s like my passion for cars. I’m dying to find out what the new model has in store for us. I can spend hours researching articles and spy shots of an up and coming vehicle I may be interested in.
Perform concentration exercises
The above exercises not only boost your focus but offer other benefits as well. Occasionally, it’s good to do some exercises that are aimed purely at boosting your concentration.
Are you ready to take them on? Don’t forget to practice some of these mental focusing tips so that you remain productive. Have any of your own you would like share?