How to Focus Better – 10 Simple Techniques For Laser Sharp Focus
It seems easy to do when you’re told to just focus on a single task to get things done. On the face of it, it shouldn’t be hard to learn how to focus better. But people aren’t naturally prone to concentrate on a single object or task for an extended period of time. In fact, one study sponsored by Microsoft discovered that the average human attention span lasts just 8 seconds. That’s a ridiculously short amount of time, as it’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.
Nowadays, modern life comes with lots more obstacles to your concentration. You may have co-workers wanting to have a conversation. Your phones (landline and mobile) keep ringing all the darn time. You go online to do research, and then suddenly you’ve wasted hours watching cute YouTube videos.
It does seem like it’s an impossible task to learn how to improve focus, given the numerous temptations. Yet it is possible to eliminate the threat of distractions and set up an environment that fosters the complete focus on the task at hand.
How to focus better? Tips from productivity experts:
1. Get your brain ready for the task
Before you start, you may have a certain ritual you may want to perform to get your brain to get to work. This may include getting a cup of coffee, cleaning or rearranging the desks, and leaving last messages for the assistant. Even if you don’t have a ritual to get yourself ready, you can just sit in a comfortable position and breathe deeply. Calm down, and then start.
2. No multitasking
Multitasking, or doing more than one thing at a time, became popular many years ago because lots of things had to be done and there were simply not enough hours in the day. It seemed to make sense — why settle on just one task when you can complete two in the same amount of time?
After years of people trying to multitask, it soon became obvious that this tactic wasn’t all that effective for productivity. Scientists confirmed that humans are wired to deal with just one thing at a time. Though it seemed like a person was able to focus on 2 different items at once, the truth was that their brain was just alternating their focus from one task to another.
Thus, it was found that multitasking actually wasted time instead of saving time. The people who focused on Task 1 first and then when done concentrated on Task 2 next used up 40% less time than the people who tried to do Tasks 1 and 2 at the same time. In other words, if the multitasker took 1 hour to complete 2 tasks, the focused worker only needed 36 minutes.
So what it means for you is simple. Forget about multitasking. It’s just an inefficient use of your time. Learn how to get focused on 1 task at a time instead.
To help you learn how to concentrate, you may want to do some meditation. Meditation is a very effective practice in keeping your brain strong and healthy. However, it is really not about “emptying your mind”, which some people think it is.
The truth is that meditation is all about focusing on just one thing. This can be some sort of mantra or phrase, or you can concentrate on your breathing. The focus of meditation is usually on something that’s mundane and ordinary, so you don’t really have to think all that hard when you meditate.
This kind of thing can be very restful for your brain so that you feel refreshed enough to start focusing on work. Already your brain has been primed to focus on a single task, so you can just do the same thing when you work.
Meditation also doesn’t have to take all that long, either. You can take 15 minutes of meditation each day, and that can be the total amount of time for the whole day. It doesn’t have to be continuous at all.
4. Less use of attention grabbers
You have to unplug from all your mobile devices when you work. This is crucial, and for some, it’s even painful. Yet it has to be done. When you’re working and trying to focus, you have to eliminate cell phones that can derail your focus. This means you have to turn it off, or you can redirect all calls to voicemail while alarms are all turned off.
The same goes for social media and email. Unplug from them and don’t let them reach you. If you haven’t tried unplugging your email when you work, you’d most likely be surprised at how productive you can be when you’re not constantly prodded to respond to various emails.
Emails may be important for your work, but they’re terribly disruptive to your focus and rhythm. That’s why you can work for half an hour straight without interruptions, and then you can take a short break to check all emails and voicemails in case there’s an emergency message for you.
5. How to focus better with Pomodoro Technique
Isn’t there a simple way to just focus? Instead of learning how to concentrate better through various bits of advice, isn’t there a process you can do so you can start to become more productive right now?
There is, and it’s called the Pomodoro Technique. This is a technique that was actually invented way back in the 1990s, which was a time when multitasking was still all the rage. The name is taken from a type of timer, but the fact is that its name isn’t really important. What’s crucial is its process.
With this technique, all you really need with you is a timer, and you already have that with your smartphone. Start by listing down the tasks you need to do for the day. Then assign a short burst of time for a certain task, such as 25 minutes. You then totally focus on that task for that time as the timer runs down.
Once the timer beeps, rest for 5 minutes. You can stretch, get a drink, or go to the restroom. Then set the timer again for another 25 burst of work.Every 2 hours of these work sessions, take a longer break. This can be for 15 minutes or even for half an hour. You just need enough time to make sure you’re ready for another 2-hour session of work with breaks in between.
You’d be very surprised what you can do with this process. That’s especially true when your work requires you to complete certain amounts of creative work. Software engineers, as well as writers, swear by it.
Suggesting that you can doodle — to absentmindedly scribble or make rough drawings — to improve concentration may seem counterintuitive. After all, it does seem like it’s such a waste of time and effort and it’s not really productive at all. When you doodle while listening to someone at a meeting, it seems like you’re not paying attention. Isn’t it?
According to the latest research, it’s actually helpful when it comes to enabling you to concentrate during meetings. One study found that a group of doodlers at a gathering can recall up to 29% more information than the non-doodlers.
What makes doodling so helpful for your memory? One theory is that when somebody else speaks at length when you’re gathered around, there’s a very good chance that you can get bored. This can tempt you to daydream, and daydreaming can take up a lot of your mental resources. When you daydream, you don’t have much brain power left to pay attention to what’s going on around you.
On the other hand, doodling actually doesn’t take up as much of your attention. It just requires enough brain power so that you don’t get bored (and daydream). It then allows your brain to pay enough attention to the speakers and events around you so that you can recall the information later.
However, there’s a caveat. You can doodle if you’re trying to listen to someone speaking since these objects of your attention are using different informational pathways. But if you’re trying to process images, then doodling can mar your attention.
7. Discourage people from bothering you
It is true that no man is an animal and man is a social animal. These are clichés for a reason. Yet it’s also true that coworkers can be terribly disruptive when you’re trying to work, and they can be incredibly annoying when they bother you for non-emergency reasons.
You can minimize these disruptions through several ways. One simple way is to just close your door if you work in an office. If there’s no door to close since you’re not working in an office of your own, you can close a metaphorical door by wearing huge headsets.
You can also just tell people about the Pomodoro method, and tell them that you’re available for discussions only at the half-hour marks. When it’s time to take your breaks, perhaps you can get out of the office for a bit or you can remove the headset to let others know that you’re now free to talk.
Of course, some coworkers can be long-winded and they may take more time than your allotted 5-minute break. So maybe you can bring your smartphone with you and then you can set the timer for 5 minutes. When it beeps, just inform people that it’s time for you to get back to work, and you’ll see them after another half hour.
8. Play some nice music
When you’re wearing headsets, you may as well play music. This not only blocks the background noise from distracting you, but the music can also help you focus on your thoughts.
Of course, you have to do this right. It can’t be too loud since this can become its own distraction. It’s also important that you like the song that’s playing. When you hear music you really hate, this can put you off your work.
So it’s best if you reserve some time during the weekend compiling your own work playlist. Then don your headset and get to work with the background music you like.
9. Deal with human distractions through proper negotiation
What if your door is closed and people still come in? What if you’re wearing a headset and they still insist on tapping your shoulder and getting your attention? You have no choice but to deal with the interruption, though it’s a good idea to do this politely.
After all, there may be a good reason for the interruption and it’s an emergency that you need to deal with right away. Who knows, maybe there’s a fire in the building!
However, in many cases, people may come in and discuss things that can actually wait until your next break. If that’s the case, courteously but firmly inform the distracting person that you’re working on something at the moment. You can then ask if you can call back at the time of your next break. Put in a reminder to make the call, and when the next break comes you shouldn’t forget about calling.
10. Check the temperature
Even during the 1990s, productivity experts already recognized the importance of working in an environment with the right temperature. Studies have discovered that for most people, this perfect temperature is within 68 to 77 degrees F (20 to 25 degrees C).
Of course, not everyone has the same idea about the right temperature, so be prepared. If you work in a common area and most people like it cold, just bring a sweater. If it’s too warm for your liking, bring a small desk fan.
These are just some of the tips that can help, and it won’t really hurt to try them out. Learning how to focus better involves understanding the need to prioritize work over less important distractions. It’s all about saying no to procrastination and distractions. Take short sprints of work and rest, and you’ll finally realize that being focused doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may have feared.