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How to Stay Focused

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Old 02-27-2020, 04:58 PM
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Default How to Stay Focused

Staying focused can help you accomplish a variety of professional and personal tasks, from studying for a test to finishing your work an hour early. There are various practical steps you can take to help yourself focus better and to stop checking your Facebook or phone every fifteen minutes. To stay focused on the task ahead of you, resist the impulse to give in to distractions, make a to-do list (which has built-in breaks) and resist the temptation to multi-task.


Getting Organized for Better Focus
  1. Organize your workspace. 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.
  2. 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.[1]
    • 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.
    • For example, a to-do list could contain: “Call mom. Order cake for kid's birthday. Call the doctor back. Post office @ 2 pm.”
  3. Give yourself a time limit for each task. 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 text your friend for an hour instead of actually getting anything done.[2]
    • 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.
    • For example, you could write: “Make coffee: 5 minutes. Answer emails: 15 minutes. Staff meeting: 1 hour. Type meeting notes: 30 minutes. Edit reports: 2 hours.”
  4. Make time for breaks during the day. Though it may sound counter-intuitive to plug relaxation into your daily schedule, this form of organization will actually help you stay focused. You should take at least a 5-10 minute break for every hour of work, or a 3-5 minute break for every half hour of work. This will help you get more motivated to finish the task, give you a break to rest your eyes, and will give you some time to transition your mind to the next task ahead.[3]
    • You can even set a timer to go off after every half hour or hour of work, signaling that you should take a break. If you're really “in the zone” you can skip one of the breaks, but don't make it a habit.
    • If you have a smartphone, you can also use an app like Pomodoro to schedule your workday with built-in breaks.
  5. Take breaks in a place where you won't be distracted. The break won't help relax your mind if you're still checking work emails, for example. So, get up during some of your breaks. Look out the window, take a short walk outside, or just walk up five flights of stairs to get your blood pumping. These short breaks will make you more invigorated to return to work.[4]
    • For example, you can set a goal to read for thirty minutes over the course of three hours. Taking a break to rest your eyes from the screen and finish the chapter of a book will make you more motivated to finish your tasks.
Improving Your Focus
  1. 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. Keep going and see how long you can build up your focus stamina.[5]
    • After a couple weeks, once you've become adept at focusing for 30 minutes, see if you can extend that focus time by 5, or even by 10 minutes.
    • 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.
  2. Don't procrastinate on tasks that you need to complete. 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.[6]
    • For example, if you know you need to call a particularly difficult client this week, don't put it off until Friday afternoon. Make the call on Monday or Tuesday morning, and it won't be hanging over your head for the rest of the week.
    • Regularly giving in to procrastination will ruin your focus and severely decrease your productivity.
  3. Multi-task less to enhance your focus. Many people incorrectly think that multi-tasking is great because it allows you to accomplish a variety of tasks at once. To the contrary, 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.[7]
    • This is where the to-do list comes in handy: it will make you more motivated to finish your tasks one at a time.
  4. Avoid online distractions. Distractions are the enemies of focus and make concentration all but impossible. If you want to be able to focus fully, then you have to know how to avoid a variety of distractions. There are several types of distractions you'll need to train yourself to avoid.[8]
    • To avoid online distractions, 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. Give yourself five minutes every 2 hours to check your email, Facebook, or any other social networking sites that you can't live without. Then, stay off the sites until the next 2 hours have passed.
  5. Avoid physical distractions. Whether you're working in an office, a library, or at your own home, try not to get distracted by other people. Don't let others throw you off task, whether they're people in your study group, your colleagues, or a 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.[9]
    • Also 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.
    • Work in a productive environment like a coffee shop or library. Seeing others being productive can help you focus on your own productivity.[10]
    • Listen to classical music or nature sounds through headphones to help improve your focus. Avoid music with lyrics since they may be distracting.[11]
  6. Take a few deep breaths to settle your mind and help you focus. If you feel stressed, irritable, or over-stimulated while working, sit back and shut your eyes. Take 3 to 5 deep, full breaths. The increase in oxygen will stimulate your brain, making it easier to focus on whatever task is in front of you.[12]
    • If you have time, you can turn the 3 to 5 breaths into a longer breathing session. Over your lunch break, for example, sit or lay down and focus on deep breathing for 15 minutes.
    • Accept the task that you need to get done. Resisting a task will make it more difficult.[13]
  7. Chew a piece of gum. Studies have shown that chewing a piece of gum can temporarily increase your focus. Chewing gum increases the amount of oxygen that your brain receives, which in turn helps you focus.[14]
    • If you don't like gum, try eating a healthy snack, which can have the same effect as gum. Eat a handful of nuts or a few carrot sticks.
  8. 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. Resist the urge to pour yourself a full cup of coffee each time you need help focusing.[15]
    • 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.
  9. Look at a faraway object for 20 seconds. Most of us work on a computer or at a desk, and typically look at objects from a distance of . This can strain your eyes, causing some discomfort and reducing your focus. So, give your eyes a break by looking at a faraway object for a few seconds. Your eyes—and your mindset—should be able to focus better when you return to your computer screen.[16]
    • Try following the 20-20-20 rule: each time 20 minutes passes, devote 20 seconds to looking at something that's about away.
Staying Motivated when Trying to Focus
  1. Remind yourself of what you're working towards. Having a goal in mind will give you motivation to finish your work, and you'll be more successful at staying focused.[17] 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.
    • For example, if you're studying, remind yourself why it's important. It may not be important for you to ace 1 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 graduate.
    • Or, if you're doing work, remind yourself why your work is important. If the work is a 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.
  2. Pinpoint a specific goal you can work towards. It's easy to get bogged down in a distracting series of small tasks if you're not working towards a single, large goal. When you have a goal to work towards, it can be the carrot at the end of the stick that makes the task worth doing.[18]
    • So, 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?
    • For example, 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.
  3. Repeat or write down a “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. If repeating this out loud would be make you feel awkward, try writing your mantra down on a sticky note and sticking it on your desk.
    • Your mantra could be something like, “No more Facebook and no more texting 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!”
Expert Advice

Follow these tips for staying focused at work:
  • Keep a time tracking log. Every half hour, stop and make a record of what you did. At the end of the week, look at your time log and determine how much of your time is spent where you need it. You might see that you spend too much time surfing the internet. Make changes from there.
  • Do what you're good at. You're more likely to stay focused when you're working on something you're good at and enjoy doing. Then, if you can, delegate the tasks you're not good at to someone else. Usually, the stuff you're not good at is the tasks you struggle to focus on.
  • Download time management apps. There are a lot of different apps to help you stay focused. Try apps that block the internet so that you're not tempted to surf the web, and you're not distracted by incoming emails. You can also find a lot more focusing tips throughout the internet.
  • Find the best environment for you. Some people need total silence while others work better with soft music in the background. Use trial and error to find the best environment to keep you focused.
  • If you find yourself losing focus often, and if you feel like you waste time during the day, try using a time log. Create a time log to see and understand how you spend your time.
  • If you're discouraged about the number of tasks you don't complete during the day, try making a track record of tasks you have done and tasks you have failed to do. Try to increase the number of successful tasks. This will motivate you to stay focused on the tasks at hand more than other things that may distract you.
  • If you're looking to step up your to-do lists, try separating 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.
  • Do what you can to sleep and eat at the proper times. Avoid studying too late at night.
  1. ? http://www.businessinsider.com/how-t...ocused-2015-11
  2. ? https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225321
  3. ? https://crew.co/blog/science-of-how-to-stay-focused/
  4. ? https://crew.co/blog/science-of-how-to-stay-focused/
  5. ? https://crew.co/blog/science-of-how-to-stay-focused/
  6. ? https://www.fastcompany.com/40544191...xible-schedule
  7. ? https://crew.co/blog/science-of-how-to-stay-focused/
  8. ? http://www.businessinsider.com/how-t...ocused-2015-11
  9. ? http://www.businessinsider.com/how-t...ocused-2015-11
  10. ? https://www.newscientist.com/article...ops-heres-why/
  11. ? https://www.inc.com/nicolas-cole/6-t...o-science.html
  12. ? https://www.fastcompany.com/3049108/...ocused-at-work
  13. ? http://www.businessinsider.com/conce...tulberg-2017-9
  14. ? https://crew.co/blog/science-of-how-to-stay-focused/
  15. ? http://www.businessinsider.com/how-t...ocused-2015-11
  16. ? http://www.businessinsider.com/how-t...ocused-2015-11
  17. ? https://hbr.org/2017/11/how-to-stay-...ojects-at-once
  18. ? https://hbr.org/2017/11/how-to-stay-...ojects-at-once

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