How do you stay focused when at work or in class?
It is a question we all struggle with from time to time.
There you are, ready to start working on that task at work or home. Or maybe you’re in the classroom listening to a lecture. Without realizing it, your mind drifts; to whatever else has been on your mind or your social feed lately. Before you know it, the clock has jumped and you’ve missed another opportunity to learn or do something important.
Issues with maintaining focus, be it at the office or at school, are much more common than you think. While 4.5% of American adults are currently estimated to have ADHD, far more complain about frequent distraction and general lack of focus. So, what exactly is the culprit? The quick answer is: it’s complicated. But in this article we hope to arm you with some useful tools to fight back.
How to Stay Focused – The Facts
One thing you need to recognize if you find yourself drifting, this is an unfortunate product of our current working environment. We live in a time where multitasking is valued—if not expected. And for many careers and lifestyles, this comes at a price. In one 2009 Stanford study, around half of the 100-students studied considered themselves “media multitaskers,” while the others did not.
The results of this study showed that the self-labeled multitaskers performed more poorly on tests regarding attention span, memory capacity, and ability to switch between tasks. “They’re suckers for irrelevancy. Everything distracts them,” Clifford Nass, researcher on the study.
What’s worse, the the flow of new information in Facebook, Twitter and other social media feeds is never-ending. Getting sucked into this addictive space of posting and “liking” and selfies and comments is a major distraction these days. And did that long argument about Trump on Facebook do anything to make you happier? We’re willing to bet not.
With the modern-life deck stacked against those trying to stay focused, it is important to treat your attention span like a muscle. It needs proper nutrition and exercise to perform its best, so here’s some things you can do to strengthen it.
How to Improve Focus, Concentration, & Memory
Here are three steps you can take toward restoring your mind’s focus:
Add a Focus Exercise To Your Routine.
- One easy exercise you can do anytime is to pick up something nearby and study it for three to four minutes. Pick up a piece of fruit, a paperweight – it doesn’t matter. Turn it around in your hands and memorize every detail, pushing out any other thoughts that try to intrude. Try to do this once a day.
- Step two is to put it down, close your eyes and try to visualize all those details you memorized. How many scars did that orange have? Was the color even throughout? Did it feel quite ripe? What would you say if you were to write a description of it? This sort of exercise will help you strengthen your ability to focus on one single thing at a time.
Eliminate Online Distractions and Schedule Focus Time.
- Set a routine for yourself and include “focus time” every day. If you intentionally set aside time each day for an uninterrupted, head-down work sprint, it will become second nature. A structured routine can be difficult to get into, but will pay dividends for keeping you on track.
- When it’s time to work, try working offline. Turn off your wifi if you don’t need it. Click your smartphone into “do not disturb” mode so you won’t be bothered by Jane’s fifth baby selfie of the day. This is time you set aside to work and the faster you get it done, the sooner you can plug back in.
Get The Proper Fuel.
- As any nutritionist or doctor will tell you, fitness is only half of the battle when it comes to health. In order to see the full benefits of your hard work, you’re going to need the proper nutrients. For the brain, one of the most common sources of nutrition is the omega-3 fatty acid, found in fish sources like salmon or our premium, CogniDHA High DHA Omega-3 Fish Oil. Leafy greens contain plenty of the B-vitamin folate. A mix of some of your favorite fruits and nuts is a great brain booster on the go too. Many will recommend caffeine to support focus, but it is a bit of a balancing act. A little bit will provide a valuable boost in the short-term, but if you overdo it, you’ll find yourself jittery and uncomfortable—a tough combination when you’re trying to focus.
- What’s important to realize is that if you are deficient in some of these nutrients, it can be a bit of a hurdle to get to proper levels through diet alone. This makes specialty supplements a popular choice for those who are struggling to focus. A great example is Tranquility Labs’ own Focusene. With nutrients like dandelion (high in luteolin), forskolin, ginkgo and ginseng this natural brain booster provides holistic support for the brain’s focus and concentration systems. Focusene and CogniDHA are great supplements if you are looking for help improving your mental performance.
Live A Brain-Healthy Lifestyle
There are certain changes you can make to your lifestyle to support focus, concentration, and memory. One of the most important is making sure that you drink plenty of water.
Dehydration takes many forms, some not as intense as others. Mild dehydration is nearly imperceptible, but it has been shown to impair cognitive performance. If you are out and about, it can be easy to slip into that state. So drink up!
The same applies to sleep. Getting enough sleep to stay on your feet is not the same as getting enough sleep to function. If you find yourself going below seven hours of sleep, you may be missing out on certain phases of sleep like delta sleep.
Low levels of delta sleep can make it more difficult to focus when awake. Often, undiagnosed sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can also play a role in poor focus. Sleep quicktip: put your smart phone down an hour before bed and pick up a book instead.
Pulling it Together: Be More Intentional!
Being more intentional about your time means taking control. No matter what you do, you should come from a place of “I have decided that I will do this.” Yes even if your boss told you to do it and you’d rather not. In life you can either be intentional: leading your actions with a thoughtful decision, or you can get swept into acting re-actively. When you are re-active, you have less control. And before you know it, you can be swept into completely random wastes of time.
When we are intentional, we know what we need to do and we get it done. All those distractions can wait. It is a powerful mindset and probably the biggest key to remaining focused in work or at school.
Want to share some of your stories on how these techniques have improved your focus? Wondering how some of your fellow readers helped deal with this issue?
Start the conversation in the comments section below!