Did you know that you can increase your ability to focus? Your job, relationships, and even your character result from what you focused on daily. Among all other skills, your ability to pay attention will make or break your level of success.
Not to mention, the art of deep thinking is a rare commodity these days, which makes it incredibly valuable.
If you want to get ahead of the game and leave an impressive legacy, you must learn how to focus on what matters.
Luckily, paying attention is a skill that you can learn!
Here are some tips to improve your ability to focus on what matters:
1. Figure out what needs your focus
“For a person to become deeply involved in any activity, it is essential that he knows precisely what tasks he must accomplish, moment by moment.”
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Take some time every day to decide what needs your attention. What’s the most important thing you could do today? If you don’t ask yourself this, you’ll wander around doing nothing while your dreams slip away from you.
But you’re not alone; millions of people have problems staying on track, especially with all the gadgets we have beeping and buzzing.
What keeps you from paying attention? Is it social media? TV shows? Whatever it is, make sure it’s not accessible when you’re trying to work on something important. You’re going to need to say no to the time wasters and yes to being productive.
Create a list of everything you need to do. Then plan out your week or even your month; that way, you’ll always know exactly what you need to do.
2. Prepare to focus
“The direction of your focus is the direction your life will move. Let yourself move toward what is good, valuable, strong, and true.”
– Ralph Marston
Before you start, take a few minutes to get prepared so you can avoid any distractions later. Let people who might interrupt you know that you’re going to be busy for a while. Put your phone on silent because every distraction will break your concentration.
Prepare by doing the following:
- Write down precisely what you want to accomplish. Include start times and deadlines.
- Make sure the temperature is comfortable and you’ve eaten. I keep a box of protein bars at my desk for a quick boost. Also, grab a coffee or a drink of your choice.
- Close all programs, tabs, and windows you won’t need.
- Clean your workspace. At least move all clutter out of your line of sight and make sure you have everything you’ll need nearby.
- Do some sit-ups and pushups before starting. Exercise has proven to increase your alertness.
- Create a productivity playlist.
3. Try meditation
“Our thoughts create our reality – where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.”
— Peter McWilliams
Meditation is rewarding for almost every aspect of your life. Even 5 to 20 minutes of meditation per day can drastically increase your mental clarity. Furthermore, by doing this for 4 days straight, you’ll increase your attention span.
Stress blocks your ability to focus. It’ll cause you to ruminate about gloomy memories, thus stealing your concentration.
So, before you try to focus on something, quiet your thoughts and let all the chaos subside by taking a few minutes to meditate.
It’s easy! Set a timer, sit up straight, and get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and relax your body. Then allow your thoughts to pass through and continue listening to your breathing.
4. Focus on the process, not the outcome
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
— Greg Anderson
You’ll do your best work if you trust your abilities and you know you’ve got this! For this reason, you should encourage yourself throughout the process and focus only on your actions, not the possible outcome.
If you worry about your results not being perfect, then you can’t fully engross yourself in your work. Consequently, your output suffers.
So, it’s better to focus on what you’re doing rather than how it’ll turn out later. Besides, when you hone your focus, you can get into the zone, and that’s an exhilarating feeling. Not to mention, time flies by, and you’re ultra-productive! So, have fun, and enjoy being in the flow!
5. Avoid multitasking
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
— Alexander Graham Bell
Multitasking isn’t productive; it’s actually a waste of time. It scatters your thoughts so that none of the activities are of high quality. But, if you work on one thing at a time, you’ll see that your output’s value skyrockets!
You might think your productivity correlates to how much time you dedicate to a task. When, in fact, your ability to concentrate consistently is how things get done.
Strive to make each thing you do to the best of your abilities. It doesn’t need to be perfect. But, if you give every task your undivided attention, everything will be better for it.
I know there are a ton of distractions out there fighting for your attention. But, somehow, you must ignore them and learn to work single-mindedly on priorities.
6. Write down distracting thoughts or tasks
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
— Paulo Coelho
Research shows it takes about 23 minutes to get back to your undertaking after a distraction. Then it takes even more effort to get back to your original level of concentration. How annoying! Whenever you get interrupted, your focus has to stop and then switch over to something else.
Have you ever noticed that random thoughts pop up to lure you into procrastinating while you’re working? Don’t take the bait! Just write them down and deal with them later.
7. Strengthen your self-discipline
“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”
— Zig Ziglar
Improving your self-discipline will go a long way to help you hone in on what’s important, especially if you don’t feel like it.
Moreover, when you give in to distractions, you diminish your ability to concentrate. Imagine all the fantastic things you could do if you’d focus on priorities! It teaches your brain that it doesn’t have to pay attention if it doesn’t want to.
8. Focus training
“Concentration can be cultivated. One can learn to exercise willpower, discipline one’s body and train one’s mind.”
— Anil Ambani
Often problems with focusing come from being too stimulated. Therefore, you can counteract this by being under-stimulated. When you usually reach for your cell phone or the remote, decline the entertainment and be where you are.
Not only will this improve your ability to focus, but it’ll strengthen your self-discipline as well!
Gradually increase the time you practice focusing rather than jumping into a 5-hour long marathon of extreme mental work.
For example, meditate for 5 minutes, then tomorrow go for 6!
Another way to train is to read a book slowly. I know it seems like pure insanity but stay with me. Reading a book carefully will improve your focus rather than skimming through it.
Also, when you’re talking with a friend, truly focus on what they’re saying. Don’t think about your response; instead, visualize everything. That’ll increase your interpersonal skills, likeability, and concentration!
Challenge your attention span every day, and it will expand! You’ll find that you’re less bored and more honed in on whatever you do.
9. Don’t forget to take breaks
Studies show that people who take breaks are more productive than those who work non-stop. That’s because we lose mental sharpness over time. Taking breaks will revitalize your brain to keep going until you’re finished.
If you can’t seem to zoom in on your task, then step away from your project for a bit. Breaks can keep you motivated to keep going. So, relax for a while until you feel refreshed, then get back to work.
Try the Pomodoro Method:
- Set a timer.
- Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break.
- Afterward, set the timer for another 25 minutes.
- When you’ve completed 4 Pomodoros, then you can take a longer (20-30 minutes) break.
In short, if you harness the power of focus, you’ll learn new things and achieve your goals with less effort. Also, you’ll be more accurate, faster, and more productive than ever before.
So, remember to practice focusing, meditate, take breaks, and avoid multitasking. Then there’s no stopping you! You’re ready to tackle your next project with the highest level of devotion.
If you make this unwavering concentration a habit, imagine what remarkable things you could do!
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What helps you to focus?