3 Proven Methods to Stay Focused
How to power up your productivity by maximizing focus.
Raise your hand if you want to maximize your focus and attention throughout the day?
The truth is, we all want to stay focused, pay attention to our projects, and be on top of our tasks. We fill our schedule with things we’re supposed to complete each day. Afterward, we tell ourselves how we’ll go about doing them. If all goes well and we’re focused, we can check them all off our to-do list.
But, sometimes, our attention drifts away, and we don’t follow through with what we had set out to do. We’ve all been there and done that.
Did you know that being distracted doesn’t only hurt your progress — it also takes 50% away from your life.
How? Let me explain.
Relationship Between Attention and Mental Health
Poor attention can have detrimental consequences on your mental health. When you think about it, if you’re constantly being distracted and your mind is wandering to many different places, you’re not getting the work done. As a result, your work performance may be staggering, and you may become moody. Poor work performance equals poor mental health.
So what’s the solution to staying focused? Anyone can learn how to be more focused and attentive. It all starts with mindfulness.
On the Mindbodygreen podcast, neuroscientist Amishi Jha, Ph.D. author of Peak Mind, shares her tips for staying focused.
Engage in Mindfulness Exercises
Jha recommends enhancing your attention through mindfulness exercises. For this, she is using a “flashlight practice” analogy. Just as you would point a flashlight toward a spot to direct your attention to something, you can use your thoughts in the same way.
“We’re going to think of our attention like a flashlight — we’re going to direct it willfully toward something,” she says, “just like you might point a flashlight toward a spot in the dark to gather more information.”
You can choose anything to pay attention to — your breath, the air that touches your nostrils, or how a particular body part feels to you. Point the flashlight or your attention where you want to focus on — for example, you can examine how your chest is moving up and down as you breathe. Make a conscious effort to observe for a few minutes. If your mind is wandering away, redirect your attention back to the sensation.
Jha says, “The moment you have that realization of, ‘Oh, my mind was wandering,’ just gently bring it right back and begin again. And that is a very basic mindfulness pushup.”
Whatever tasks you’re working on, avoid multitasking. Multitasking is not only detrimental to your productivity, but it also makes you less efficient at performing at your best. As Jha says, “We do not multitask. We don’t have five flashlights — we have one flashlight.”
Your brain is wired in such a way that it can only pay attention to each task at hand. That said, when you switch to multitasking, you’re task switching, because there is no way you can do two tasks simultaneously and do each of them well. The only exception to this rule is when we engage in two seemingly easy tasks that don’t require a lot of attention, such as walking and talking at the same time. But tasks that require your full attention cannot be completed at once.
So whatever you’re doing, make sure you tackle each task one at a time. Never start on another project until you’ve finished the one you were working on before.
Let Your Mind Roam
When you’ve just spent a significant amount of time focusing on a particular task, you want to push on the reset button and let your brain recharge. And mind roaming is a great way to do that. While letting your mind roam may sound counterintuitive, it may help you regain your focus. It’s like daydreaming. As Jha says, “Try to build in white space where you let the mind roam free.” Mind roaming boosts your mood and helps you stay in a positive mood.
Daydreaming can do wonders for your mind. Doing it during the day will feel like refilling your energy with nutrients after a strenuous workout.
How to do that: Set aside time during the day and let your mind roam. A self-roaming session could be in the form of taking a walk outside or simply staring out the window. But while you do that, don’t look at your phone or turn on a playlist. The reason is you want your thoughts to freely flow in and out of your mind, and you don’t want to interfere with this process.
This technique is especially useful after you’ve just sustained a prolonged focus on a particular task. Go ahead and give your mind a break and your brain will thank you for it.
Maintaining focus is the key to staying productive. The more focused you are, the more tasks you can accomplish. Focus is also important for sustaining mental health. But just as any facet of life, staying focused requires time and discipline. If you’re committed to the process, with the right strategies, you can, with time, increase your focus and attention naturally.
CONTRIBUTED BY Kristina Segarra
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