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Want to know the secret on how to stay focused for longer periods of time? Are you looking for effective ways to improve your focus?
In a world where distraction is becoming more and more of a profound problem, it’s really hard to focus on doing, let alone completing, certain tasks.
If you’re struggling with staying focused, then you should try one or more of these tips.
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1. Have a designated workspace.
Find or create a study/workspace where you can feel productive and not be distracted and interrupted by others. You should also have different places for work and relaxation.
If you’re working/studying from home, the best thing you can do is to have your workspace in a different room, outside of your bedroom. But, if you live at home with other people (like I do), that may of course be difficult.
So you’ll have to set some boundaries with the people you live with. For example, make it crystal clear that during your working/studying hours you don’t want to be interrupted unless it’s something important.
2. Keep The Essentials On Your Desk.
Now that you have a designated workspace, let’s try and keep it as clean and minimalistic as possible.
Keep your desk clean and tidy, and remove anything that might distract you. Always keep the essentials on your desk (and a bottle of water) to reduce the chances of having to interrupt what you’re doing, and don’t clutter it with notes from 2 years back or empty water bottles.
“A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind.”
I’ve found that keeping only a minimum of items on my desk at all times really helps me stay focused on what I have to do, instead of everything that’s around me.
3. Write down goals and steps for each task.
Having a specific goal for what you wanna reach as well as having a step-by-step plan for how you’re going to achieve it, really helps you focus.
Let’s say that my goal is to write a blog post, so an example of step-by-step guide would be:
- Setting aside some time to research the topic.
- Writing in a notebook the key points and any ideas that are popping in my head.
- Picking the best, relatable images for the topic.
- Coming up with a headline, I usually try and write 3-5 headlines and choose the best one.
- Proofread the article and hit “Publish”.
I write the goal and the steps on a sticky note and put it where I can see it, and wherever I finish with a task, I cross it from the list.
4. Limit ALL distractions (including notifications).
We’ve briefly talked about it on the first tips with setting boundaries, but you don’t even realize how much content you’re getting bombarded with. This includes text messages, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube notifications, calls, and the list goes on and on.
“Stop letting other people spend your time for you”
The amount of time I spent on social media watching other people enjoying their lives is quite embarrassing.
Do your mind (and yourself) a favor and either put it on Do Not Disturb Mode, have it in silence, and if you don’t need your phone for the work you have to do, consider moving it somewhere where you can’t see it.
I don’t have my phone on my desk when I’m working, even though I’ve disabled all the notifications on my phone because I found myself picking it up without even realizing it.
5. create a productivity playlist.
Make a playlist that you only listen to while working. This way, your brain will start associating that playlist with being productive, so in the future when you put it on, it’s easier to enter a productive mindset (flow state).
If you’re like me and you’re getting distracted by the lyrics of a song, I highly suggest having background noise or instrumental music that helps you block out distractions from the environment. Some examples are rain sounds, binaural beats, lo-fi beats, or just search study/work music on Spotify and YouTube.
6. Use the Pomodoro Technique.
Maybe you’ve experienced this in your life: You finally are able to sit down and start to write an essay or read a book, or whatever.
You’re at it for 5 minutes and then, that sensation hits you where you really want to quit, as it’s becoming super boring and you’re starting to lose focus.
So you quit and do something else.
But that’s happening because you didn’t stick to it. If you sick to an activity past the 20-25 minute mark, then you’ll enter the “flow” state, in which, doing that activity is way easier.
It’s like working on autopilot and nothing else in the world matters.
That’s why the Pomodoro technique works, at least for me. The Pomodoro technique is a time-blocking technique that can really help you become more productive, enter the “flow state” and as a result, stay more focused.
In its purest form, you’re working and focusing super-hard on a task for 25 minutes, and then you take a 5-minute break.
To learn more about time management and how to never waste your time again, you can check this article.
7. Take actual breaks.
Don’t skip on breaks. They can be really beneficial for you and can actually boost your productivity, if you use them correctly.
The correct way is to take breaks to let your brain unstimulate and rejuvenate. Long story short, you want to move away from your computer screen and your chair. Maybe have a glass of water. If you can, try at least once a day to go for a brief walk. It can do wonders for your brain.
Don’t scroll through Instagram and Facebook, as it is not considered a break for the brain.
If you want to learn he science behind taking breaks, I suggest reading this article from Social Triggers.
8. Practice Mindfulness.
If you are a human and you’re reading this, you’ve most probably experienced a time in your day when your mind just starts to wander away from what you’re actually doing.
Maybe, even right now your mind has drifted and is thinking other stuff. That’s totally normal, we can fix this.
Your mind, just like any other muscle in your body, needs to be worked on. By practicing mindfulness, you’re essentially training your brain to bring back the focus where you need it to be, when you are starting to drift away.
Personally, mindfulness has helped me both my productivity, but also my listening skills. Whenever I’m out with somebody, I can pay full attention o what they’re saying, instead of getting lost in my own train of thought.
9. Use caffeine in a smarter way.
If you’re pouring up cups of coffee one after another, without being methodical about it, I have some news for you that might shock you a little.
My first tip on using caffeine in a smarter way is not having too much of it. If you’re exceeding 300mg/day, you might want to tone it down a little bit because I’ve found that you’re too reliant on it.
When you develop an intense chemical dependence on caffeine, you find it extra difficult to wake up in the morning, you experience extreme energy crashes and mood swings and, research shows that it can make your heartbeat go faster, and cause you stress and anxiety in some cases.
The second tip is to space out your caffeine throughout the day. If you’re having it all at once, you’re gonna experience a huge energy crash after the effects of caffeine wash off, making it harder to focus.
Also, don’t have coffee on an empty stomach to prevent those crashes, as Caffeine Informer suggests, a website dedicated to coffee information.
10. Get enough rest.
This might sound obvious or cliche, but sleep deprivation is associated with smaller attention spans, lower alertness, and concentration.
This means that if you don’t let your body have the 6-8 hours of quality sleep it needs to operate, it’ll be harder to stay focused for a long period of time.
11. Don’t Multitask, Use Task Batching.
Keep your pride (and your ego) low when it comes to multitasking. Multitasking is very energy-demanding to your brain, as it can’t focus on many things at the exact same time. If your goal is to stay focused and desirably for longer periods of time, then you should consider task batching.
Basically, task batching is where you group a list of similar tasks together to complete during a dedicated time period with no interruptions. This cuts down on the time it takes for your brain to switch and refocus between different tasks.
Different tasks require different amounts of energy. If you know you have to make calls and send/answer emails, instead of doing it throughout the day (aka multitasking), you should set aside 1 hour dedicated to these tasks. This way, your mind is focused on one thing and one thing only.