If there’s one thing we could all probably use a lot more of, it’s the ability to focus. But telling yourself to stay focused on a task, especially a mundane one, is often a lot easier said than done. 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
1. Put a lock on social media
If your idea of a break from work is checking Facebook or Instagram every 5 minutes, you may want to consider an app that blocks social media. Several apps work for your phone, tablet, or computer.
In addition to social media, some of these distraction-busting programs also allow you to block online games, as well as apps and sites like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, text messages, and even emails. Some of the most popular social media blockers include Freedom, AppBlock, FocusMe, and Focus.
2. Make a to-do list
Let’s face it. The items on a to-do list can add up quickly. And, it can be challenging to find the motivation to accomplish everything you set out to do. Show that having a written plan of action can increase productivity. After you make your list, choose two or three key tasks and put them at the top. Then rank the rest of the items in order of importance. This allows you to tackle urgent tasks when your brain is fresh and your energy levels are high.
3. Focus on similar tasks
Tired of jumping from one type of thinking to another. Then pick similar tasks, group them, and do them one at a time. This makes transitions smoother, and you may find that you get a lot more done by not jumping from one type of task to another. Despite what you may think, multitasking is not more effective or efficient, especially when you’re struggling with staying focused.
4. 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. 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.
5. 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. 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.
6. Remind yourself of what you’re working towards.
Having a goal in mind will give you the motivation to finish your work, and you’ll be more successful at staying focused. Part of the reason we lose focus is that 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 you need 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 workday is over.