If you need help staying focused, try one — or all 10 — of these tips.
Get rid if distractions
First things first: You need to eliminate distractions. While you can’t do away with everything, you can make an effort to reduce or get rid of as many distractions as possible. Start with the simple things like:
- moving to a quiet area
- turning off notifications on your phone or turning your phone off altogether
- closing the door to your office
- telling those around you not to distract you for a period of time
- closing out of programs or apps that aren’t essential on your computer
- playing calming ambient music or white noise
- declutter the space where you will be working
Coffee in small amounts
Drinking coffee, or other caffeinated beverages, in small doses may positively impact your ability to focus. The key to taking advantage of caffeine’s cognitive-enhancing properties is to consume it in moderation. If you drink too much you may feel anxious or nervous, which generally reduces your ability to stay focused.
Practice Pomodoro Technique
Staying focused helps you get more done in less time. While that sounds simple enough, it’s not always easy to put into practice. So, the next time you’re wrestling with your attention span, try the Pomodoro Technique. This timing method helps you train your brain to stay on task for short periods. Here’s how it works:
- Set your timer for 25 minutes and get to work.
- When the buzzer sounds, take a 5-minute break.
- Then, set the timer again and get back to work.
- Once you’ve done four rounds of this, you can take a longer break, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
Limit Social Media
If your idea of a break from work is checking Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok 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 email. Some popular social media blockers include Freedom, AppBlock, FocusMe and Focus.
We all know what happens when “hanger” strikes. So, to keep your brain focused, energy levels up, and emotions calm, make sure you don’t delay or skip meals. Snack on fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, or seeds if you get hungry between meals, and be sure to keep yourself hydrated with plenty of water. Best “brain foods” include:
- green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli
- fatty fish such as salmon
- berries, like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries
- tea and coffee for the caffeine, in moderation
It’s no secret that the majority of Australians are lacking in the sleep department. While a few nights of minimal sleep is okay, not getting enough sleep most nights of the week can negatively on memory as well as your ability to concentrate. To boost your sleep health, try to:
- Avoid caffeinated beverages after lunchtime.
- Switch off or put away all electronic devices an hour before bedtime. The light from these devices can stimulate your brain and prevent you from feeling sleepy. Some devices may allow you to switch them to “warm” light.
- Take time to wind down. Read a book, take a warm bath, or listen to soothing music.
- Keep your bedroom cool and quiet. An ideal temperature is between 18.3 and 20°C.
- Keep your bedroom dark or use a sleeping mask. Block out light, especially white and blue light, from your bedroom with room-darkening curtains or shades if you can. Otherwise, consider using a sleeping mask.
Set SMART Goals
If your lack of focus results from feeling overwhelmed by a complex project, try breaking it down into smaller parts and plugging the smaller steps into the SMART formula.
SMART stands for:
- Specific. What exactly needs to be done?
- Measurable. How will you track your progress?
- Achievable. Is it realistic? Can it be done by the deadline?
- Relevant. How does it fit with the overall plan or bigger goal?
- Timely. When does it need to be done?
When you take a large, complex project and break it down into smaller, bite-sized tasks, you can improve your ability to concentrate and focus on specific tasks. That’s because you end up with goals you feel like you can accomplish.
Being mindful means maintaining moment-to-moment awareness of where you are and what you’re doing — which is great news when trying to stay focused. By being mindful and recognizing when your attention starts to drift, you can quickly bring your focus back to where it needs to be. Plus, you can train your brain to be more mindful by practicing breathing techniques, meditation, and mindful movement, such as yoga.
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.
Focus on similar tasks
Pick similar tasks, group them together, and do one at a time. This makes transitions smoother, and you may get a lot more done by not jumping from one type of task to another. Multitasking is not more effective or efficient, especially when you’re having trouble staying focused. The human brain’s structure is not capable of multitasking and works much better while focusing on a single task at a time. Working on multiple tasks simultaneously comes with a cost — whether a reduction in performance accuracy or speed.