The ability to focus is crucial in many aspects of life and a key element in your life’s achievements. But, in today’s connected world, staying on task can be challenging. So building a mental focus might be a far-fetched idea. But there are ways to improve your focus.
Many areas in your life can benefit from better concentration — school, work, studying, etc. If you can improve your mental focus, you can get to your desired results much faster.
Fortunately, focusing is much like a muscle; the more you work it, the stronger it gets.
Last November, while speaking on the Smartless podcast, Sir Paul McCartney admitted to thinking about food while performing. Which causes him to sometimes forget the words for the song he is singing.
Doing one activity and thinking about something else is very common; it is often referred to as scattered focus. Watching television and trying to read a book is a prime example of divided attention.
Conversely, directing your attention to one single task while ignoring everything else is called the directed focus. This is the stage where you reach high performance.
But the question at hand is, why is it so difficult to fix your focus on the one task you are set to do?
Why do we find it hard to focus?
The moment you wake up, your mind tends to go on overdrive immediately. Before you get out of bed, you are already juggling several tasks at once — what to wear, breakfast, children, meetings at work, doctor’s appointments, etc.
Most of us have to navigate many daily tasks pulling into different directions and not enough time to complete them. For instance, just to write this article, I had several interruptions between phone, children, emails, and wife. Not to mention a million things that popped up in my mind reminding me of other tasks that need to be completed.
What could affect your Focus?
A number of facts can affect your ability to focus. For example, taking care of your body plays a significant role in the functionality of your brain. Thus, getting enough sleep, exercising, and nutrition are essential elements.
If your body is not getting on average seven hours of sleep, you might find it difficult to concentrate on a task. However, sleep is also crucial when you are performing cognitively demanding tasks.
Exercising and nutrition are also vital elements for performance. For example, foods with high carbohydrates can make you more tired and sleepy than other foods. Also, not drinking enough water can cause focus impairment.
What Can Improve Your Ability to Focus?
Improving mental focus is attainable. Concentration is a skill and can be improved. The more you do, the better you get at it. It is not always quick and easy. But, here is what you can do.
The best way to develop this skill is to set aside time daily to concentrate on just one task. It is suggested to do it in the morning when your mind still fresh from a good night’s sleep.
How about the rest of the day? What can you do to improve your focusing ability?
Start by eliminating or minimizing distractions. I know it is not as easy as it sounds. At work, it might not be feasible to stop your phone from ringing or avoid a co-worker who wants to talk. But, perhaps turning off the television or the radio is doable.
Not all distractions are from outside sources. Anxiety, worry, motivation, and other internal disturbances can be challenging to avoid. Therefore, it is crucial to identify these sources and try to minimize or eliminate them if possible.
Positive Constructive Daydreaming
Positive, constructive daydreaming is really a thing. It is different than mind-wandering daydreams or rehashing memories or other worries. When built around it, it can help to boost creativity and re-energize the brain.
To initiate the process, you need to be engaged in a low-demanding task, such as gardening or a leisure walk. Next, you will wander into your innermost mind. Imagine something wishful — strolling through a white sand beach or hiking through beautiful mountains. Then you bring your attention back to the external world.
Different studies indicate that positive, constructive daydreaming changes the way your brain finds information. Thus, this method helps to enhance your agility amid other benefits.
Limit Your Focus
The ability to focus is essential in many aspects of your life. However, the problem with excessive focus is that the focus circuit of your brain burns out quickly. It drains your energy, which can cause unwanted issues — loss of self-control, become more impulsive, etc.
Researchers have discovered that taking short breaks allows your brain to cool down your focus circuits. By doing that, you can drastically improve your concentration.
When you are doing a task that requires direct focus, take breaks often. During recess, shift your attention to something unrelated.
Building your mental focus is crucial to help you accomplish more in shorter periods. Today, with so many distractions, fixing your focus on a single task is challenging. However, you can train your brain to do so; just like any learned skill, the more you do, the better you get.