8 Ways To Improve Your Focus
The average human has an eight-second attention span–less than that of a goldfish, according to a 2015 study from Microsoft. That number has shrunk over the years due to our digital connectedness and the fact that the brain is always seeking out what’s new and what’s next.
“No matter what environment humans are in, survival depends on being able to focus on what’s important–generally what’s moving. That skill hasn’t changed, it’s just moved online,” writes Alyson Gausby, consumer insights lead for Microsoft Canada.
So what do you do when you need to focus on work–and not what’s moving around you? For most people, the first and most important step to increasing focus is to change the way you view it.
With a combination of mindset and tools, it’s possible to set up an environment that fosters focus. Here are eight tricks and tips for eliminating distractions and paying attention to what you need to do:
1. PREPARE YOUR BRAIN
Before a task, calm your brain, take a minute or two to sit in a comfortable position and breathe deeply into your stomach. You don’t have to meditate, just let your body calm down before you approach your work.
2. UNDERSTAND WHERE YOUR FOCUS NEEDS TO BE
Focus also involves an understanding of what is worthy of your distraction. Once you understand where your focus should be, you can work on how to better focus.
3. UNPLUG FOR 30 MINUTES
If you need to focus, log out of email and social media. You will be surprised at how much you can focus when you aren’t interrupted by getting or returning emails or getting social media notifications.
4. GRAB SOME COFFEE
That morning coffee (or tea) doesn’t just help you wake up; it helps you focus on the day. If you need an attention booster in the afternoon, a coffeeshop run might do the trick. In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, French physiologist Astrid Nehlig identifies a connection between caffeine and cognition. While caffeine doesn’t improve learning or memory performance, Nehlig found it does increase physiological arousal, which makes you less apt to be distracted and better able to pay attention during a demanding task.
5. CHECK THE THERMOSTAT
If it’s too hot or too cool in your work environment, it could impact your focus. A study from Cornell University found that workers are most productive and make fewer errors in an environment that is somewhere between 68 and 77 degrees. Another study from the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland says the magic temperature is 71 degrees. If you don’t control the thermostat, you can opt to bring a sweater or a fan.
6. TURN ON SOME MUSIC
Too much background noise can be very distracting, but having music playing helps you focus on your own thoughts.
Whether it’s Beethoven, the Beatles, or the Beastie Boys, turn it up and get to work.
7. TAKE SHORT BREAKS
Instead of succumbing to distraction, build it into your tasks. Take brief mental breaks, let your mind wander for a few minutes, get up and walk around, check your phone, but keep it brief before getting back to your focus task. This is especially true when what you’re working on is long or involved. Taking a break can “rest” your brain and help you focus better. Just be careful not to start a new task.
If you’re sitting in on a long meeting or conference, improve your focus–and your artistic skills–by doodling. According to a study from the University of Plymouth in England, doodling aids in cognitive performance and recollection.
“Doodling simply helps to stabilize arousal at an optimal level, keeping people awake or reducing the high levels of autonomic arousal often associated with boredom,” writes lead researcher Jackie Andrade.
There are also supplements that can help your focus. Containing natural, clinically studied ingredients, PURGO HEALTH’S FOCUS ENHANCER XL is a total performance and lifestyle enhancer for people of all ages.
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