We live in a distracted world. A distracting world. With all of the apps, notifications, tweets and snaps vying for our attention, it’s easy for the mind to flit from one disruption to another. How do we silence the noise and find focus when we need it most?
Many experts have written wide-ranging articles and books on this topic, and this list is a general consensus of what works best for getting focused:
1. Turn down the digital.
It’s safe to say that the number one culprit for stealing our focus is the 4-inch screen we carry with us everywhere we go. Being lured away from a project by a notification on your phone can cause you to lose between 60 seconds to 20 minutes of productivity. If (and when) this happens every time your phone buzzes, you could lose hours of precious time. When you’re ready to start a project, turn off your phone’s notifications or place the phone in another room entirely.
2. Declutter your space.
Most people recognize the need for digital decluttering, but tidying your physical space can have a tremendous impact on focus as well. “Physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, which results in decreased performance and increased anxiety and stress levels,” says Jim Kwik, author of Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life. It’s worth it to spend some time sorting through paperwork, boxing up items to donate, and clearing unessential items out of the way. “Just limit the number of things that share residence with the place where you need to be the most productive,” Kwik says.
Set an intention to focus on one task at a time. But ease into it. In the book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again, professor and cognitive neuroscientist Earl Keith Miller tells author Johann Hari, “Try monotasking for 10 minutes, then allow yourself to be distracted for a minute, then monotask for another 10 minutes, and so on.” Monotasking is a muscle that must be developed, so don’t expect to be perfect at it right away.
4. Eat brain-boosting foods.
Consuming foods with high fat and sugar can cause blood sugar to spike, leading to a subsequent crash and burn of energy. Instead, opt for whole foods like green, leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, fatty fish, and plenty of water.
5. Find a focus-friendly playlist.
Music is a master motivator. It has a magical ability to put you in the right head space for any task you want to accomplish. But selecting the right music for the task is key. Songs that are too mellow could make you sleepy, but amped-up tunes could be distracting. Find a mixture of the two—calm but driving. Typically, instrumental music is best for projects that require a lot of brain power, as music with words could conflict with the inner monologue necessary for such a task.
Our attention has a lot to compete with in today’s world, yes, but with the right intention and the above practices, we can get focused and come to a state of optimum productivity.
February 26, 2022