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The Essence of Perfect Focus
Distractions—life is full of them. Every day, we’re inundated with a plethora of obstacles that disrupt our focus. Some are easier to avoid than others, but with the right strategies, you can create the conditions you need to stay on track.
If your inability to focus is having a detrimental effect on your productivity, then you might need to consider making some adjustments to your working habits. There are a myriad of factors that affect your ability to focus, whether personal, environmental, or situational.
In this article, we aim to get you started on making the necessary changes to optimize your workday and attain perfect focus.
Identify Your Triggers
Different sources of distraction affect people in different ways. We all have that one co-worker or friend who is seemingly able to zone in on their work, regardless of the noise and chaos around them, while others need peace and quiet to stay on task.
It is important to understand what conditions foster a focused state of mind for you and which factors are most disruptive. Once you have a handle on this, you can begin to take steps to engineer a better working environment for yourself.
Manage Disruptive Technology
We are surrounded at all times by technology vying for our attention. Social media notifications, instant messaging apps, emails, and unsolicited advertising all take up a significant portion of our time.
Fortunately, there are strategies and tools we can use to minimize these distractions.
First, keep your phone out of your line of sight while you’re working. The temptation to browse social media or check your messages is always stronger when your phone is immediately visible. Try keeping it in a desk drawer or even in a different room until you’ve reached your target.
Second, look into apps for your phone or PC that restrict your activity and manage notifications. These apps aim at improving your focus levels by blocking access to distracting websites and silencing trivial notifications from other apps.
Look After Your Body
The importance of factors such as sleep, diet, and exercise are impossible to overstress. You cannot expect your brain to perform optimally if your body is being starved of the resources it needs to fuel your cognitive processes. Memory, attentiveness, and motivation are all dependent on getting enough rest, exercise, and nutrients every day.
While demanding schedules might make it challenging to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night while still finding time to exercise and make healthy meals, you need to make these things priorities. Remember that compromising too much on your wellbeing will inevitably lead to crashes that are difficult to recover from.
Take Regular Breaks
Marathon study sessions and 13-hour workdays might sound like the best way to maximize productivity, but the human brain has its limitations. The average person can focus for roughly 90-120 minutes before concentration becomes significantly more difficult. After a 2-hour period of concentration, you need at least 20 minutes of downtime before your brain can effectively reengage with your work.
Try to use your downtime to get your blood flowing. Mounting evidence suggests that prolonged periods of idleness are just as dangerous for your health and productivity as smoking or obesity. Taking a short, brisk walk will activate your muscles and release hormones that are essential for concentration—dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Manage Background Noise
Noises from your immediate environment can play a key role in your ability to focus. This is quite subjective, as some people can drown out background noise without aid. However, most people struggle to concentrate when their senses are assaulted by ruckuses like workplace chatter, ringing phones, or construction noises.
The best way to deal with background noise is to find a quiet environment to work in, although this isn’t always a possibility. Studies have shown that playing soothing music in the background may help improve concentration, although this is heavily subjective. If you find music more distracting than helpful, try using natural soundscapes or noise-canceling headphones to give you the peace and quiet you need.
It’s not always possible to get all the micronutrients we need from our diets. Unless you’re following a rigidly structured nutritional schedule, your vitamin and mineral levels are bound to fluctuate now and then. This can lead to frustrating and unexplained dips in your concentration.
Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, zinc, magnesium, and choline are commonly underrepresented in our daily calorie intake. Taking supplements regularly can help you meet the recommended daily intake of these and other essential nutrients.
It is important to check with your doctor before introducing any supplement to your system. Schedule an appointment with your GP to ascertain which supplements would benefit you and which ones you should avoid. This is especially important for people who have allergies or comorbidities.
Play Brain Games
Hard work and discipline are not the only ways to bolster your focus.
Brain-stimulating games can improve your attentiveness, memory, and problem-solving abilities. Instead of scrolling through social media, try developing a taste for word games, number games, and/or strategy games. Not only are they fun and rewarding, but they also improve cognitive function and provide an alternative to unfulfilling and unhealthy habits.
Chess is a great place to start. There are millions of players of varying skill levels all over the world, and plenty of free online platforms to try. If you enjoy it, get your own chess set and invite friends over for tournaments.
If you’ve got a good brain for maths and problem solving, try sudoku. This popular pen and paper game took the world by storm in the late 20th century. Sudoku puzzles are freely available online or purchasable from most book or stationery stores.
If you’re more of a linguist than a mathematician or strategist, then word searches, crosswords, and riddles are ideal ways to train your brain.
Playing brain games once per day for a minimum of 15 minutes has shown promising results in the improvement of cognitive function.
Learning how to focus is a skill that takes time, patience, and practice. Different methods work for different people, and it’s worth persevering to see what suits you.
Attaining perfect focus boosts productivity, makes tackling tricky tasks easier, and results in enhanced business and personal successes.
About the Author
Lina Becker started her career in education as a remedial teacher. In 2012 she became a freelance editor, working with various media outlets, covering topics ranging from education to productivity.
Lina is fascinated by people using their energy to grow into better versions of themselves and use their untapped potential.