Living in a world designed to distract us makes focus a skill that can take a lifetime to master, sometimes longer.  Our brains are designed to be in a state of disorder, that is, we are supposed to notice and attend to a variety of stimuli that are all competing for our attention.   As we develop we improve our ability to direct our attention.  There are also a variety of factors that affect our ability to focus our attention, these factors include fatigue, stress, the level of challenge a task presents and what other pieces of information are competing for our attention at any given point.

Here are five tips to regain control of your attention and improve your ability to focus your attention on whatever you need:

1. To-Do Lists.

To-do lists are an age-old trick to mastering scheduling your attention.  Simply write down the tasks you need to complete from the highest priority to lowest priority tasks.  Once they are written down you can remove them from your immediate thoughts and redirect your entire focus to the first task.  Giving yourself a time limit for each task can further enhance the effectiveness of the to-do list by creating a sense of urgency and prompting you to stay focused.  Once you have completed a task you get to cross it out triggering tiny reward centres within your brain and leaving you with a sense of accomplishment and renewed vigor.

2. Exercise.

Surprisingly or not, exercise has benefits outside of your physical health and well-being.  In fact, beginning your day with a little exercise can be an excellent way to improve your focus for the day.  As little as 20 minutes of mid to high-intensity exercise can have a great impact on your overall concentration.

3. SLEEP!

It should come as no surprise that a good night’s sleep is the ultimate way that you can set yourself up for a successful day.  Our brain is biologically programmed to tend to our physiological needs first, this means that only after we have satisfied our needs for sleep, food and water are we able to focus on other tasks.  This means for most people you will need at least 7 hours of sleep to be able to fully focus.  Some people will need more sleep whilst others may be able to function on much less.

4. Hour of Power!

Establishing set time periods where you are going to focus purely on work and set times to have short breaks can be an excellent way to meet both your personal needs and work requirements.  This becomes an even more powerful method of promoting focus if everyone around you agrees to work on a similar schedule so as that you are all concentrating at once, communicating at once or having a break at once.

5. Disconnect.

If you can minimise any distractions from the outside world, such as notifications from social media, emails outside of work and make it more difficult for yourself to access things that you know distract you.  This can be achieved by either logging out of these accounts on the device you perform most of your work or by utilising the do not disturb function available on most smart phones.  If you own an iPhone you are able to set up the do not disturb function so that calls from certain people (work colleges) still come through whilst other distractions are disabled.

Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash