Staying on task can be difficult, especially with constant distraction.
In today’s always-connected world, diversions are nothing more than a click away. Even during quiet moments, distraction is literally at your fingertips, as you find yourself checking your Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn, etc.
The ability to concentrate is critical for learning new things, achieving goals, and performing well.
Whether you are trying to finish a report at work, or competing in a marathon, your ability to focus can mean the difference between success and failure.
Here are some tips and tricks from the science of psychology that can help you develop laser-like mental focus.
1. Assess Your Mental Focus
Your Focus is GOOD if:
- You find it easy to stay alert;
- You set goals and break tasks up into smaller parts;
- You take short breaks, then get back to work.
Your Focus NEED WORK if:
- You daydream regularly;
- You can’t tune out distractions;
- You lose track of your progress.
Practicing 1 good habit at a time and being mindful of your distractibility will help.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions come in the form of a radio blaring in the background or perhaps a co-worker, significant other, child, friend, or housemate who constantly contact you to chat.
One way to deal with this is to set aside a specific time and place and request to be left alone for a period of time.
Another alternative is to seek out a calm location where you know you will be able to work undisturbed: library, private room in your house, quiet coffee shop, park, beach, etc.
Not all distractions come from outside sources. Exhaustion, worry, anxiety, poor motivation, are internal disturbances.
So make sure you are well-rested prior to the task and to use positive thoughts and imagery. If you find your mind wandering toward distracting thoughts, consciously bring your focus back to the task at hand.
3. Focus on One Thing at a Time
Think of your attention as a spotlight. If you shine that spotlight on one particular area, you can see things very clearly.
If you were to try to spread that same amount of light across a large dark room, you might instead only glimpse the shadowy outlines.
4. Live in the Moment
It’s tough to stay mentally focused when you are ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, or tuned out of the present moment for some other reason.
You have probably heard people talk about the importance of “being present”.
It’s all about putting away distractions, whether they are physical (your mobile phone) or psychological (your anxieties) and being fully mentally engaged in the current moment.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a hot topic right now, and for good reason.
Practicing mindfulness involves learning how to meditate and simply quick and easy deep breathing.
Quick Tip to Regain Focus:
take several deep breaths while focusing on each and every breath.
When you feel your mind naturally begin to wander, gently and uncritically guide your focus back to your deep breathing.
You can do it anywhere and anytime.
Eventually, you will find that it becomes easier to disengage from intrusive thoughts and return your focus to where it belongs.
6. Take a Short Break
The next time you are working on a prolonged task, such as preparing your taxes or studying for an exam, be sure to give yourself an occasional mental break. Shift your attention to something unrelated to the task at hand, even if it is only for a few moments.
These short moments of respite might mean that you are able to keep your mental focus sharp and your performance high when you really need it.
7. Practice Strengthening Your Focus
The 1st step is to recognize the impact that being distracted is having on your life.
If you are struggling to accomplish your goals and find yourself getting sidetracked by unimportant details, it is time to start placing a higher value on your time.
By building your mental focus, you will find that you are able to accomplish more and concentrate on the things in life that truly bring you success, joy, and satisfaction.