The ability to focus your attention on your work, your goals and your life determines both your happiness and success levels. We have all experienced that almost spiritual event where time and space are suspended and we are steadily and wholeheartedly in the flow.
Unfortunately this doesn’t happen too often and many people struggle to focus daily. We blame it on our devices and our busy lives but the truth is human beings have a tendency to seek out distraction. We bore easily and regularly look for things to entertain and amuse us. Even back in the days before mobile phones Churchill recognised our tendencies to look for distraction.
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Winston Churchill
But fear not, today I am going to share with you strategies to help you get clarity on what you need to focus on and give you methods to take control of the distractions.
In essence we all need to train our brains to attention.
1. Meditation & Mindfulness
Meditation and Mindfulness are great ways to help your brain to stand to attention, problem is so many people are so wound up with constant distraction they find it very difficult to be mindful and next to impossible to meditate. If you feel the need to try, you can check out the Headspace App. This app will introduce you to mediation and mindfulness in a painfree way. Easy to follow guided sessions to help you get started and ten days free subscription so that you know what you are getting yourself into.
2. Focus at will
One of the single best things I ever did for my productivity was subscribe to Focus at will.
Focus at will is a service which gives you access to music scientifically optimized to increase your focus. It was developed in association with nueroscientists. Their research into how music effects brain electrical activity and brain function showed an 11-12% positive increase in focus biomarker in the brain and up to 400% extended session time.
Last year I wrote a 90,000 word book Productivity for Dummies in just over six months while studying a Masters in Business. This task which on the outset seemed like a mammoth task was easily completed when I started to use the Pomodoro technique and Focus at Will combined.
3. Avoid Multitasking
While the creative brain may like to task switch, receiving its distraction fix from looking at a new issue, it doesn’t usually help productivity and performance. Focusing on the one task for scheduled amounts of time will help you to complete or at least make considerable progress on something before you jump to the next branch. Multitasking is a myth!
4. Disconnection Habits
Scary as it may sound if you can create the habit of disconnecting from the internet and your phone daily you will be giving your brain a gift. Time for peace, time to be still, time to focus on the important things. If we allow ourselves to be consistently interrupted, essentially this means we are never truly focused and we will never be able to the capacity of our brains. Creativity will suffer and so will productivity. Evolution has hardwired us to break focus any time we experience bright lights or loud noises. When our focus is broken it can take up to 25 mins to regain this focus. Not good. Do your best to minimise these distractions and turn off your phone and remove the obvious distractions. If you need more help taking control of your gadget addiction you may want to consider a weekend away. Unplug.ie offer weekend retreats helping you to manage your technology and disconnect for a little while.
Hang on a moment, just now I told you that when your focus is disturbed it can take you up to 25 mins to regain that focus, so will taking breaks not do the same? Apparently not, natural breaks should be taken when you know your focus has waned, when you feel distracted. Let’s face it we all know when it is not working, yet we force ourselves to stay seated and will the concentration to come from some Godly source. Rather than getting your hopes dashed, get up walk around, drink some water, stretch and sit back down to work. Regular breaks can help you to stay focused. Planned breaks work even better. If you plan your breaks to coincide with your natural focus span, which is apparently somewhere around 20 minutes you will ensure you stay at peak performance most of the day. The Pomodoro technique promotes taking breaks of 5 minutes every 25 minutes. It works.
No more excuses, adopt some of these habits and get it done!
Photo credit: Mediation by Mitchell Joyce via flickr