11 Jan 2018
106. HOW TO STAY FOCUSED
For all the technology at our fingertips, much of the time we’re not actually getting any more done. Why?
Because that same technology – always present, always diverting our attention – means we never focus on one thing for very long. While we are becoming more able to multi-task, stay connected and work on the go, we are losing the ability to concentrate and to prioritise.
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHY
If you have a task that you simply can’t seem to get done, keep reminding yourself why you want or need to do it. Write down your motivation for prioritising the task, whether it be a sense of personal achievement, to fulfil a professional requirement or to open the door to a new opportunity, and look at that reason whenever you find your attention starting to waver.
DON’T DOUBLE UP
Caffeine can be an effective pick-me-up and can improve alertness, but go easy; too much may make you feel wired and prone to jumping from one thing to another too quickly. Regularly drinking a lot of coffee can also lead to dependence, whereby you feel like you can’t focus without a cuppa in your hand.
Studies show that even a two per cent dehydration can reduce your ability to concentrate. Don’t rely on thirst to alert you to being dehydrated though, that’s too late, keep your fluid levels regularly topped up, ideally with still water.
Focus can be developed, like any skill, with determination and practice. Activities that encourage the brain to concentrate on just one thing at a time, such as reading or doing puzzles and mindfulness exercises, are great at improving focus skills. Try to increase the length of time that you do the activity by a little each day.
GET IN THE ZONE
Everyone is different and the kind of work environment that is effective for one person may not be great for another. Perhaps you prefer to work in silence or with background music; you may need to be completely alone or feel more relaxed surrounded by a hive of activity. Identify which situation helps you to focus best and create it whenever possible.
You’re expecting too much of yourself if you think you can focus all day long; the body isn’t designed that way, fluctuating through troughs and peaks of alertness and productivity. Monitor when you feel most focused – for most people, first thing in the morning – and try to order your work tasks accordingly.