Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash
How many of you often wish that you can remove all the distractions whenever you need to do something? In this fast-paced generation, focus is becoming more and more crucial towards our careers and success.
Do you know how many times you looked at your phone while doing something? How about browsing the net or your social media accounts only to find out that it is already 2am in the morning? Technology has been one of the culprit why our attention span starts to degrade.
Collegeinfogeek has a good take on this how our brain adapts to changes similar to how we adapt with the social media and technology;
Every time you check Twitter or Instagram, there are new mentions, comments, and photos waiting for you. Every time you look at the sidebar on YouTube or on most blogs, there are interesting headlines that make your eyes light up.
The result is that the internet encourages the return of our natural, “bottom-up” style of attentional control. There’s always something new happening, somewhere else to shift your focus. And, just as with the cab drivers, your brain has to give something up
The bottom-up style mentioned in Colleginfogeek pertains to which our senses are finely tuned to pick up changes in our environment, and our attention naturally drifts to those changes.
The London Cab Driver Experiment
Another experiment on London cab drivers found that, compared to a control group, the area of the drivers’ brains called the posterior hippocampus was much larger than normal. As you might expect, this is a part of the brain that plays a huge part in helping us understand our physical surroundings.
With this, it’s no big surprise that a cab driver’s brain will adapt to the task of navigating a complex web of city streets when that’s what they spend all day doing. But other technologies have far subtler — and further reaching — effects.
This research shows how our brain adapts to the task that we are doing on a consistent basis. Such actions that are done consistently shapes our brain, this also similar about our focus and attention span.
THINGS THAN CAN AFFECT YOUR FOCUS
Working on a report while answering emails and listening to a conference call might seem like a timesaver. But juggling too much at once can have a backfire. Our brains are wired to handle one thing at a time. Research shows constantly switching gears makes you less efficient and more likely to make mistakes.
We might feel like we are doing much but actually it is not really helping us complete something. It was also worth-noting that we can only multi task for a certain task when we have already hard-wired our body in doing it. Best example is driving while listening to music or ebooks or chatting with someone while driving.
You are doing both things but imagine if you are a new driver, it would be difficult for you to focus if someone is asking you something and you are just learning how to drive. That will for sure affect your focus.
We often understate how crucial sleep is especially when it comes to our productivity. This significantly affects your focus and attention. Scientists measuring sleepiness have found that sleep deprivation leads to lower alertness and concentration. It’s more difficult to focus and pay attention, so you’re more easily confused. This hampers your ability to perform tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought.
Sleepiness also impairs judgment. Making decisions is more difficult because you can’t assess situations as well and pick the right behavior.
Stress is inevitable but it can have dire consequences on focus and concentration if it becomes chronic. Ongoing stress churns up deep internal distress that short-circuits important cognitive functions. But emotional stress can be just as bad.
Job worries, relationship issues and health concerns can make it hard to concentrate, though lots of people don’t notice this happening until they become totally overwhelmed. When you become mentally exhausted, you eventually will have difficulties with concentration and attention.
If you have to reread things a lot because you can’t focus, your work may not get done, and of course, that alone causes even more stress. We have to understand that having a short break relieves and reduces the stress, this allows us to reframe minds and improve our focus and attention.
4. Your environment
Is it too loud or too quiet when you’re trying to concentrate? Is your environment filled with distractions like ringing phones, humming light fixtures, rattling heater vents, or visual disruptions? Maybe it’s too hot — or too cold. How about your comfort level (chair, desk height, lighting)? Are people always interrupting you? All of these elements can affect focus.
This is also what I consider one of the culprit why we often can’t focus. Your environment is not primed for you to focus, with all the distractions that shares from your attentions is giving more time and difficulty to focus.
This is also the same reason why your environment is crucial for your development and habit building.
WAYS TO STAYS FOCUS AND IMPROVES CONCENTRATION
1. Make space and minimize distraction
As mentioned earlier, your environment can significantly impact your attention focus. Whenever you need to do something, you have to set your environment in a way that forces you to focus.
This includes, putting your phone at drawers (in silent mode), closing all social media website (if in any case you are using laptop), you can even close the wifi if not needed, going to a place or area of your house that no one will bother you or letting others know that you cannot be disturbed for the next hours.
Instead of your environment hindering you to focus, this allows your environment to be a good place to get things done and increase your focus.
It may sound that multi-tasking works, it has been proven by different research and studies that doing things at the same time sacrifices your attention and focus to all those tasks.
Switching cost is the disruption in performance that we experience when we switch our focus from one area to another. One study, published in the International Journal of Information Management in 2003, found that the typical person checks email once every five minutes and that, on average, it takes 64 seconds to resume the previous task after checking your email.
Whenever you are tempted to do one thing while working on something, try scheduling it to your calendar or set a specific time for that. This allows you to be more focus on the things that you are doing at the moment rather than jumping from one tasks over the other.
3. Manage your energy, not your time.
This is best described by James Clear;
If a task requires your full attention, then schedule it for a time of day when you have the energy needed to focus. For example, I have noticed that my creative energy is highest in the morning. That’s when I’m fresh. That’s when I do my best writing. That’s when I make the best strategic decisions about my business. So, what do I do? I schedule creative tasks for the morning. All other business tasks are taken care of in the afternoon. This includes doing interviews, responding to emails, phone calls and Skype chats, data analysis and number crunching.
I agree with James Clear that nearly every productivity strategy obsesses over managing your time better, but time is useless if you don’t have the energy you need to complete the task you are working on. This is what we usually referred as “working smart”, you have to be self-aware and understand which part of the day you have more energy to complete difficult task.
4. Read more books to improve focus
One of the habits that you can do that can significantly improve your focus and at the same time you can learn a lot is through reading. Whenever you are reading something, you are just focus on what you are reading, often time your mind tries to visualize the concepts, graphicals, illustrations, and ideas from what you are reading.
You are being primed to focus whenever you are reading something.
I always believe that concentration and focus is a skill that we have to hone. This requires some practice. We have to be intentional if you wanted to have better focus.
It doesn’t come in just overnight that you suddenly can focus better than yesterday, this is a habit that each of us can only reap its benefit if we consistently do it.
Share with us if you have other ways of staying focus…
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