If you aren’t focused on what you’re doing, then you stand zero chance of being successful.
“Focus can only occur when we have said yes to one option and no to all other options,” says James Clear, a writer who focuses on self improvement. “In other words, elimination is a prerequisite for focus.”
A number of independent factors can affect your ability to concentrate at any given moment. As an article by NetPicks points out, things like self-belief, diet, exercise, meditation, concentration, emotional balance, level of distraction, preparation, strategy, and goals can all come into play.
Here are a few specific things that can be done to increase focus:
1. Block the ringing and dinging
Ring . . . ding . . . you’ve got mail. Between phone calls, text messages, mobile apps, and emails, constant exposure to different notifications can disrupt your flow and prevent you from truly concentrating on the tasks at hand.
There are certainly times when you need to be notified, but there are also plenty of times when it’s appropriate and necessary to silence everything and focus on a specific task. Whenever possible, try to silence your phone, log out of your email, and block notifications. Once you complete your task, you can follow up on anything you missed.
2. Take frequent breaks
Research shows that the more you focus on a singular task for an extended period of time, the less focused you become. Your brain actually becomes numb to the stimuli and no longer finds it as engaging. One way to counteract this is by taking frequent, short breaks. The time away will recharge your brain and allow it to be stimulated again upon reintroduction.
3. Outsource draining tasks
Certain tasks are more draining than others; ironically, these tasks aren’t always the most important or valuable. If you find that you’re spending a lot of manual effort and energy on time-consuming tasks that really don’t create much value, it may be a sign that you should outsource. By delegating these tasks, you can focus on the ones that actually matter.
4. Strategically allocate time
In order to optimize focus, you have to be strategic with your time. Depending on how you operate and the way you process information, this may look like allocating specific time blocks for each task you face throughout the day. (For other people, it may look a little more flexible.) The point is that you need to create a framework for yourself; otherwise, you’ll bounce around from one task to the next without getting anything done.
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5. Stop multitasking
A lot of people think they’re at their best when they multitask, but this is rarely true. You may operate under the illusion that you’re getting more done, but more than likely you’re not.
“Multitasking forces your brain to switch your focus back and forth very quickly from one task to another,” Clear explains. “This wouldn’t be a big deal if the human brain could transition seamlessly from one job to the next, but it can’t.”