There are a lot of things out there bent on stealing our focus. Between notifications, environmental factors, clutter, and our own stress, it’s a wonder we get anything done sometimes. But as many attention-seeking bugbears as there are, there are just as many natural ways to increase focus to get back to what we want and need to do.
Identify the Source of Distraction
It’s easy to become frustrated when you just can’t seem to focus on anything. In those moments, the more constructive thing to do is to identify what may be causing your distraction instead of beating yourself up.
External distractions are things happening in the immediate environment that pull your attention away. These may include:
- Smart device
- Disorganized workspace
- Physical pain or discomfort
- Unideal room temperature
- Background noise
These distractions are simpler to deal with because they can be physically removed or guarded against. If your phone is distracting you, you can turn it off, or if the room is distractingly cold, you can put on a jacket.
Internal distractions are mental and emotional factors that may be pulling your focus. These may include:
- Anxiety and stress
- Excitement about something else
- Lack of confidence in your ability to perform a task
These can feel more challenging to cope with. However, simply acknowledging one of these sources is the first step to getting your mind on the right track. Also, take time to acknowledge what’s true in the situation. Thoughts such as “I don’t feel confident, but I know I can do it” or “I’m really not big into this task, but I’m close to being finished” will help steer you in the right direction.
This focus method targets both external and internal distractions. Externally, relaxation can help ease tense muscles that cause pain. Internally, it helps to eliminate both stress and boredom. Stretching or meditating can be done briefly throughout the day, while working out can be done before the day starts. Massage is another relaxation method with a surprising amount of mental benefits—focus included. If you target your shoulders and neck, you also improve circulation to your brain, further improving focus.
Although our main methods for increasing our focus tend to emphasize eliminating the main sources of distraction, there is some benefit in allowing ourselves to be distracted in controlled quantities. After all, our minds cannot focus indefinitely, and we shouldn’t expect them to. Scheduling in short “brain breaks” throughout your day will help your mind refocus when you return to the task at hand.
You may try setting an alarm to go off every 25-30 minutes. During these times, try to keep yourself completely focused. It’s often easier to make ourselves focus if we know it’s for a short period of time rather than eight hours straight.