Focus is the thing that lets us actually get stuff done.
Focus isn’t easy.
We deal with all sorts of distractions from external sources, and then we have to deal with all the distractions our own brain creates.
We procrastinate and fidget. We don’t know how to get started. We’re more and more used to short, quick, entertaining interactions (thanks, Internet) and find it difficult to get into deep work.
Good news: focusing is a skill, and like any skill, you can get better at it.
12 Ways to Be More Focused and Less Distracted
- Train your brain: meditation, deliberate practice, play sports, exercise, balance, brain exercises, mental games.
- Switch to a balance ball instead of an office chair.
- Give yourself regular breaks from intense work, but take an actual break. Some distractions that seem like breaks can actually reduce your brain power.
- Figure out what your biggest obstacles to focus really are, name them, and think about ways to a) get them out of your life or b) deal with them proactively.
- Use a timer. Set the timer for some short amount of time – 10 to 30 minutes – and tell yourself that you just have to work for that amount of time. If your brain rebels, just ask for 5 minutes.
- Pick one thing at a time to work on.
- Use routines and rituals to ease yourself into focused work.
- Ask specific and realistic and understandable things of yourself to avoid triggering the fight/flight response. When you throw an unnervingly huge goal or a vague request at your brain, it freaks out. Treat it gently. Make specific requests: Write 250 words. Make 2 phone calls. Answer 10 emails. Write the first half of the outline.
- Get out of your regular environment. A change of scenery can tell your brain, nicely, Hey, it’s time to get some work done. It can also be really hard, if you work from home, to avoid getting distracted by all the chores and things that need to be done at home. Or if you work in an office, it can be hard to insulate yourself from the chatter of co-workers and buzz of activity and hunker down to deep work. Getting out of your normal environment can create a little space, both physically and mentally, that helps you to focus.
- Give yourself rewards. When you focus on some work for some amount of time, or to a designated point of completion, give yourself a reward! This is a basic training technique, and it works.
- Use apps and tools that help you cut out distractions.
- Don’t let those apps and tools take too much of your attention; keep moving forward with the most important app of all.
These are some of the ways to be more focused and less distracted.