Our ability to stay focused on an important project or task until it is complete can set us up for success every day. It can be difficult, however, to stay focused in a world full of distractions. In this article I’ll share the best tips on how to improve focus, stay focused for longer and provide useful strategies if you can’t focus right now.
All successful people have mastered the art of being laser focused on their most important activities, despite the many opportunities and distractions vying for their attention.
If you want to improve your focus and concentration, it’s essential to clarify what is most important and then simplify your time, energy and focus to only work on those activities.
This laser focus helps rid your mind of shiny objects and creates better boundaries around your time.
What is focus?
What is focus? Focus is all about identifying something specific and important to you and then focusing fully on that thing or activity until completed. We spend time on a variety of things in our business and life, but there are only a few things that we give full focus and attention to.
In order to improve your focus, it’s essential to identify what matter most, and then eliminate or reduce your focus on other things. The only way important things grow is by expanding focus and attention.
It comes down to a simple choice. You give your attention to something specific and stop doing something else. Every 24 hours we get to choose where to focus our time and attention. We choose how to be present.
Being fully focused is all about being intentional about what matters most, and then choosing to do that thing with full attention and focus.
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Why can’t I focus?
There are a number of reasons for a lack of focus, but most of it comes down to choice. Choice in deciding what you want to do and what’s important. When you are clear on what’s most important you can stop multi-tasking and start focusing on what matters.
Here are a few of the biggest reasons why you can’t focus.
Feeling tired and exhausted
A lack of sleep can increase tiredness and make you feel exhausted all the time. When you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, you can start each day feeling foggy and fatigued. Use these tips to sleep better to help you focus.
When you have too much going on in your mind and in your daily life it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Overwhelming tasks and to-do lists can make it hard to stay focused on what’s most important and then work continuously on that task until complete.
Distractions are everywhere. Time traps, shiny objects, meeting requests, email and social notifications can pull our focus away from the things that matter most. To reduce distractions set better boundaries around your time and work in blocks of time.
Not knowing what to do
When we don’t have clear goals and a daily action plan, it’s easy to lose focus on where we should be investing our time and energy. Use proven goal setting techniques to clarify your focus.
When you procrastinate you know you should do something, but something stops you. Or, you know you shouldn’t do something but you do it anyway. Procrastination takes our focus away from what’s really important until there’s an urgent deadline. Use these tips and tools to learn how to stop procrastinating.
Tips for improving mental focus
Here are 6 simple tips that can help you develop laser-like mental focus and concentration:
- Set daily goals to keep you on track
- Tackle your most important activity first
- Make tasks achievable
- Create a focus day every week
- Practice mindfulness to aid focus
- Work in 60 minute cycles
How to improve focus and concentration
Here are 9 tips you can use to improve focus and concentration so you aren’t overwhelmed with the volume of work you have to do.
1. Block time to increase your attention span
Block time to remove distractions and increase your attention span so you can focus on your most important work.
Make sure you schedule time so can focus on your tasks in uninterrupted silence.
If need be, let people know that you won’t be responding unless absolutely necessary.
This could be focusing time on your biggest money making opportunities or working on something crucially important.
When you block time out ensure you have plenty of breaks to maintain energy, focus and concentration.
Intentionally carving out blocks of time will help you focus and stop other things from distracting you.
2. Simplify your mental focus
Simplifying your time and energy will help increase your mental focus.
Delegating and eliminating activities that don’t motivate or excite you ensures you maximise your time and focuses your energy on achieving your goals.
It can be hard to stay focused and motivated when your mind is confused and cluttered with all of the projects and tasks you need to do.
But if you can simplify, if you can carve away the unnecessary, your life will become more focused. And more focus leads to more motivation.
What areas of your life could you simplify to increase focus?
One way you could do it is to combine tasks. Think about two things you want to do and see how you could combine them into one activity.
How to build your brain to increase focus
The author Marilyn Vos Savant takes this one stage further in her book Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks.
She recommends that we make a list of every small task that has to be done, say, over a day or a week-end and then do them all one after another.
Essentially, you are fusing lots of smaller tasks together into one task and completing them all together. So rather than doing one task on one day and another task on another day, it becomes a focused blitz to get lots of little things completed all together.
This frees us more time and gives you a sense of accomplishment, that increases motivation.
3. Cut down your to-do list
If you have 20 things on your to-do list it’s impossible to stay focused.
You may start to multi-task to try and keep up, which takes your focus away from your most important activities.
The answer. Cut down your to-list and stop multi-tasking.
Decide what your three most important activities are each day and spend your time on the most important first.
If you can achieve 15 crucially important activities each week, wouldn’t that be a good week?
4. Increase attention on your desired result
One of the main reasons people struggle to stay focused on a task or project is because they haven’t emotionally and intellectually sold themselves on the thing they’re trying to achieve.
The end result of doing the thing they’re doing isn’t big enough to keep their attention or move them into action.
When you sell yourself on doing something you are clear about:
- The reason you’re doing the thing you’re doing (the purpose)
- It’s importance
- You know the difference the result will make when complete
- The ideal outcome you want to achieve
- You know the best that can happen when complete
There is a set of measurable criteria in place showing what the successful outcome looks like when the project or thing is completed.
If you get clear on the specific outcome you want to create and know the difference it will make when complete, you become more focused on achieving that result.
5. Set measurable goals
The key to stay focused is to set short, measurable goals, ideally 90 day goals.
This measurable focus is great for motivation and training the brain to focus only on things that are specific and measurable.
When we are making real progress towards our goals, it makes us a lot happier. We are motivated and inspired.
We all sense where we are in the present moment. The past has gone and the future is well, the future.
In this present moment, we feel like we’re making progress, moving forward in the right direction or we’re not. We can’t stop time. We can only make better use of our time.
If you’re not happy with the progress you’re making, you may start comparing with others which can take away your focus.
Think about what goals you want to achieve for the next 90 Days. Ask yourself what is the meaning/purpose behind each of the goals.
Write the goals down. Put specific measurements against each goal and visualise what achieving the goals will mean to you in terms of your own personal progress.
6. Create and repeat a new habit
Sometimes, the smallest shifts create the biggest results.
When you start a new habit, whether that’s going to the gym, creating videos or improving your speaking the key is consistency and repetition.
By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you create incremental improvements.
Increase focus through repetition
To improve focus, the key is repetition.
If you want to start meditating the key is to stay with it, not to break the chain.
When you’re gearing up to run a 5k, the key is to run every day and build that strength and stamina.
If you have a vision of yourself as someone who doesn’t complete projects, then you think of yourself as that person. But if you tell yourself every day you’re a world class ‘project completer,’ you’ll begin to think and act like that person.
When you’re procrastinating on a big project, just start small and do something to move it forward, even if only five minutes. The next day work on that project again.
The key is deciding what you want to improve and then working on that thing every day. A 1% improvement every day can produce big results in the end.
7. Increase your energy
Energy is a huge motivator. If we are fired up or excited about someone or something, we are usually very focused and motivated.
Think about the last time you achieved something important. I’m guessing your energy and motivation was high?
If you’ve beaten your best time on the track, or lost the weight you wanted, or won a big piece of business, your energy will be sky high and you will want to dive back in again to improve your previous performance.
When we are excited and motivated about the things we are doing, we bring high levels of energy and focus.
If you could spend more time doing the things that excite and motivate you, what would that mean for your business and life?
High levels of energy produce continual growth and give you higher levels of confidence.
Try this exercise to improve focus
Pick three things that give you high levels of excitement and motivation.
Commit to spending at least one more hour on each of the things every month.
See what you can achieve. If it brings in the results you want, aim to spend more time on those 3 things and remove 3 things you want to spend less time on.
8. Take action to make progress
If you’ve been resisting taking on a big project for a while, be that at home or at work, everything else in your life can begin to suffer.
Sometimes, you just have to face your resistance and fear and do what you’ve been avoiding. That simple focus, could make a real difference to your life.
We all have lots to do and sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.
The key to being focused is to prioritise so we make the best use of our time and make an internal commitment to just get started.
9. Create an evening routine
To ensure you are focused each day, make specific decisions about where to spend your time the following day.
Create an evening routine to set yourself up for a focused, productive day tomorrow.
Make a decision the night before that you won’t check your emails or social media first thing before you have finished the more important tasks that need to be completed.
Stick to your schedule and at the end of the day close your eyes for a few minutes and take in how good you feel to be in charge of your day.
Getting into the habit of planning your day in advance will make you more focused.
It will stop you getting sidetracked and wasting time and energy on small, unimportant things.
Over to you.
How do you improve focus and concentration?
What’s one tip you’ll start using to improve your own focus?
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