How Can I Force Myself To Focus?

Self Improvement
December 18th, 2019

We all want to put our focus into everything we do,—especially when it comes to work or school—but sometimes it can be hard. In some cases, things may come up that we think should take priority over the current task at hand; in others, we are simply distracted. And many times, we end up juggling multiple things at once with the firm belief that twice as much can get done in the same amount of time—but is that really true?

So, how do you force yourself to focus more? Some tips to maintaining your focus include:

1. Create the ideal working environment.

2. Make a plan.

3. Minimize multitasking.

4. Take short breaks.

5. Unplug.

6. Have a small amount of caffeine.

7. Train your brain to focus.

Many factors can determine how well we can pay attention to a single task, from the room we choose to work in, to the number of electronics we interact with. However, the common thread among all of these factors is that we can control how they affect our minds and our ability to focus.

7 Tips to Maintain Your Focus

So, how do we control our environment to start focusing more? Pay attention, because here are seven ways you can start maintaining your focus today:

1. Create the ideal working environment.

If you want to get focused, you have to start with where you plan on working. Will you be at home? At your local library? Directly at work in your office or at school? No matter where you end up, make sure that the environment is tailored to your comfort levels. You can do this in a number of ways:

Find a Quiet Place (Or Not So Quiet)

Find a quiet, distraction-free environment (such as in a comfortable nook at home or at the library) to work in. Most people are able to stay focused in a calm, low-volume environment.

Alternatively, if you feel like you focus best with background noise or music, try going to a nearby coffee shop where there is less of a chance of distraction than at home with a TV playing in the background.

Turn On Music

For those who work best with music playing, choose songs that are slow in tempo, or without words. Instrumentals are usually the best, focus-driven music to go with.

Check the Temperature

The temperature of your environment is one factor that can influence your ability to focus. 

A study performed at Cornell University found that higher room temperatures (around 75-77 degrees) have a correlation with high productivity; out of the participants observed in the study, those who worked in a warmer environment had higher productivity levels and a reduced chance of errors compared to those who worked in colder environments. (Source: Cornell University)

Stay Work-Related

You are certainly allowed to perform work-related tasks outside of work, but avoid taking it home if you can. If you bring work-related things home to do, you will be less motivated to stay focused on them, especially if things going on around the house tend to take up your attention.

2. Make a plan.

If you are organized, your brain thinks in a more organized way—it is as simple as that! Start by creating a list of tasks you need to get done, then assign times at which you have available to perform those tasks, down to the hour—and even the minute if you can.

Create a To-Do List

The best way to start getting organized is by listing out all of the tasks you have to do within a time frame. It is easiest if you start by arranging your list by the day. 

For example, what all do you need to be done this Saturday? Work on a big project? Get groceries? Clean the house? No matter how big or small the task is, write it down!

Create a Schedule

After you have established a to-do list, assign tasks to times of the day. (It helps if you invest in a weekly/daily planner that maps out each day of the week by the hour. Alternatively, you can also use a bullet journal.) What time will you be free to work on homework? Answer emails? Go for a job?

Think about the amount of time you feel you need to spend on each task and schedule them accordingly. 

Do not underestimate your important tasks, either; by default, you should set aside at least 30 minutes to an hour for any major tasks or projects that will require a lot of your energy and focus.

It is best to schedule the most difficult or most time-consuming tasks earlier in your day, leaving the easy things for last; you will not feel drained by the time the day is over, and you will feel much more accomplished too.

3. Minimize multitasking.

Many people find themselves multitasking without even realizing it. But, while multitasking may seem like a good idea when you are busy and anxious to get a lot of work done in a short period, you may actually be better off taking one thing at a time.

A 2009 study done by Stanford University found that students who multitasked more often had lower scores in tests related to attention span, memory, and their ability to switch from one task to the next. (Source: PNAS)

In other words, avoid multitasking if you can help it—you will be able to dedicate all of your attention to one thing rather than split it between two or three. And, you will be able to complete one task much faster compared to trying to complete it alongside others.

4. Take short breaks.

Although you want to focus and get things done, it is very important that you give yourself a break every so often. 

However, to avoid giving yourself too much of a break filled with distraction, try the Pomodoro method—you will only need a timer! Simply work on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a short, five-minute break to do anything not related to what you are working on.

Repeat this cycle until you are completely done with your task, or until you have reached four cycles. After the fourth cycle, give yourself a well-deserved long break, roughly 15-30 minutes long. This will give your brain enough time to digest new information or simply take a needed breather from your work.

Rest Your Eyes

Do not forget to rest your eyes during breaks too! If you are sitting in front of a computer or digital screen for too long, your eyes could become tired, and your vision could even become affected.

To combat this, remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, make sure you look away from the screen to look at a distant object roughly 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

5. Unplug.

If you do not need your computer, tablet, or phone to work, leave it in another room or at home, or turn it off. Electronics are very good at getting us off-task when we want to focus the most!

If you do need access to a computer, try to stay offline as much as possible. Minimize your exposure to social media or messaging apps; these can all easily become distractions.

6. Have a small amount of caffeine.

In moderation, caffeine has shown to aid in focus, especially for those feeling tired or groggy. (Source: NCBI) However, the key word here is moderation; too much caffeine, and you will be too jittery to focus!

7. Train your brain to focus.

Of course, you can always train your brain to start focusing more. You can do this in a number of ways:

Mentally Prepare

Before you dive into a task, get into the mindset. Think about what you are about to do and how you plan to do it.

Meditation

According to a study from the University of North Carolina, regular meditation can help improve your attention span. Students in the study who meditated for at least twenty minutes for four days showed better scores on cognitive tests than those who did not meditate at all. (Source: PNAS)

Maintain Healthy Habits

Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting a good night’s sleep are all things that can benefit your brain health and your ability to focus.

With the above tips, you will be improving your focus in no time. And, if you are done with work without interruptions, feel free to give yourself a reward, such as participating in your favorite hobby or watching a movie or TV you enjoy. You deserve it, after all!

About TopWorkLife

Hello, my name is Simon. On this blog, I write together with a group of writers. We are working on bringing great information that might boost your career.

The Purpose of Top Work Life is to share our knowledge, research and curiousity in the business world. What does it take?

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