Our ability to focus has been reduced dramatically. It is said that we humans have the average attention span of a goldfish which is about 9 seconds.
We’ve never had more distractions to deal with. And as disheartening as it sounds, many of the distractions we face were engineered to be as distracting as possible.
Our brains quickly become addicted to these distractions and our ability to focus on important work suffers.
Learning how to focus is a vital skill if you want to be productive and successful.
Overcome the distractions in your life and get things done with these strategies:
- Single-tasking beats multitasking. Avoid fooling yourself. You’ll get more done and feel more relaxed if you focus on a single task at a time. It’s not easy for your brain to switch back and forth between different things. Set your priorities and complete them in order.
- Do deep focus activities early in the day. Your ability to focus deeply is greatest in the morning and decreases throughout the day. A few people also do well late at night if their day isn’t too demanding.
Schedule your more demanding mental tasks earlier in the day. Save the simpler items for later when your focus is weaker.
- Practice focusing. You can’t be good at something you don’t practice. It’s harder to focus deeply than you think.
Try setting a timer for 15 minutes and keep your attention entirely on performing a task. Notice how stray thoughts constantly interfere. Notice how strong the urge to check your email, text messages, social media becomes.
Over time, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods of time before you need a break.
- Remove distractions. Make life easier for yourself by removing as many distractions as possible. Put your phone away. Turn off the TV. Block any websites that you find compelling. Close any computer tabs you don’t need. Remove any distracting sounds. Turn off the radio.
- Learn to be comfortable with being bored. When you’re focused and working, it can also be boring. Most of us choose to distract ourselves because we’re bored. The better you can handle boredom, the easier it is to avoid engaging in those distractions.
When you have the urge to distract yourself, force yourself to wait 15 minutes longer. After a few days of this, try 30 minutes. Keep building on this.
- Plan time for your most common distractions. You don’t have to avoid your favorites distractions 100% of the time. Simply schedule time for those activities after your work has been completed for the day. Put a reasonable limit on how long you’ll spend on them.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is important for focus and energy. Your brain needs at least seven hours of sleep to be at its best. Have consistent times for going to bed and waking up.
Try sleeping for seven hours each night for a week and rate your ability to focus. The following week try 7.5 hours. If you see an improvement, try eight hours. Keep going if necessary and find the optimum amount of sleep for you.
- Eat healthy foods. Your body and brain function better when you eat in a healthy manner. Your focus improves with a healthy diet. Start by eliminating everything you know isn’t good for you – one at a time will work.
Life is a never-ending series of distractions. The most successful people are able to focus in spite of distractions. It takes practice to focus intently in the face of other things vying for our attention. Incorporate these tips into your daily schedule and you’ll see your ability to focus grow.
In closing, let's try to focus more than 9 seconds.