Talking Points
June 2024

Four Ways to Focus Your Mind

If you’re paying attention to lots of things, how well are you really paying attention? Focusing on one thing at a time can be difficult, but it’s the key to succeeding. Doing well takes concentration. Luckily, focus is a learnable skill. You may have to practice and experiment a little, but you can do it. To get you started, check out these four surprisingly simple approaches.

1. Do One Thing at a Time
Tune out your technology. Every time something dings, beeps, flashes, or vibrates, you’re no longer 100% focused on what you’re doing. So, the next time you sit down to focus, turn off your notifications for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, email, and whatever else might distract you. Your messages will still be waiting for you later. Give it a try. Even, if only for a few hours. And see how much more you accomplish.

2. Group Similar Tasks
Wearing numerous hats at work is perfectly normal. But every time you switch tasks, your brain can take 15 minutes or more to regain its intense focus. Switch tasks just four times, and you lose an hour of focus. So rather that jumping from one project to another, give yourself a set amount of time to work on related tasks. Then move on to the next group. By “batching” your work, you won’t constantly be shifting gears.

3. Focus on the Present
It’s tough not to think ahead. We all do it. We worry about work piling up or daydream about some exciting future project. Meanwhile, the job in front of us isn’t getting completed any faster. If this happens, try the Pomodoro Method. You use short, but laser-focused, bursts of attention. Set a timer for 25 minutes, turn off distractions, and work on a single task. When the time’s up, take a short break before moving on. These short, intense intervals keep the work moving, and keep your mind from wandering.

4. Give Yourself a Break
Every one of us needs to sleep, eat, take breaks, and move. No matter how motivated or focused we are, we can’t stay that way forever. So stop every once in a while, and do it away from your desk. Whether you take a walk, do some stretching, or just sit back and actually enjoy a cup of coffee, your time away from tasks will help you focus when you return to them.

That’s it. No special programs, secret life hacks, or pricey apps. You simply need to give your brain a task, some space to do it, and a quick rest every now and then.

Based on 4 Ways to Focus When Your Mind’s Not in the Mood by Paul Jarvis.

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