Photo: Paul Skorupskas/Unsplash
The ability to focus is the difference between being successful and falling short. No matter what you do, if you can’t focus and fall prey to distractions, you won’t achieve your goals.
In today’s world of push notifications, constant advertising, and information overload, it’s hard to maintain focus.
It seems like everything is competing for our attention, and we don’t know where to turn. Do I switch my phone off? Do I limit the amount of information I take in? Do I retreat to a cabin in the woods to do my work free of distractions?
It’s overwhelming at times trying to fight through the haze and focus on your work at hand. I suffered from this while I was studying at university, and I still suffer from it today while working from home.
The reality is that learning how to focus isn’t easy. The urge to procrastinate is strong and compelling. Even the best of us give in from time to time.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Improving your focus can be achieved by making a few tweaks to your routine that will result in better results and a happier you.
Here are some easy to implement tips that will make focusing a whole lot easier!
Listen to the same song on repeat
This is a tip that I’ve used to great effect to block out distractions and get work done. It may seem odd at first, but it does work.
One of my worst habits is to listen to music on YouTube when I’m working. The music doesn’t distract me, it’s the fact it’s on YouTube.
When a song comes on that I don’t like, I hop on and change the video, only to be confronted with thumbnails for a wide variety of videos. Too often, I’ve found myself watching one video and then another, and before I know it, I’ve wasted an hour watching YouTube.
Listening to the same song on repeat removes this possibility. The song keeps playing and playing, and I can keep working and working. The trick is that after a while, you become so used to the music playing that it fades into the background, and you barely recognize it anymore.
After a while, you may realize it’s still playing, but during that time, you’ll have got a lot of work done and not gone back and forth switching songs.
This has worked well for me, so much so, that I use this trick whenever I need to get some work done urgently. If you’re not too keen on listening to the same song over and over, you can listen to a playlist of classical music or film scores.
They work just as well.
Work outside of your home
This is one of my favorite productivity hacks and one that I’ve been unable to do during the Coronavirus pandemic. For whatever reason, I just seem to work better when I'm away from home.
Maybe it’s due to the lack of distractions, or the fact that I know I need to get the work done before I head back home. After all, the trip would be wasted if I slacked off.
As good as working from home is, the reality is that there a lot of distractions. Be it your housemates, children, or the dirty laundry; there’s always something that will come up and make you lose your focus.
This isn’t too say that there aren’t distractions outside of the house. You could argue that there are more. However, it’s easier to focus outside of your house. Sitting in the corner of a cafe or a library, you can eliminate a lot of distractions.
Working outside of your home creates a sense of urgency and forces you to take ownership of your time and work.
Work to a deadline
This one is similar to working away from home but isn’t dependent on where you work. Setting a deadline is a great way to improve your focus.
By doing this, you’re forcing yourself to get the work done so you can meet your deadline. Even if the deadline is self-imposed and nothing will happen if you break it, see it as a test of your discipline, and your attitude towards it will change.
I use this trick all the time when I’m writing posts on my travel blog. Without a deadline, my writing could drag on and on. By setting a limit to when I want the article published, it forces me to take action.
If you’ve studied at university, you’ll remember how impending deadlines forced you to take action and finish essays. Think of it the same way, but maybe without the late-night cramming!
Do some exercise
You may be thinking, ‘what does exercise have to do with improving your focus?’ It’s a fair question. How could going for a run or lifting weights make you more productive?
Well, the answer is simple. Exercise is vital to improving your overall mood. The more you exercise, the better you feel, the more energy you have, and the more likely you will focus.
I don’t know about you, but the days I struggle to focus are the ones when I don’t exercise. I feel devoid of energy and struggle to get much done. However, when I exercise, I feel much more energetic and alert.
I try to exercise in the morning after I wake up, which sets me up well for the rest of the day. Not only do I feel better, but I feel more prepared to tackle my work and get it done.
You don’t need to deadlift 150kg or run 5 miles, although that’s great if you can. 30 minutes in the morning will do you a world of good and allow you to focus for longer throughout the day.