How to stay focussed - even when the odds are stacked against you

So, why do we get distracted so easily? Well, the simple explanation is that distraction is a survival instinct that we once needed to stay alive. Back when we needed to worry about predators on a regular basis, distraction was the survival tool our brains used to pull us out of a reverie when danger was close by.

Those not easily alerted to things happening around them ended up as dinner for a sabre toothed tiger or some other type of ‘distraction’. The more complicated explanation is that our brains – which run on a slower pulsating frequency when we are focusing on a task – simply cannot ignore the automatic spike in neural activity that occurs when something distracts us.

Simple Tips on How to Keep Your Focus

If you’ve managed to stay focused on this article for long enough to get to this point, there are a number of things you can do to stay focused on whatever task you’d like to finish:

Tip#1 Just do it!

This may seem obvious, but it’s about utilizing every ounce of your will power. If you are attempting to focus on something and you become distracted, get straight back to the task at hand. No excuses!

Tip#2 Find a deep, dark cave and lock yourself in

Well, a cave might be taking it a bit too far, but you get the point. Find yourself a distraction-free haven, close the windows and the doors, turn off your phone and leave your iPad in another room. Shut down your browser and email and maybe even turn off your Wi-Fi ability on your computer, if you don’t need it! Let your family or housemates know you need peace and quiet, go to the toilet, get yourself some snacks and drinks and make sure any pets are fed, watered and happy before you start work so that there will be minimal chance you’ll need to break your concentration.

Tip#3 Set goals

Work out how much time you must complete your task (including editing) and divide your work evenly between that time. It’s counterintuitive to sit down and try to do your whole workload in one hit (or at the last minute) if you have more time. Even if this means you’ll only be working for a small amount of time per day, the act of setting small, frequent goals will ensure you get the big goal completed without feeling like you’ve run a marathon.

Tip#4 Reward yourself

Every time you reach a goal (even the little ones), reward yourself. Whether you have a little edible treat, buy yourself a new pair of shoes or just give yourself a metaphorical pat on the back, do whatever you can to congratulate yourself on reaching yet another goal.

Tip#5 Take a break

Concentrating for too long can be counterproductive, as the longer you focus, the more chance you have of being distracted. Schedule in a 15-minute break at least every hour to refresh your brain and relax.

Tip#6 Meditate

It’s true – practicing mindfulness and meditation is like martial arts for your focusing skills. The more you can concentrate on nothingness, the better you become at focusing on something.

Tip#7 Eat and sleep

Don’t skip eating or sleep. A tired, exhausted brain is an easily distracted, half-functioning brain that is not conductive to laser focus or creativity.

Tip#8 Think Happy Thoughts

Positive thinking has been shown to improve all aspects of life. If you can make yourself believe you enjoy focusing on your work, you will end up enjoying it!

Focus – Staying on Track

We have all – at one point or another – become completely distracted by something so irrelevant and mundane compared to the task we are meant to be focusing on. Sure, our distractions may be a little more substantial, but the object of our distraction is usually just as inconsequential in comparison to our actual aims. So, the next time you lose focus, remember these simple tips to keep you on track.

The CFS Team
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