Distractions are Everywhere…
When you have a task to complete, distractions are everywhere, especially in these days of smartphones, social media, open office environments and kids’ activity schedules. You might not even realize some of the distractions – it’s too hot or it’s too cold; being dehydrated or hungry, full, under-stimulated, or over-stimulated. Your attention can be diverted for many reasons and in today’s environment, we have trained our brain to be reactive and impulsive.
If you want to see what is distracting you, go to distractionquiz.com and find out your distraction profile( hampster, squirrel or time Zombie) and get clarity on exactly what is distracting you.
Procrastination is a Distraction!
If you’re anything like most people, you put things off until the last minute, convincing yourself that you work better under pressure. Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. Every form of procrastination comes with a great excuse but there is also a cost. The cost can be found in others’ impression of your character (reliability or accountability), the stress created for you or in others which affects your health, your relationships, and who knows what else.
7 Tips to Stay Focused:
You have to learn how to train your brain to stay focused. Practice is how you do anything better, it is also how to focus better.
Focus Here are 7 tips proven to help you keep your focus:
1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Your instinct might be to load up on caffeine with coffee or soft drinks, but consider these are not sources of hydration but rather dehydration.
Dehydration can cause mood swings, fatigue, and a drop in blood pressure to name a few. Hydration enhances mental function by feeding your brain cells. When you are dehydrated you are starving your brain cells and your brain has to work harder.
I find that I forget to drink if I don’t have a good drinking cup on my desk. I can go all morning without drinking and I don’t realize the effect it has on my ability to stay focused. I work better when I drink often, despite the extra trips to the bathroom. The key for me is setting up my environment to work for me rather than against me.
I know that for me that the motto holds true out of sight out of mind when it comes to water. Visual cues help us to remember.
This is an easy distraction to overcome.
2) Eliminate background noises
Here is another environmental key. Controlling the noise in your environment. As tempting as it is to leave the TV/Music on in the background for ambiance, it may be just another thing cluttering your mind and preventing your complete focus on what you need to be doing.
You may not realize it but your mind is tuning in now and again to words and that is distracting you from the task at hand.
Another noise challenge is the open office environment. You might be better off with music from brain.fm with noise-canceling headphones to block out all the chit-chat around you. Brain.fm has instrumental and sound that works with your brain for higher performance.
I find getting the team together and agreeing on some rules for the office also goes a long way in reducing the noise and interruptions from the office place. Everyone is having the same challenge – why not talk about it.
3) Work in Sprints -Take frequent breaks
You can recognize your attention span and how much time is the best for you to stay focused. Plan your day in short sprints of work. Stay focused and work for 20-40 min, then take a short mental break and fuel up your energy and get back to a focused state of mind before you start again. A short break to get a glass of water, stand, stretch and breath deeply can help you sit back down and focus in on the next part of the task or project with renewed vigor.
I often step back and look at my goal again and make sure I am focusing on the right thing.
4) Don’t try to multitask
I have always thought I am a good multi-tasker, perhaps you feel the same. We are all full of excuses and justifications we tell ourselves to do things that we know we shouldn’t do but it feels good so we tell ourselves whatever gives us permission to do it. Who are we kidding, research done at Stanford University tells us that multitasking is LESS productive than doing one task at a time. As a matter of fact, all the studies show that this to be true – but we still tell ourselves otherwise. We should know by now NOT to listen to ourselves all the time. Challenge our thoughts. Just because it feels like we are getting more done, doesn’t mean we are actually getting more done. In reality, we are compromising the efficiency and/or effectiveness of the result.
I find always having so many things I am working on at once makes me tired and a bit frazzled as I go back and forth. Go into awareness mode when you try to multi-task and see what you notice.
While it might be tempting to do five things at once to get them done quicker, it doesn’t work like that. Splitting your focus between different tasks only slows you down because your brain must re-orientate itself when moving from task to task. As a matter of fact, the studies say we may be damaging our brain. So stay focused and complete a task before moving to the next. You will be clear-headed, make fewer mistakes and get more done in the long run.
5) Set priorities
It’s easy to get distracted when everything is important and urgent. Since you aren’t really sure what to focus on your mind allows itself to wander. You need to give your brain clear instructions of what to focus on for your brain to focus.
If you aren’t sure, create criteria of selection to identify what gets done first and why. Then you can hunker down and focus on what is next. Then you can manage your tasks and projects in a clear manner like a waiting room. Focus on the patient at hand and only when you are complete with what they came for can you say next and take the next patient. Prioritization isn’t always easy but is an important part of staying focused.
I always take a step back and set my priorities. Top 3 for the day so I know what is most important and can put my time and attention towards and align them with my goals.
6) Make a plan
You know how to focus better – make a plan. So now we get to do what we know. It is clear that if you don’t set priorities it is hard t plan. So how to focus better also has a sequence. Now that you have your priorities- you need to plan them into your day.
I notice the difference in my day when I start without a plan, I am all over the place. I multi-task, I do things that are easy rather than what is important and I generally don’t feel good at the end of the morning or day because I didn’t focus on what is important. Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to plan for the following day is key. Worst case plan the day before you start. I tend to be more focused when I start the day with a plan rather than create the plan in the morning.
Want to stay focused, eliminate distractions and feel productive – make a plan and work the plan.
7) Get enough sleep
I used to think that sleeping wasn’t important and I would get more done if I sleep less. I would sleep 5-6 hours a night and tell myself I feel fine. You know the sleep when you dead theory. I was wrong. I get more done, have greater clarity and focused when I am well-rested. I especially found that when stress is higher sleep helps me function better. Give yourself 40 minutes more of sleep a night and see how you feel.
Getting enough sleep is important to many aspects of resiliency, presence, attention, clarity and staying focused. Avoid caffeine late in the day or too much throughout the day. Avoid late-night screen time that activates your brain activity.
It seems obvious but we don’t do what is obvious, do we? We need to have reminders and support systems in our environment to help us do what we know is good for us, otherwise, we will choose the short-term option that feels good.
Can we have your attention, please?
The human brain has an 8-second attention span supposedly 1 second less than the goldfish. That is sad. It can be extremely difficult to block out distractions and focus on what you need to focus on. Once you learn how to tame the distractions that are all around you and use these 7 tips, you will be able to work more efficiently and productively.
Take this Distraction quiz to see what is distracting you and use these tips to stay focused.