Your ability to stay focused on doing one task until it is done is one of the most powerful traits that will determine your success in whatever you do.
Most people fail to reach their goals because they lose their focus, and then their motivation, and eventually they give up on their goals.
It happens to everyone. Somewhere along the line, we lose our focus on the target. We fail to follow through the plan that we make in the first place.
This is why Bruce Lee said:
According to a study from Microsoft, the average human has about 8-second attention span. And this is less than that of a goldfish, which has an attention span of about 9 seconds.
Our attention has shrunk over the years due to all the distractions and digital connectedness in our modern world.
The truth is that our brain is constantly searching for what’s new and what’s next.
If you are reading this article right now, chances are, 95% of you will never finish reading it.
The problem is that if you want to achieve great success and produce extraordinary results in life, you need to master the power of focus.
It’s like the magnifying glass. When you put it under the hot sun and focused the sunlight at one single point, the focused energy can burn the paper.
And this is what you need to do too – put in your full power to focus on pursuing your target until you achieve it.
That’s how success is created.
Treat Your Brain Like Your Muscle
Your brain is like your muscle. The more you use it, the more powerful it can be.
Thus, you can train your attention “muscle”. Your ability to focus can be improved like your physical muscle.
Let me give you an example. When you are reading a long article like this one, your mind will want to quit and do something else like checking Facebook. But you can use your willpower to press on and continue reading until the end.
When you do this regularly, it becomes a norm. The next time you read a long article, you will find that it is easier for you to focus and read the article until the end.
Just like when you hit a wall in a tough workout session and you think you can’t do one more extra rep, just tell yourself to go on and just do it.
This is what makes your muscles grow the fastest. And this is what Arnold Schwarzenegger did to build his muscle.
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. “
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Now that you understand your brain muscles work like your physical muscle. You can train your brain to focus better if you use it more.
So what you can do improve your focus? Here are 10 ways how you can do it.
1. Read a physical book
This is one of the easiest ways to build your focus. The problem is that most people don’t read. Even if they buy a book, the majority of them don’t read past the first chapter.
So commit yourself to read a physical book. Read at least a book once a month.
Now, I’m talking about reading a physical book and not an ebook. Although the digital content is on the rise, reading the digital book may not be as helpful as reading a physical book when it comes to building your focus.
This is because when you read on your computer or your phone, highly likely, you are going to get distracted, easily.
According to this article from Slate.com, only about 5% of readers start an article will finish it. And 38% of readers never scroll beyond the first few paragraphs.
What’s more, we have been used to scrolling and scanning the content at their titles and sub-titles. We don’t really read the full content from word-to-word.
Thus, reading a physical book is still the best choice to build your focus.
I bet you understand that reading is important and you should make it a habit to read too.
And if you have no idea what to read, don’t worry, here’s my list. Check out the books that I suggest.
2. Take a short break
No one can stay fully focused for 8 hours straight. Even if you are a productive person, it is impossible to focus for long hours. And this is why you need to take a short break.
Instead of working straight for 2 or 3 hours, try to insert some short breaks in between.
According to psychologist Alejandro Lleras, people who take short breaks during a 50-minute task performed better than those who worked straight without any break.
This is what Lleras said from his research, “We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused.”
His research showed that when tackling long tasks, it is always better to impose brief breaks on yourself.
Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task,” said Lleras.
Therefore, if you need to focus on a task for long hours, schedule some short breaks in between.
Stop, take a walk, go to the pantry, talk to someone, grab a snack, etc. Take a short 5 or 10 minutes break to refresh your mind and give yourself a breather so that you can focus better.
3. Practice meditation
Over and over again, research has shown that meditation and practice mindfulness can improve our attention span and increase our ability to focus.
Anthony Zanesco, a psychologist at the University of Miami once conducted a study on the effect of meditation.
In the study, Zanesco and his team assessed participants ranged from 22 to 69 years old, before and after they attended a 3-month retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado.
The participants went through various sorts of meditation training such as practicing mindfulness, sustaining focus on objects, and generating positive feelings of love and compassion for others and themselves.
The study published after the retreat revealed that “the training enhanced the participants’ emotional well-being and led them to perform better on tasks related to focus and sustaining attention.”
Now, you don’t have to go to the mountain to learn how to meditate. You can do it easily at your home.
Just practice meditation and mindfulness for about 10 minutes or longer on a consistent basis will give you the same positive effect.
So each morning, spend 10 minutes to practice meditation.
Just sit in a relaxed position. Take in deep breaths and then focus on your breathing.
If you think that 10 minutes is way too much, start with just 5 minutes. The key is to start small to train your brain to focus.
Remember, the more you use it, the more powerful it is.
4. Eliminate distractions
This is common sense, if you want to improve your focus, just eliminate all the pointless distractions.
Just imagine that if your phone is constantly buzzing with notifications from Facebook and incoming emails, how do you expect to stay focused?
You can’t focus when there are distractions.
Can you read a book in a noisy and distracting wet market where people are talking loudly? You can’t.
Thus, get rid of all possible and pointless distractions.
When you work, make sure you create a space where you can work with full focus. This is especially important if you are working on the high-impact task.
If you want to learn how to build a positive and distraction-free work environment, read this article:
5. Exercise regularly
There are many benefits you can get from exercising, and one of them is none other than improving your ability to focus.
This is what an article published on Harvard has to say:
“In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”
The article also went on to say that people who live an active lifestyle tend to have a greater volume in the parts of their brains that control thinking and memory than people who don’t.
Can you see why it is important to live an active lifestyle and to make exercise a part of your daily habit now?
So start exercising, my friend. You don’t have to spend 2 hours at the gym each day. You can start small, say exercise for about 15 to 30 minutes each day.
Or you can also choose to exercise and make your body sweat for an hour 2 or 3 times a week.
The key is to live an active lifestyle and make exercise your habit. You don’t have to train like a professional athlete. Just regular exercise will do.
And this is how you can improve your focus. And your overall wellbeing too.
6. Turn on the background music
Too much background noise can be distracting. However, with moderate background noise, or white noise as they call it, can help improve your focus.
Researchers have discovered that playing background music as you work can improve your ability to concentrate.
However, each individual’s music preferences are unique, and so the type of music that can boost your productivity may not work that well in my case.
It won’t hurt to put on some background music. So just try it out.
My suggestion is that depending on the task that you are working on, you may want to choose to play songs (with lyric) or just plain music.
When I’m writing an article or doing some work that requires my full attention, I will not play songs with lyrics I choose to play plain music in the background.
And when I’m doing work that requires less of my attention such as creating images for Pinterest and Facebook, I prefer to play songs with lyrics.
Hence, play some songs and music to boost your focus. It helps. Trust me.
7. Set small daily goals
When it comes to staying focus on your vision and reaching for the dreams that you desire to achieve, it can be extremely difficult.
This is because most people’s dreams are too far into the future. It is good to think about them, but when it comes to doing the work on a daily basis, you have to get through all the mundane and tiring minutia of each day.
Not to mention that there are a lot of distractions to take away your attention too.
This is why you need to set small daily goals to help you focus better. These small daily goals work as the connecting bridge between your ultimate destination and the work that you need to get done each day.
So rather than focusing on your big and long-term goals, start setting small daily goals that can motivate you to make better progress.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell
When you focus on accomplishing the small daily goals, you are setting yourself up for success.
Not only that setting small daily goals can help improve your focus, it can boost your motivation to take action as well.
Want to learn more about goal setting? Read this:
8. Get enough sleep
This is often a factor that people underestimated. If you want to have more energy and to be able to focus on your work better, get enough sleep.
How can you accomplish more and perform better when you are feeling tired and sleepy?
Sleep deprivation is the silent killer that will affect your overall performance and productivity.
Read this article from the Huffington Post and you will understand how important it is to get enough sleep.
The article says:
“According to Harvard Medical School, studies show that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by about 15 percent. Sleep deprivation is dangerous to your mental and physical health and can dramatically lower your quality of life.”
In short, if you want to perform at your best and maintain your focus, get enough sleep.
9. Schedule time for play
Another great way that can improve your focus is by scheduling play throughout your workday.
I bet you have heard the phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
You don’t want to live your life like a zombie. Give yourself and your life some zest! Schedule some play time during the day.
It works like taking a short break. When you play, you take your attention off your work and you create space for your mind to relax and refresh.
Play improves your brain cognitive function. This article from Inc.com says…
“It might seem counterintuitive, but taking a break from work and engaging in free play instead can actually provide a productivity boost. Failure to take these unstructured breaks, on the other hand, can result in decreased work performance.”
Besides improving your ability to focus, having fun time also helps reduce your stress and prevents burnout.
Plus, play makes your work and your life worth living. What’s the point to live a boring and mundane life without fun?
Life’s supposed to be fun and we are supposed to enjoy each moment.
Thus, from now on, schedule some fun time into your day. Make play part of your principle and you will find that your work can become more engaging and your life becomes more lively.
Of course, make sure you don’t play too much. It is about moderation and balance, my friend.
10. Be purpose-driven
Finally, in my opinion, if you want to improve your focus, you must always be purpose-driven.
You must operate each day knowing your purpose.
The only way to be productive is to do the right thing. And to know what is the right thing, you have to understand your purpose.
Always keep your goals and visions in your head. Without having a clear direction, there is no way you can stay focused and get things done.
Just think about it. If you have no idea what to do during the weekend, what will you do?
Well, for most people, they probably wake up late. They may spend more time on social media like Instagram and Facebook since they have nothing to do. And they probably waste a lot of mindlessly watching videos on YouTube because they are free.
This is what happens when you don’t have a clear purpose.
How can you focus when you don’t have a target and you don’t know where the bull’s eye is at, right?
Having the ability to focus is vital to your success in whatever you do, be it at work or in life. And our attention span is shrinking due to all sorts of digital distractions in our world.
The good news is that our ability to focus works like our muscle. We can train it to improve it.
The more we use our mental focus, the better and higher our attention span.
So use these 10 ways to improve your ability to focus. When you are able to put in your full power to focus and get something done, you can achieve your goals.
Remember, your focus determines your reality.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
– Alexander Graham Bell
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