How To Stay Focused
When we harness the power of focus, we can move mountains. These mountains even begin looking like molehills because we get into a state of flow. Becoming productivity machines.
But what are ways we can use to finally stay focused for long periods of time and stop getting distracted?
Well, If you have had some coffee. Have taken some short breaks in between. And are still struggling with focus, I’ve got your back.
Below I go into some of the best tips around for how to stay focused. So you can take life by the horns and get so much more done throughout your daily life.
Enjoy my good friends.
How To Stay Focused (15 PRactical Tips)
1.) Focus On The Future
The thing about focus is that we can’t look back in the past or get stuck there. When we do so, we divert our attention away from the only direction we can truly go. I am talking about things that happened years ago or even ten minutes ago. What is done is done. Learn from it and move forward.
In general, when we are in the present moment we can stay focused a lot better than we can if we are looking towards the future. So not only do we need to not look backwards, but we can’t get to ahead of ourselves at the same time.
If you have trouble with staying in the present, meditation can help. An extensive study was done on how meditation can help us with staying focused. The 7 year cumulative study was published in the Springer’s Journal of Cognitive Enhancement which proposed that meditation has “The potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across a person’s life.”
It offered evidence through the practice of continuous and intensive meditation, we can reap the benefits of enduring improvements regarding sustained attention.
The study was done with participants who ranged from 22 to 69 years of age who participate in a 3 month retreated that put them through various forms of meditation. All of which showed to raise ones emotional well being. Which led to them performing better on tasks relating to both focus and sustaining attention.
Follow up years later showed that the study group still meditated often and maintained these benefits.
2.) Think Solution Oriented
We lose focus when we see to many obstacles ahead of us. They get in the way our goal of getting something done or accomplishing a goal. The best way to stay focused is to think about solutions instead of problems. When your mind thinks of a problem simply think about the solution the problem. Don’t let it get in your by labeling it as a problem and then walking away. Don’t label it as a problem at all. Simply see it as a challenge that has yet to be solved.
A negative mindset cannot get us new and positive results. By re-framing our mind to think positively about our obstacles, we can more likely break through them.
This means not dwelling for too long or at all. Don’t think about the things that went wrong, simply focus your energy on what needs to be done next.
Adjust your attitude. Create a spirit of optimism about solutions. Become hungry for solutions. Dig deep and create motivation to push through any obstacle.
3.) Develop a Sense Of Urgency
Most people are just mozzying their way through life. There is no urgency to get things done. They doddle. We are all guilty of it of course. But the more urgency you develop, the more things you will get done. You can even set timers for yourself for your tasks in order to create a sense of urgency. But you and I need to work on developing the sense of “I need to get back to work” mentality. This is true especially when we are talking to people. Everyone wants to avoid their to-do list so they will try and talk to you. At the gym, at work, anywhere where you are trying to be productive. This is because it makes them feel productive in some sense. Most people who go to the gym for an hour talk 75 percent of the time.
We need to develop a sense of swiftness. Of moving through our tasks with urgency. The clock is against us all. Father time is and always will be undefeated. Remind yourself that you are running out of life. That you need to get things done NOW.
A great article talked about how we can develop a sense or urgency in our lives, some of the tips include:
- Become aware of your tempo. We all have a natural speed and rhythm. The first step is becoming aware of our pace and then turning up the notch a bit. Do so at a slow and stead pace so that you can adapt.
- Create a bias for action. Learn to do things NOW not put them off. This will allow you to accomplish more and not dread doing the things you need to get done.
- Don’t wait around for everything to be exactly right. Don’t wait for the right time. Just move forward. Don’t wait until you feel good or right about a situation. Do it until you feel right or good about it. Work with what you have right now. For example, if Micheal Phelps only swam when he felt like it, he wouldn’t be the most decorated Olympian to ever walk this earth.
Doing these things will allow you to create a higher level of sense of urgency in your life. You will gain momentum from doing so and start to be more focused and get a lot more done. As when we are urgent to get things done, we get in a flow to where we are simply more productive. We hold our attention for longer amounts of time. Versus getting distracted or putting things off. Which is just created time gaps where we have to stop and start over and over.
4.) Learn To Say NO
Richard Branson was once asked to speak at a rate of 100K for an hour. He turned it down. They called back and offered him 250. Turned it down. Then 500K. Turned it down. Then the company said to name his price.
Long story short, they called back and said that Richard was only focused on doing 3 main things and that speaking for any rate wouldn’t get him any closer to those goals.
This one characteristic trait is what has made him into the multi-billionaire that he is today.He says no because he wants to master 1 to 3 things. Not get side tracked and distracted. Becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Saying no is one of the best ways to stay focused. Imagine this. You are flying to New York and it is snowing there. On the way you can stop in warm tropical places where you could feel good and forget about your problems.
But once you get back on the plane and go home, your problems are still there. And probably more problems because you haven’t been home longer than what you and everyone else originally planned for.
The same is true about us saying yes to everything and everyone. We say yes to things because at the time they sound super fun. And are super fun. But we still have to get back to the real world. The best thing to do is say NO to things you want to do but no you have other important tasks to knock out.
That way, you aren’t starting and stopping. You forge ahead. Take the work before play attitude. So there won’t be any guilt about playing. Or dreading the tasks you have to do afterwards while you are playing.
Part of staying focused is doing tasks and things that we like enough to hold our focus. If you can, delegate things out that you don’t want to do. That way you can focus on tasks you like enough to stick with long term.
This goes back to saying NO. Focus on things you are good at. This will allow you to stay focused because you are going things you are damn good at. And things we are good at, we usually tend to enjoy doing. Leave the rest to people who enjoy doing the things that you don’t do. Plain and simple.
6.) Listen To Some Music
A great article done by Northcentral University talks about how music can help us focus. It talks about how music possesses the potential of taking someone from being in a Beta brainwave state to a deeper Alpha state. It activates both hemispheres of the brain at the exact same time. This maximizes learning and improves memory.
It talks about how in order to use music the it’s fullest ability regarding focus, we should choose music that keeps us awake. But not tunes that make us won’t to start moving to the beat. It talks about creating a list of music like this that can be played at anytime. Instead of relying on a random Pandora or Spotify playlist.
The article suggests classical is the best for increasing mood and productivity. Tempos between 60 and 70 beats per minute have been shown to help students study longer and help with better retention of the material they are studying. Other tips are to listen to nature sounds, EDM, ambient music and to keep it at a sound decibel that is similar to background music.
You can also get noise blocking headphones that allow you to block out the distractions of the world. And allow you to reap the benefits of listening to your music to help you focus.
7.) Fix Your Posture (Sitting & Standing)
If you happen to be sitting down while having trouble focusing, straighten up! An article by LabRoots.com talks about how there was as study done out of San Francisco State University where 125 college students were tested on a math problem. The problem was created so that the students started by subtracting 7 from 843 and then keep subtracting 7 from the total sum thereafter.
They were asked to do so sitting straight up as well as slumping down. The result of the study was that 56 percent of the students proclaimed that it was easier for them to do the math problem when sitting straight up. They concluded that when the body slumps, so does the brain. It puts you in an empowered position that also helps you feel less anxious.
If you are standing up, make sure to retract your scapula so that your chest is exposing. Like you are Superman! This will make sure our cerebral flow is optimal.
Also get rid of stiff chairs that don’t offer good back support. Better yet, sit on a air filled workout ball instead. This will keep your body more engaged as more muscles are being activated instead of being at rest in a regular chair. It builds better core strength in the process!
8.) Hit The Gym!
Exercising is a great outlet that can help us channel energy when we are having trouble with our focus. It can allow us to get fit in the process to. Also, though it can help up with focusing on other things outside the gym.
The Guardian has a great article on this topic. The article talks about how exercise makes the part of brain, the hippocampus, respond greatly. As you exercise more, your brain structure grows. This part of the brain is essentially the core of our memory and learning systems. But exercise also increases our concentration and was proved so in a study with school children.
The article talks about how a study was done with Dutch students where they engaged in various bouts of exercise through out the week which showed increased attention in these pupils. As well as a controlled trial in the US which showed the effects students who participated in daily after school sports. But the conclusion of this study showed that their executive control improved. This means that they become better at ignoring distractions, better at multitasking along with better at the manipulation of the information within their minds.
9.) Do Some Concentration Exercises
Just like the we can help the body become more fit through exercise. So is true with our minds. A fitter mind can help us with better concentration. There are specific exercise Style Craze talks about in a great post about the subject. Some of these exercises include:
- Counting the number of words in a single paragraph of a book or magazine. Then count them again to make sure the totals match from each count. Count the numbers inside your head. Not verbally.
- Count down from 100 to 0 in your mind. Then after you have created some mastery over this task, then start skipping numbers during your countdown.
- Sit still in a chair for a few minutes. Center your attention on sitting still. You can start with 5 minutes at at time and work your way up to 15 minute slots.
- Try to suppress your thoughts for 5 minutes straight. Just try to stay blank in your mind.
- Make two marks on a mirror in your home that are at eye level. Imagine them as someone else’s eyes looking back at you. Concentrate on these marks fora few minutes. All while staying perfectly still. While you do this, practice deep breathing. This is a form of meditation.
Another great exercise that I have learned for this is to simply fill a small glass up with water. Then fix your eyes upon the glass. Try your best to keep your arm steady so that you do not notice any movement in the water. Start of with one minute at a time. You can work up to five minutes at a time. Switching arms if you need to.
10.) One Thing At A Time
The Muse talks about how it takes 23 minutes to refocus on energy after we have been distracted. This doesn’t for actual breaks from tasks. But by doing things like checking our Instagram or chatting with a co-worker about irrelevant tasks.
In order to stay focused, we need to get in the zone. To focus on one things for extended periods of time. That way we give the mind time to adjust to the task we are trying to get done. Then get in the zone to where we all tune out distracts around us. Our attention and intention is completely in a task.
So instead of trying to multi-task, force yourself to do one thing at a time. Until it is completely done. Train yourself to take this approach to your tasks. When you do so, you will be more productive with your time.
The best way to focus on the tasks you need to get done are to figure out what you actually need to get done. Create a list of the top 3 things you need to get done for the day and then do one at a time. If you have more time, then rinse and repeat this process.
When writing down your top three things, be extremely specific. For example if you need to study, write down what subject you need to study. How many pages. Time you will spend reviewing and reflecting over it.
11.) Take A Breath!
The yogis have said it for ages. Focusing on the breath can help us increase our attention spans and help immensely with how well we can focus. BulletProof.com talks about the science behind how breathing helps us with concentration. It talks about how breathing regulates noradrenaline. The study about his was done at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute.
The researchers who conducted the study found that focused breathing affects our levels of noradrenaline which is a chemical messenger within the brain. This chemical messenger is found in our bloodstreams during times when we are focused, curious or aroused emotionally. It in itself can help us enhance our attention to detail along with improve our brain help though fostering the growth of new neural connections.
The study that was done studied the participants breathing patterns. They found that the participants who had better synchronization between their breathing patterns and attention showed better focusing ability.
Mind Body Green talks about a few breathing exercises that we can use to help us focus better. A of them include:
- Victorious Breath – This is is a style of breathing that allows for the flow of the breath to pass along the base of the throat. While creating a soft sound while doing so. The sound we should make can be likened to how Darth Vader breathes. Do a breathing count that consists of inhaling and exhaling in counts of 4 seconds each.
- Sama Vritti – This breathing style demands us to inhale for four seconds. Hold for two seconds. Then exhale for for 4 seconds and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 10 rounds.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing – Breathe in with your right thumb covering your right nostril. Then exhale with your ring finger over your left nostril as you release your thumb over your right nostril. Repeat this process 10 times. You can begin to hold your breath momentarily at the top and bottom of each of your inhalations and exhalations as you master this technique.
There is also Pranayama breathing, which is what most people know as belly breathing. It allows us to breath from our diaphragm and use the muscles we are intended to use for breathing. This style of breathing is most often the first breathing technique that is taught to new yoga students. To do this breathing technique, follow the following steps:
- Sit in a cross leg position.
- Rest one of your hands on your belly and one on your rib cage.
- Close your eyes and begin to breath in deeply but still with a natural pace.
- Become mindful of how your breathe moves in and out of your body.
- Then draw in air using your belly. Notice how your belly fills up then moves it’s way up to a slight expansion of your chest
- Keep doing this pattern while relaxing your entire body and just focusing on your breath. Completely full inhales and exhales.
12.) When Are You Most Focused?
I have a certain time of day where I want to hit the gym. At night. It is when I feel most mentally and physically ready to hit the gym. Some people I know feel best by getting their workout in as soon as they wake up. It feels best for them.
The same is true for focus. What part of the day do you feel most focused during? Take some time to think about this and then plan your most important tasks around that time.
13.) Eat For Focus
Since we are talking mostly about using the power of the mind, then we need to talk about feeding that baby! Food can either bring us more life, or push us closer and faster to the grave.
There are many great foods that help with focus. Some of them are:
- Blueberries – Shown to boost concentration for as much as 5 hours by stimulating blood flow and oxygen to our brain.
- Leafy Green Vegetables – Filled with antioxidants and carotentoids that all are awesome at boosting our brain power and protecting our brain.
- Green Tea
- Fatty Fish – Omega 3’s aid in memory and mental performance.
- Flax Seeds – They are high in magnesium, B-Vitamins and Omega 3s. A great cocktail for mental clarity and can help with weight loss as well!
Try to never go to long without having someone to eat as well. Eat small meals throughout the day. This will help you ward off hunger pangs which can cause us to lose our focus.
14.) Identify Things That Are Causing You To Lose Focus
We all have things in our life that causes us to lose focus. For most of us it is our cell phone. Turn it on silent until you are done with what you need to focus on. If it the refrigerator then go to the park where you don’t have any access to food. If it is the TV, go to a coffee shop where you won’t be distracted by a TV. Identify what is getting in the way of you focusing and schedule your day around these things.
Often times simply just being at our house can cause us to lose focus. By getting out of the house, you can take your mind off of relaxation mode. Honing yourself into tasks in a more intense fashion.
Also minimize what you take with you. Only take the essentials for the tasks you need to get done. One pen. One highlighter. One calculator. Etc. You don’t need multiple options.
HACK (Put your phone in another room!)
15.) Take Mini Breaks
Not the most revolutionary tip. But by taking a break, you can give your mind a chance to chill for a bit. The thing about these breaks is to get away from the spaces from which you were trying to concentrate on your task. This will give you a better break than if you were still sitting at the desk you were sitting at where you were trying to study.
You can go exercise, do the breathing techniques, getting a short walk to get some fresh air, I talked about above or grab a healthy snack.
16.) Don’t Make Too Many Decisions
Brendon Bruchard, author of The Motivation Manifesto, talks about this. How we get what is referred to as decision fatigue when we make too many decisions. It is essential the deterioration of quality of the decisions that we make, the more we do so. Wikipedia even offers references to juries making poorer decisions when they decide which side they are taking later in the day versus earlier in the day. Brendon also talks about how they lead to distractions. And it is easier to become distracted, the more distracted you are.
So, although I never though that I would research and provide you guys with information on how to be less decisive, I think it is par for the course for this article! Life Hack tells us how to do this, offering us some tips that include:
- Cycle through the same clothes each week. Do your laundry before the start of each week and then match outfits you are going to wear for the rest of the week.
- Do things at the same time each day. Wake up at the same time every single day. Workout every day at the same time. Go to bed everyday at the same time. Establish an epic routine that you stick to religiously.
- Prep your meals for the week or at least a few days.
- Plan the next day the night before.
61 Quotes About Focus
- “Always remember your focus determines your reality.” – George Lucas
- “Stay focused on your goals, your peace, and your happiness. Don’t waste your time on anything that doesn’t contribute to your growth.”
- “What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.” – Oprah Winfrey
- “Do it now, sometimes later becomes never.”
- “Focus with positive energy and the negative doesn’t consume you.”
- “If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results.”
- “I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus my goals and I try to ignore the rest.” – Venus Williams
- “Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” – LL Cool J
- “Focus. Otherwise your will find life becomes a blur.”
- “Focus on what you want to become. Not where you are today.”
- “Ignore the noise. Focus on your work.”
- “What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” – Robin S. Sharma
- “Follow. One. Course. Until. Successful.”
- “Starve your distractions. Feed your focus.”
- “The most desired gift of love is not diamonds or rose or chocolate. It is focused attention.”
- “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
- “Life is short. Focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t.”
- “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle
- “Your focus determines your reality.” – Leo Babaula
- “Wake up. Get ready and focus on what you want to accomplish today. Then go for it.”
- “Our focus is our future, and what we focus on will multiply in our life.” – David Denotarls
- “One thing at a time. It is important that we focus on the task that is at present in hand.” – John Hughes
- “Don’t be stressed over something in the past because there is nothing you can do to change it. Focus on your present and create your future.”
- “When you focus on problems, you’ll have more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you’ll have more opportunities.”
- “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but building the new.” – Socrates
- “Focus on the outcome, not the obstacle.”
- “Live life to the fullest, and focus on the positive.” – Matt Cameron
- “Focus on the possibilities for success, not on the potential for failure.” – Napoleon Hill
- “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle
- “Focus is more important than intelligence.”
- “Focus on the good.”
- “Look past the negatives and focus on the positives.”
- “Focus is about saying NO.” – Steve Jobs
- “Focus on the things that matter most.”
- “Your life is controlled by what you focus on.” – Tony Robbins
- “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
- “Be a witness, not a judge. Focus on yourself. Not on others. Listen to your heart, not the crowd.”
- “You attract into your life more of that which you give focus to and spend your energy on.”
- “You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.”
- “Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferris
- “The sun’s energy warms the world. But when you focus it through a magnifying glass, it can start a fire. Focus is so powerful.” – Alan Parlser
- “Where focus goes, energy flows.” – Tony Robbins
- “Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.”
- “What you focus on grows.” – Esther Hicks
- “Ignore the noise, focus on your work.”
- “Focus on your potential instead of your limitations.” – Alan Loy McGinnis
- “Focus on the present and the past will take care of itself.”
- “My key to dealing with stress is simply. Just stay cool and stay focused.” – Ashton Eaton
- “If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” – Jack Dixon
- “Focus on the powerful, euphoric, magical, synchronistic, beautiful parts of life and the universe will keep giving them to you.”
- “If you focus more on the inside, you’ll feel just as great about the outside. I feel attractive when I’m doing good and helping people.” – Keke Palmer
- “Without focusing and getting clarity, you cannot lead. You cannot motivate, you cannot plan, you cannot communicate.” – Bobb Biehl
- “Focus alone is not enough. Putting in the time to commit is also crucial to achieve success.” – Warren Buffet
- “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson
- “Focus on where you want to be, not where you were or where you are.”
- “Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you. Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five minute a day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.” – Wayne Dyer.
- “At the end of the day you can either focus on what’s tearing you apart or what’s holding you together.”
- “What you focus on will grow.” – Roy T. Bennett
- “Stay focused on the mission.” – Naveen Jain
- “Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important and you’ll capture it perfectly.”
- “We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what’s wrong in your life. Or you can focus on what’s right.” – Marianne Williamson