Focus means control of attention. It is the ability to focus the mind on one subject, object, or thought, and at the same time exclude from the mind every other unrelated thought, ideas, feelings, and sensations. The ability to focus on something in your environment and direct mental effort toward it is critical for learning new things, achieving goals, and performing well across a wide variety of situations.
😴 Insufficient sleep
Scientists have found that lack of sleep can lead to lower alertness, slower thought processes, and reduced focus.
🧎♀️ Insufficient physical activity
When you don’t do physical activity, your muscles can become tense. You may feel tightness in your neck, shoulder, and chest and such persistent, low-level discomfort can affect your focus.
🍲 Eating habits
If we don’t fuel our brains with the proper nutrients, we start to experience symptoms like memory loss, fatigue, and lack of focus. Low-fat diets can ruin focus because the brain needs certain essential fatty acids. Other restrictive diets may negatively affect focus by not providing the nutrients the brain needs or by creating hunger, cravings, or feeling of unwellness in the body that are themselves distracting.
💊 Medication side effects
Some drugs, especially anticholinergics (such as treatments for incontinence, depression, or allergies), can slow processing speed and your ability to think clearly.
ℹ️ Information overload
We are bombarded with information from TVs, computers, and messages such as texts or emails. Researchers have found that our brains are so primed for this distraction that just seeing our smartphone impairs our ability to focus.
Poor working conditions, shared spaces, and intense or negative work dynamics may also contribute to a lack of concentration. When we are experiencing burnout or stress from work or personal life, we will find it difficult to concentrate due to emotional exhaustion. Similarly, the environment can create discomfort to our body with effects that we’re aware of (heat, light, noise) and others that don’t fully register (tension, negativity, monitoring).
🍃 Eliminate distractions
Minimizing sources of distraction isn’t always as easy as it looks. One way to deal with this is to set aside a specific time and place and ask to be left alone for that time. Another alternative is to look for a quiet place where you know you can work undisturbed. The library, a private room in your home, or even a quiet cafe can all be good places to try. Make sure you are well rested before the task to minimize or eliminate fatigue, worry, anxiety, poor motivation, and other internal distractions, and use positive thoughts and images to combat anxiety and worry. If you notice your mind wandering towards distracting thoughts, consciously bring your focus back to the task at hand.
🛑 Limit Your Focus
Trying to do more than one activity at the same time makes us feel productive. It’s also a recipe for lower focus, poor concentration, and lower productivity. And lower productivity can lead to burnout. Examples of multitasking include listening to a podcast while responding to an email, or talking to someone on the phone while you’re writing your report. This type of multitasking not only hinders your ability to focus but also compromises the quality of your work. Part of improving your mental focus is about making the most of the resources you have. Stop multitasking and instead focus your full attention on one thing at a time.
🧘 Practice mindfulness and meditation
Meditation or practicing mindfulness activities can strengthen well-being and mental well-being and improve focus. During the meditation process, our brain calms down and our whole body becomes more relaxed. In this process, we focus on our breath so that our minds are not distracted. With practice, we can learn to use our breath to bring our attention back to a particular task so that it can be done well even if our word is interrupted.
💆 Take a Short Break
Researchers have found that even taking very short breaks by diverting your attention can significantly improve mental focus. Turn your attention to something unrelated to the task at hand, even if only for a few minutes. These short breaks can mean you can keep your mental focus sharp and your performance high when you need it.
🌳 Spend time in nature
If you want to increase your focus naturally, try to go outside every day, even for 15-20 minutes. You can take a short walk in a park. Sitting in your garden or backyard can also help. Any natural environment has its benefits.
🛌🏽 Improve sleep
Many experts recommend that adults aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Improving the sleep you get may also benefit you. A few tips:
- An hour before bedtime, turn off the TV and remove the screens.
- Keep your room at a comfortable but cool temperature.
- Unwind with soft music, a warm bath, or a book before bed.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous exercise right before bed.
🧩 Train your brain
Playing certain types of games can help you get better at focusing. Try:
- Crossword puzzle
- Word search or shuffle
- Memory games
Brain training games can help improve your working and short-term memory, as well as your processing and problem-solving skills.