Do you sometimes feel like you are busy all the time? You hardly know where your time goes? You are working and doing lots of activities all the time. But somehow you do not seem to be moving along? It’s normal to feel overwhelmed every now and then. But if you feel like that all the time, you need to make some changes in your life. If you are overwhelmed and lack focus, you will start to fall behind on your deadlines. You won’t be able to enjoy you social life and will feel like you are disappointing yourself and others. That can even damage your physical and mental health. Find out what you can do about it. And how to get your focus back.
Why It is Hard to Focus
Distractions are everywhere, from breaking news to the latest bingeworthy Netflix series. And lately for more and more people scanning social media feeds has become the biggest distraction. Im fact, it seems like no one really knows yet what exactly happens with the space-time continuum once we get absorbed into social media apps. You know what I’m talking about? You look at your feed or messages for five minutes and when you get back to work the clock jumped forward one whole hour! How is that even possible?
One of the reasons people allow their time to be lost like this is because they don’t have clear goals for their day or week in mind. Or maybe no clear purpose of what they want to achieve in life. Having goals is essential to achieving things.
For example, do you start your workday by going through all your emails? And then get lost in them? Before you know it an hour has passed and you still didn’t really get to work, right? Why not try a different approach instead. It will be more productive to spend 15 minutes looking at tasks and projects you need to complete that day. Decide which is the most important and start working on the first one on your list before you check your email later that morning.
Imagine you like coffee, hot chocolate, tea and juice. Would you drink them all at once, maybe even mixed? Of course not. You wouldn’t enjoy any of them because you could not focus on each separate taste. Well, the same applies to multitasking and trying to do several things at once. You cannot work on the agenda for a project meeting, write an email and scroll through your Instagram at the same time. (Although, if you do have time for Instagram, feel free to click right here.)
A study by the University of London found that adults who multitask experience a drop in their IQ to that of an 8-year-old child. That does not mean they become dumb. It means they are no longer able to execute tasks with a higher difficulty level at that particular moment. A study by the University of California found that it takes more than 23 minutes to get fully back to a task after an interruption. So obviously, multitasking is not the productivity booster that many think it is. In fact, it is just the opposite.
Whatever your goals and dreams, it requires action from you part to start and achieve them. Distractions and multitasking can undermine your efforts, but procrastination can beat you before you even start. Struggling to get out of bed, delaying the start of a big project, skipping the first important tasks of the day – all this will only make things harder in the end. If you tend to put things off until later, try these steps:
- Break your projects and goals into small bits
- Give yourself specific deadlines for your tasks
- Put distractions out of sight (that may include your phone)
- Do a breathing exercise
- Get started
How to Get Your Focus Back
Besides quitting with multitasking and procrastination, I have four steps for you that will help you get your focus back.
1. Discover What You Want Most
If you don’t know what you want in life you will obviously not achieve bigger goals. You will be like a ship that sets sail towards a paradise island but without a radar, compass, map to determine your direction or even your goal. When people lack goals and direction, they may even find it hard to say what they live for. They are likely to have little enthusiasm or passion. After all, without something to aim towards or achieve life is just a game of chance.
It does not have to be that way, though. Before you can get your focus back, you must think about your purpose. Take the necessary time to discover your purpose and set goals that align with those. You will be happy, more energetic and succesful. Stay tuned for an upcoming article about how to find your purpose.
2. Set Priorities
Having goals is not necessarily enough. Your goals must be smart. The same is true about working. You don’t necessarily have to work harder. You may just have to work smarter.
It requires time management to get things done. You can not just take up any new task the moment it is given to you. That will cause you stress. You need to finish what you were working on first. Finishing a task will give you satisfaction and energy to start the next job. Prioritising your activities will help you. This is how to do it.
- Plan your day the night before. Write down 5 things that must be done the next day. Always stick to only the 5 most important things. This will help you stay focused, not overload yourself and be more productive.
- The next morning when you start working, spend 5 minutes to review your tasks for the day and decide in which order to do them.
- Set them in the right order from high priority to low priority.
- If useful, break your tasks down into smaller bits and prioritise
- Then, start working on the first task.
- Reward yourself after each accomplishment. Take a small break, get a coffee. (But don’t lose yourself in your phone.)
When you start using this simple time management approach, you will notice big results in your achievements. You will not feel stress, not miss your deadlines, not feel overwhelmed by too many tasks. And you will get your focus back.
3. Remove Distractions
You can not get your focus back if you are constantly interrupted. Therefore, it is essential to minimize the amount of distractions. Especially when you are trying to get work done. There are two kinds of distractions: exernal and internal.
External distractions: Go work in the environment that is best for you. Maybe you go sit in a quiet office for a while or a quiet corner of the open-office space you work in. Avoid getting distracted by colleagues chatting and asking you questions. If you’re in lockdown and working from home, make sure your family knows when not to disturb you. Put your phone on silent mode. And if necessary, set the messenger on your laptop on do not disturb.
Internal Distractions: Most of us can not shut down our own thoughts. Sitting in a quiet office won’t do it. Most people daydream one way or another 10% of the time they are awake. That means their thoughts are not with what they are actually doing. To avoid internal distractions, keep an eye on your tasks for the day. You can do this literally if you have written them down, as mentioned above. Also, take regular breaks from what you are doing, preferably after finishing smaller of bigger tasks. Another important way to get more internal focus is by regular exercise. You can even do that at home.
4. Increase Your Attention Span
Focus is all about your ability to keep your attention on what you are doing. A short attention span leads to low productivity. But the same is true the other way around. Luckily, you can train your brain to increase your attention span.
- Do Some Physical Exercise. I know I have just mentioned this in the last paragraph. But for the benefit of those with a shorter attention span, it can’t hurt to repeat it. Get in some exercise regularly. A 30-minute brisk walk outside is enough.
- Drink Plenty. Water will hydrate you and boast your physical and mental energy.
- Avoid Distractions. Yes, I have mentioned this in the previous section too. But it’s also true for training your attention span.
- Break Your Tasks Down. Make sure you break down your tasks into smaller bits so you can focus on each of them separately.
- Create Habits. If you have to do certain things regularly, create a routine for youself and make it a habit to stick to it. That way, you train your brain and the task will become much easier.
Why Focus Matters
If you apply these steps, you will get your focus back. Does that really matter? Yes, because with real focus you can get done anything you want. Things you gave up on will now be possible. Things that stressed you will now be easy. And things that bored you are now done quickly. Eventually, focus will safe you time and provide you with new opportunities to enjoy life more. It is not exaggerated to say that more focus means more happines. And isn’t that worth it?