Are you easily distracted? Find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because your mind wanders, you worry too much or have too many things to do that you can’t settle down and concentrate on that one thing? Here’s a great answer we found on Quora by Achintya Prakash who provides some valuable tips on how to improve my focus.
Here’s the answer:-
I see productivity and focus as two distinct things, albeit interrelated. I believe it is possible to boost productivity with a somewhat minimal increase in the inherent focusing ability of a person. However, an increase in focus should in general lead to greater productivity, apart from other benefits. The Bhagvad Gita likens a persons senses to wild horses, and the mind is akin to the charioteer, who holds the reins of these horses. If you cannot rein in your senses, they will run wild and take you to places you don’t wish to go. Focus essentially boils down to the absolute control of your senses, which is why meditation helps so much in improving it. I’m sure lots of people don’t read long rambling answers (which this invariably will turn into), so getting to the gist of things, this is what i believe would help a lot (note that I’m trying not to mention things that already have been mentioned) :
1. Practice meditation (the duh! answer)
Its good if you can allocate at least an hour or more for meditation, but a lot of people can’t. That doesn’t really matter; at any point when you are breathing, you have the opportunity to practice meditation. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by focusing on your breathing, really focusing on the air, how it touches your nostrils and upper lips as it enters, how it feels on the back of your throat, how it feels as it escapes. Just focus on this for sometime. You’ll find that you feel restless, that your mind wanders and there’s an endless and (sometimes absurd) chain of thoughts that will follow. Whenever you notice yourself drifting to other thoughts, gently bring your mind back to focusing on the breathing. Regulating the breathing not only calms down your circulatory system, but focusing will help you achieve a sense of ‘peace’ and a strange satisfaction. Its hard to explain the feeling, do it sometime and you’ll know. The great thing is, you can do thisanywhere and anytime, whenever you have a bit of breathing time. So maybe on a commute, while waiting in the lift, while waiting for a code to compile, when you’re booting windows….whenever you have some time to kill.
2. Listen to music (and I mean really listen)
Listening to music helps in improving your concentration and focus, but only when you really listen. Most people listen to it while doing something else; working, exercising, reading. Try and listen. After I started learning an instrument and really listening to the music, I realized that I could make out what was being played by the individual instruments, the patter of guitar strumming, the bass line etc etc. Thats when I really started enjoying classical music as well. A lot of people still don’t have the ability to focus only on a single instrument and figure out whats happening. Try it, it adds a new dimension to the music you listen to and expands your tastes. (When you clear your mind out and let it be filled only with music, its also another form of meditation, where you are essentially clearing the ‘clutter’ of your thoughts and focusing on one thing).
3. Cut down your goals into smaller, achievable, more immediate targets
I’ve found that having just an end goal in mind, while providing an initial drive, can confuse and frustrate a person, and you lose focus. That’s because if your target goal is difficult or big (as it should be), then you may not see any immediate results which bring you closer to it. Break it down into smaller targets, improvements that you ca achieve within a day or a week, and check it off as another rung to your ‘ladder’ of success.
4. Work when you are most comfortable
Some people work better at day, some at night, Sometimes your environment may just not allow you to relax during the daytime. I don’t mean stay awake the whole night and work the whole day. Get your sleep, but work when you find yourself to be the most productive.
5. Start fasting a bit
Its well known that eating heavy slows you down, directing the blood to your stomach for the digestive process and making you sleepy. A small amount of fasting has a lot of benefits. It speeds up your metabolism to a certain extent and keeps you alert. Going on a juice fast is usually ok for most people. This isn’t a quick hack either, because fasting on a regular basis would help keep you in good physical condition (your body only has certain nutrition requirements, we’re not storing blubber for the winter here). Don’t starve yourself though, death is counter productive.
6. Force yourself a bit, don’t force yourself too much
Sometimes when we’re feeling lazy, we need that little push to get us out of our state of inertia. That’s ok, having to force yourself to start working is normal, the flow comes as you go on. However, there are times when you hit a mental wall, and you’re mind simply refuses to go on with something. Don’t force yourself too much at this point, even if you end up working it won’t be really productive. Go do something else, let off some steam, preferably something much different from the work you were doing.
7. Delay gratification
There was a TED talk on how people who delayed gratification were more likely to succeed. I think there is some merit in this statement; people who can delay immediate gratification can focus better on the bigger picture and not be distracted. Incorporate this as an exercise in your daily life…let someone else have the last donut, don’t smoke that cigarette right now, say no to the extra cheese, don’t have fries with that, let that itch torture you a bit more, run away before climaxing…you get the point. At some point you’ll realize its easier to say no to a lot of things, which means you have more yeses for the right things.
8. Wear light clothes when you can
Its good to have things ventilated. There’s a reason meditation is done in comfortable clothes (or if you see the sadhus if India, in no clothes).
9. Sit with mother nature once in a while
The singing if birds. The crackling of twigs. The sound of wind through the branches. The babbling of a brook. The sound of waves. Just sit and listen sometimes. You’ll feel at peace and calm. And being calm really lets you focus.
10 Give yourself some buffer time
Before starting something or while ending a work session. Wind down gently, don’t rush into something else. A 5 minute silent breathing exercise helps a lot.
11. Don’t procrastinate the little, unpleasant things that take a minute
Because they will weigh on your mind at some point. Lessen the burden, finish ‘em off fast.
12. Exercise your mind everyday
Do some puzzles, do the crossword, engage people in impassioned discussions, get engaged in impassioned discussions, build something creatively, break something creatively. Don’t let your mind idle. (Note: Meditation, or trying to have no thoughts isn’t keeping your mind idle at all. )
13. Exercise your body everyday
You don’t have to be ripped. But it’s important that you’re body is an asset to you, not a liability.
Bonus: Watch Game of Thrones
This won’t improve focus but its awesome.
Featured photo credit: Sudden Inspiration via Shutterstock