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The Complete Guide To Increasing Your Focus In Life

The Complete Guide To Increasing Your Focus In Life

We all know how important focus is.

Think about it, when was the last time you were so focused on your task that you weren’t distracted?

Focusing nowadays is harder than ever. You know what it’s like when you’re at your job and you think about “just checking” your Facebook feed. One thing leads to other and you’ve spent over an hour looking at what your friends are up to.

The traditional view of procrastination is as that “a stitch in time saves nine,” that in order to be efficient we should not procrastinate. But can you really stop procrastinating?

We have this one-sided belief that procrastination is bad, but if you look at well-known philosophers, they literally just sat around and spent time thinking. Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s because they did not have many distractions. Well, yes and no.

The lives of ancient philosophers like Descartes, Socrates, and Plato were filled with government roles and societal responsibilities, but they chose to think, simply think. Their “overthinking” led to many founding principles today, like Descartes’s mind and body principle.

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Scientifically, procrastination is really just a battle between two parts of our brain — the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system fights for short-term pleasures while the prefrontal cortex for the long-term goal. However, given that the prefrontal cortex is the only thing that makes us different when compared to animals, there is nothing automatic about this part. Thus, we constantly need to give it a push to get stuff done. Our limbic system, on the other hand, takes over as soon as we stop pushing forward, leading to procrastination.

Procrastination is only natural and not always something to label as negative. Now that we have that out of the way, let us introduce 6 powerful methods to increase focus in your life.

1. Exercise

Have you ever had those days when you just don’t want to go to the gym because you’re very tired, but then you end up going?

If you’re like me, then you probably felt a euphoria of energy flowing through you. The reason for this is because when you exercise, your muscle contracts and releases a protein called IGF-1. This very protein travels to your brain and releases many chemicals, one of them being BDNF. The BDNF stimulates further connections between neurons, and these connections form the basis for learning. Even though this takes some time, an immediate response to this change is increased concentration and focus.

2. Make a plan

When I say make a plan, I mean be as specific as possible.

Let’s say you want to finally start writing your book. Instead of adding “Work on novel” to the to-do list, be a little more specific. How about:

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  • Make a character list
  • Write down what the book is about in less than 150 words
  • Break down the chapters and summarize each one in a line or two

When we get specific on what our target goals are, our attention is invested in accomplishing these small tasks. As our beautiful brains have it, they can only handle two complicated tasks at a time, so why not make them focus on the specifics instead of broad concepts?

3. Discover your most productive environment

The relationship between your brain and you is interdependent. If you want a peace of mind and calmness, you have to treat and exercise your mind. Here, we shall focus on treating it right. You see, the environment in which you study really does affect the brain — after all, this is why coffee houses are filled with students studying.

There are many factors existing in the environment that end up affecting our focus — noise, smell, music, appearance, and comfort are some amongst many. Good and calm music, for instance, helps us be more productive as this background noise is more soothing. It’s no surprise why it’s recommended to listen to Beethoven instead of Eminem while working. To find out how other factors in the environment affect our focus, read this article by Western Governors University.

4. Wake up early

Okay, so let’s say you went for your 7 AM jog, made a specific plan, and currently are sitting at your local Starbucks, trying to work on a paper and still finding it hard to focus. Why’s that? Maybe cause the energy you are working with is minimal.

It’s said often that the reason why the greats sustain their greatness is because they wake up early in the morning and get most of the important stuff done well before the world wakes up. You see, after all that sleep your brain got, it’s re-energized and ready to help you learn new things and change the world

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “but I’m a night owl.”

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So am I, but creativity and productivity are two different things. The former is more about thinking about that one idea, for your next song or your next artwork. The latter is more about order, and that is why they are managed by two different modes of thinking: focused vs diffused.

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    Productivity goes well with the focused mode of thinking wherein information in your brain enters and travels in an orderly fashion. On the other hand, creativity requires a diffused mode of thinking.

    Thus, if you’re looking to learn how to increase focus, it’s important to wake up early, as that’s when our energy levels and creativity peak.

    5. Prioritize your tasks

    This one goes without saying, as mentioned before: our brains can only focus on two complicated tasks at one time. Ever wondered why to-do lists simply don’t help you get stuff done? Because there isn’t any scheduling done. Why not try this approach: list everything you think you can achieve in one day and then number them.

    Focus on 1 and 2 (the most important) in the morning and then worry about the rest later.

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      Let’s say you are working in the middle of the day and you get an email that distracts you. There are two approaches to tackling this. First, you could turn off all connections to the outside world. This means no checking email. Second, you can react less.

      Those urgent urges to check your phone happen because your prefrontal cortex is tired later in the day and the limbic system is taking charge.

      6. Meditate

      We have this belief that focus is all about retaining attention. However, this leads to our minds becoming strained. What if our attention was more natural than manual? Meditation simply helps you do that. Human’s have an attention span of 8 seconds. Meditation changes the game and it helps in increasing your consciousness.

      bi_graphics_meditation

        In short, meditating helps our brain filter out the noise, particularly the distracting and negative noises. Even with 10 minutes a day, your brain can start filtering your thoughts and provide you with the clarity you need to increase your focus.

        Please share your own tips and experiences in the comments section!

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        Sean Kim

        Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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        Last Updated on October 16, 2019

        How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

        How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

        Whether you saw it coming or not, getting fired is a real shock and its impact is daunting. What did you do wrong? What are you supposed to do next? When will you stop feeling so angry?

        But there are ways to deal with a layoff.

        The most important thing is to remain calm and see it as an opportunity to reflect, change and improve. This is a great time to consider what happened, look again at your needs and desires and start afresh on a stronger, more constructive basis.

        Let’s take a look at how you can bounce back gracefully after getting fired.

        1. Deal with the Shock of Getting Fired

        To lose your job is to lose your identity as a worker and as a person. Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, states that 7 out of 10 of us define ourselves by our job titles, since work is where we spend the majority of our time and energy.

        Being laid off affronts your sense of self-worth—it implies that you simply are not good enough. It’s no wonder you feel confused and emotional.

        The first thing, then, is to take some time to digest what happened and deal with the overflow of sensations. People who quickly recover from the pain of a job loss tend to do two things very well:

        First, they accept their feelings of sadness, anger, fear and shame as a part of the natural healing process.

        Second, they do their complaining to a friend.

        Never call out your boss in the office or on social media. It’s a bad form to speak ill of the company you work for. Stay stylish, and your employer will speak better of you when you need a reference.

        2. Stay Away from the Drama Queens

        Mass layoffs are, unfortunately, very common. If this is your situation, then you may be surrounded by a lot of angry people, ruminating and lamenting their fate.

        “It’s not fair!” they say. “After everything we did for this company! We don’t deserve this!”

        You’ve lost your job and that’s tough. But please resist the urge to join in the negativity. Positivity is by far the most important attitude to apply right now. If staying upbeat means you have to limit your exposure to the Negative Nellies, then that’s what you have to do.

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        Remember, life is not harder for you than it is for other people on this planet. You live in a democracy, you have freedom of choice and you enjoy a certain material abundance.

        Stay positive and focus on what’s going well in your life and the exciting future opportunities available to you. Getting fired is only a temporary setback.

        Staying positing could be challenging in a difficult situation, so these tips can help:

        10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

        3. Take a Break and Let the Dust Settle

        Instead of running straight into another job that may not be the right one either, take a short break to recover from the job loss. You need a week or two to de-stress and meditate on the next step.

        Be attentive to your need for self-care during this interlude. Everything goes so fast these days that we often do not stop to think or give ourselves the permission to do a little mourning.

        Getting fired is a big shock: you need time to refocus and take stock of the new reality. Do not make things harder for yourself!

        What you need is to pause a while and do some self reflection:

        How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

        4. Be Anchored in the Present

        Since you no longer have a hold on the past, but have not yet designed your future, try to build yourself up with the present. What do we mean by that?

        We mean that right now is the only time you have any control over. Focus on that instead of losing yourself in memories or reliving the awful day you got fired over and over in your head.

        Get up at 7 a.m. each day, whatever happens. The body needs rhythm and habits. You will feel much more energized if you keep a consistent routine. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, revisit your budget, play sports, volunteer. Take care of the practical stuff like claiming unemployment. Enjoy the small pleasures of everyday life.

        When you’re busy, there’s no room for the inner critic to raise up and derail you. Keep active, and you will gain more of the precious energy you need so much to move forward.

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        Try these things to help you live in the moment:

        34 Ways To Live in the Moment And Grow in the Moment

        5. Understand the “Why”

        There are lots of reasons why people are fired. Sometimes the mistake is yours and it’s embarrassing to admit you backed yourself into this corner.

        Other times, it’s not your fault. Businesses change direction all the time—maybe yours is going through a major transition or merger and your job is disappearing.

        Either way, to give the situation some closure, you need to understand why you were dismissed. What slipped? What could you have done differently? Was your boss really out to get you or did you do something to put your job in jeopardy?

        Be honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit that you might have dropped the ball but it’s the only way to turn the situation into a learning experience. Ask yourself:

        What skills do you need to improve?

        Is there training you can access, or learning you can do?

        In the end, did this job suit you that much? Were you happy there?

        Reflecting on these questions can help you put things into perspective. What lessons can you learn to avoid reproducing the same pattern in your next job?

        6. Find out If You Were the Right Fit

        Hiring decisions ultimately come down to personality. You can study for an interview all you like, but every candidate who is chosen for interview has the right credentials for the job.

        The final decision comes down to personality. Who does the recruiter like the best? Who is a better fit for the company culture? That’s the person who strikes it lucky.

        Firing decisions are based on personality, too. Slacking off, insubordination and playing fast and loose with the company rules—these are the official reasons why people are getting fired.

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        But all of these reasons boil down to one thing: personality. Specifically, they signal a personality clash between an employee and a manager, or an employee’s fit with the company’s culture.

        Here’s an example:

        Suppose you were fired for “not being a team player.” Some people, namely introverts, lose energy when they are surrounded by other people and gain energy when they are on their own. Forcing an introvert to continuously work on a busy, noisy team without any solitary rest periods means the job is a mission impossible. This employee will never perform at her best.

        Or how about the time the Kansas City Star newspaper fired Walt Disney for a perceived lack of imagination? Talk about a clash of personalities![1]

        Getting fired can be a signal to turn inward and do some self-reflection so you can better understand your personality and how it might fit in with corporate culture.

        In particular, personality assessments based on Isabel Briggs Myers’ sixteen personality types can help you to understand your own work style and how you can find a job and workplace that better match who you truly are.

        In many cases, it is totally liberating to realize that all the crap you had to deal with was just down to a clash of work styles and not something you did wrong!

        7. Rediscover Your Strengths and Talents

        A personality test can also give you clear insights into your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and work potential. Do you have leadership abilities? How do you communicate and manage conflict? What benefits do you add to an organization?

        Identifying your working style should be your top priority right now, otherwise you risk accepting a new position that has all the same problems as before. The last thing you want is to reproduce the same old dramas the next time around.

        When you become aware of your potential, you will have the confidence to search and find the type of work you love.

        For example, getting fired from your banking job may have knocked you sideways. But you have some stellar home decorating skills, and a personality test shows that you are curious, flexible, rational and resilient—all the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Maybe this dismissal is an opportunity to launch the business you’ve always dreamed of but never dared to admit to yourself?

        By considering all your special skills and talents, you increase your chances of finding a job you would really enjoy, and not just the one you can do.

        8. Get the Word Out

        At this point, you should be ready to take action and move forward with your job search. Let’s not sugarcoat the situation: getting a new job is tough. It helps to have a clear idea of the direction you want to go in, a list of all your crossover skills and a freshly polished resume.

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        Look around for inspiration. Talk to recruiters in your sector to establish what they consider to be your most valuable skills. Use all the resources at your disposal: job search agencies, headhunters, work coaches, careers websites and so on. These resources can help you match your qualifications to the job requirements and ensure you have the right keywords on your resume.

        Don’t hold back on marshaling your networks. Put friends and family to work to pop up leads, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Sometimes the simple act of getting the word out to the people who know you is the surest way to find work fast.

        9. Anticipate Questions and Know How to Answer Them

        Even if it wasn’t your fault, getting fired can hurt you if you don’t know how to explain why you were let go. You have to be honest here and tell recruiters the truth. Even if a would-be employer does not specifically ask why you left your previous job, it is better to clarify the situation upfront before it comes out in your references.

        The best approach is to take your share of responsibility and show that you want to go forward and that you understand the lesson.

        For example, suppose you got fired for asking the difficult questions that no one wanted to answer and your candidness set people on edge. Acknowledge that some people perceive your communication style as abrupt and explain how you’re taking steps to increase your diplomacy skills.

        A recruiter can be seduced by someone who knows how to evolve and who shows a great energy for personal development.

        10. Adapt and Persist

        Throughout this journey, you inevitably will go through moments of self-doubt and disappointment. There are undulations in every road, and these are the normal steps for regaining self-confidence after getting fired.

        Stay tough! Don’t conclude that your future is hopeless just because the dream job doesn’t land straightaway. You open a positive path when you maintain focus. Have the confidence to know that the perfect job for you is out there.

        Remember, you are not alone. Many people walked this road and they would urge you to keep the momentum. Stay open-minded and go where the opportunities take you: it will bring you closer to the job you really want.

        Coming Out on Top

        While getting fired isn’t the ideal situation, it isn’t the end of the world either. Even if feels like a doozy right now, you will get through it and emerge happier on the other side.

        Be clear on what you want, have courage and believe in yourself. In the end, you may decide that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to you. It can be the catalyst for a powerful, career-fulfilling change.

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        Featured photo credit: Jesus Kiteque via unsplash.com

        Reference

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