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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Stay on Task And Be Laser Focused

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How to Stay on Task And Be Laser Focused

Focus is one of the most critical tools in your productivity arsenal. Remaining focused throughout the day will increase your likelihood of staying committed to your priorities. It will reduce the amount of time you waste on distractions and unnecessary priorities. And it will increase your efficiency when working on a task because you’re committing your full cognitive resources to it. The question is, how can you intentionally stay on task with so many distractions in the workplace?

It’s hard to increase your focus through willpower alone, so consider using these habits and strategies to make it easier to focus regularly:

1. Turn Off Notifications

Notifications are stealing your focus — at least, that’s an excellent way to think about them. Whenever you receive a notification, you’re going to look up from your work, even if it’s just for a moment. When this happens, your focus breaks, and it takes time for you to build it back up. In some situations, notifications may pull you entirely away from your work, causing you to shift priorities inefficiently.

You’re better off without them in most contexts, so turn off notifications wherever you can and minimize them wherever you can’t.

2. Disable Access to Distracting Websites

If you’re like most people, there are at least a handful of websites responsible for hours of your time wasted every week. These are probably social media sites, forums, or other sources of content that pull you away from more important projects.

Consider downloading a browser extension or an app that allows you to selectively block these websites or put a limit on the amount of time you can use them. Eventually, you’ll develop much more responsible habits.

3. Delete Your Biggest Time-Wasting Apps

Similarly, you should know which apps on your phone are responsible for your biggest distractions and time waste. Again, these are probably social media sites, games, or other sources of entertaining information, so consider deleting them altogether.

If you truly miss the apps, you can always reinstall them later. Otherwise, you can hide them in a different part of your phone’s interface. This way, you’re less likely to open the app unconsciously.

4. Stop People From Interrupting You

How long do you go without being interrupted? The average knowledge worker spends only 11 minutes on a given project before facing an interruption from another person.[1] This is incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to focus on a heads-down project.

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There are a few ways you can stop people from interrupting you. For example, you can create a physical barrier (e.g., closing a door) or notify them that you’re going to be unavailable to deter them from talking to you. If not, you can completely unplug from the internet to cut down digital conversational requests, albeit temporarily.

5. Get More Sleep

Sleep has a significant impact on your ability to focus. If you miss even one night of good sleep, it’s going to impact your ability to concentrate the next day and possibly for several days to follow. Adults are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.[2] If you’re struggling to achieve it, consider scheduling sleep as you’d do with any other important activity.

You can also try different tactics like buying a new mattress, keeping your room cooler, and improving your overall lifestyle (meaning, eating healthily and exercising).

6. Consume Caffeine (in Moderation)

Anyone who drinks coffee regularly can tell you that even a small amount of caffeine can make it easier to focus, especially if you’re feeling tired). Try grabbing a mug of coffee or a cup of tea whenever you feel the need for a focus boost.

Just make sure you’re not overindulging, or you can wind up with adverse side effects, such as excessive anxiety or insomnia.

7. Try the ABC Method

One article from the Harvard Business Review suggests using the ABC method, which stands for “Aware, Breathe, and Choose.”[3] The basic idea is to catch yourself when your focus is broken (the “aware” step). Once you do this, take a moment to breathe. Don’t judge yourself, and give yourself a minute to clear your mind.

From there, make a conscious, deliberate decision on what to do next. Do you want to continue being distracted? Or do you want to return to work?

8. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

You can accomplish something similar by practicing mindfulness meditation. This branch of meditation encourages users to spend time improving their awareness of the present moment regularly. You must allow your thoughts to come and go naturally, often with the help of a focal point like a deep breathing exercise or a mantra.

The first several times you do this, you may struggle to notice the results. But over time, you’ll get better at it until you realize that mindfulness meditation is an excellent tool for decluttering your mind and improving your focus.

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9. Stop Multitasking

Too many people falsely believe that they’re the exception to the concept that multitasking doesn’t work. One study found that multitasking makes you 40% less productive.[4] It’s tempting to do some light reading during a boring meeting or try to answer two different employee requests simultaneously. But whenever you try to split your focus between two or more tasks, you end up doing all of them inefficiently.

You’re much better off focusing on one thing at a time, even if it feels less productive at the moment. Plus, the more you do this, the easier it will be to focus on singular tasks.

10. Turn Up the Thermostat

One study found that people were almost twice as productive in a room of 77 degrees as they were in a place with a room temperature of 68 degrees.[5] There are a few possible explanations for this, including the idea that we are simply more comfortable in 77-degree air than 68-degree air. It can also be that people are more active in the former temperature.

But whatever the case is, this effect seems to be scientifically valid.

Just take it with a grain of salt. Different people have different climate preferences, so you may end up focusing better in other conditions, too.

11. Invest in Better Lighting

Almost universally, people find it easier to focus when they’re surrounded by bright, high-quality light. The best option here is to allow more natural sunlight into your workspace. However, if this isn’t possible, invest in high-quality LEDs that can replicate sunlight.

You’ll feel less tired when surrounded by this light, and you’ll find it easier to concentrate on the papers and screens in front of you.

12. Work and Relax in Different Areas

If you’re working from home or have any flexibility in where you work, make sure you work and relax in different areas. Our minds tend to acclimate to different environments based on their purpose. Thus, if you use your bed for general lounging throughout the day, you may not associate it with sleep (and may have difficulty sleeping as a result).

If you enjoy movies and video games on your living room couch, and you try to work on that same couch with a laptop, you’re naturally going to feel distracted. Improve your focus by setting up a specific workstation.

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13. Stare at Something Red

This is a strange tip, but consider staring at something red when you’re feeling distracted. One study found that after staring at the color red, workers were more likely to stay focused on tasks and showed improvements in memory, performance, and even attention to detail.[6]

These results were not found in participants who stared at the color blue. So, there’s no harm in keeping a red flag or sheet of paper nearby in case you need a quick concentration boost.

14. Exercise Every Day

Make time every day to exercise, even if you can’t fit in a full-body workout. The physical exertion releases endorphins and dopamine, giving you a burst of energy and helping you focus throughout the day. It’s also a great way to relieve stress, so there’s no reason not to try it.[7]

The next time you find your focus drifting, go for a brisk walk, or do some pushups and sit-ups near your desk. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to focus afterward.

15. Break Things Down

When a task seems intimidating or complicated, people tend to have difficulty focusing. You can make everything more manageable and easier to focus on by breaking these monster tasks down. Split each major project into several smaller pieces.

Instead of scheduling hours of your day continuously, block off time in 15-minute intervals. It’s much easier to stay focused for 15 minutes at a time than to try and focus for two hours straight.

16. Take a Break

Taking a break is the only real way to “recharge” in the middle of a heavy work session.[8] It’s a way for you to declutter your mind and an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and your approach to work.

Try to take a break for at least a few minutes every hour or two and walk away from the screen if you can. When you return, you’ll likely find it much easier to focus on your tasks.

17. Establish Visual Reminders

When our focus falters, it doesn’t usually happen all at once. Instead, it starts to drift without us being aware of it. Before we realize what’s happening, we’re already paying attention to something entirely new.

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You can fight back against this by establishing visual reminders for yourself. For example, writing the phrase “Are you focused?” on a brightly colored sticky note and sticking it next to your screen can force you to challenge your current attention levels.

Whenever your attention drifts away from your main project, you’ll see this phrase and ask yourself the question. Hopefully, it will return your attention to where it belongs. Just make sure to change these visuals from time to time so that you don’t get used to them.

18. Turn on a White Noise Machine

If you’re the type of person who’s consistently distracted by environmental noise, consider finding a way to introduce gentle background noise to your environment. If you play low-volume ambient music or turn on a white noise machine, you’ll likely drown out whatever micro-noises that usually distract you (e.g., footsteps, chitchat, or construction sounds). Experiment with different types of noise to see what helps you focus best.

19. Stay Focused in Other Areas of Your Life

Focus is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it’s going to become. If you’re not focused in any areas of your life, you’re not going to become and remain focused at work. For example, if you can’t get through watching a movie without looking at your smartphone 20 times, it’s a sign you have a bigger focus problem.

Work on keeping your focus as much as possible in other areas of your life — not just at work. You’ll notice a significant difference in as little as a few weeks.

Making Iterative Improvements

If you struggle to stay on task, you may be disappointed to learn that no shortcut can make you instantly and permanently more attentive. However, you shouldn’t be discouraged. Make iterative improvements, gradually tweaking your habits and approaches so that you can evolve.

Rotate through the strategies we’ve listed above, and figure out a combination of approaches that works for you!

More Tips to Help You Stay Focused

Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jayson DeMers

Entrepreneur and Productivity Expert

13 Visualization Techniques to Help You Reach Your Goals Why Am I Lazy? 15 Ways to Stop Being Lazy and Unmotivated How to Be Committed to Your Goals Even During Hard Times How to Stay on Task And Be Laser Focused How to Use Time Blocking for Productivity (A Complete Guide)

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Last Updated on September 9, 2021

The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

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The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

Everyone has their favorite habits for boosting productivity. Your desk setup, morning routine, and diet all play a role. But there’s one thing that everyone agrees can make a difference: focus music.

Soothing beats can keep distractions at bay, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re trying to drown out mowers or simply get into a groove, put on a pair of headphones. Music can make all the difference in your focus.

With that said, not all music is equally conducive to productivity. You need to be careful about what you listen to. Getting work done calls for very different sounds than getting a workout in.

If you need a little more help to get rid of distractions, check out Lifehack’s free guide End Distraction And Find Your Focus. In this guide you’ll learn the simple techniques to stay focused and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

This article will walk you through selecting the best music for productivity, as well as a list of tunes to help you get started.

How to Pick the Best Focus Music For Yourself

With so many genres and artists out there, there’s a lot of music to choose from. Before you press play, keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Stick With Instrumental

Songs without words in them make it easier to focus. Lyrics can distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish because you might get the words mixed up with what you’re trying to read. If you’re writing something, you might find yourself typing the lyrics instead.

Intelligence and instrumental music are correlated, perhaps because instrumental music is less intrusive.[1] Instrumental music tends to fade into the background, giving you a rhythm without pulling your mind away from the task at hand.

Stay away from instrumental versions of songs you recognize. It’s easy to fill in the blanks with the lyrics if you’ve already committed them to memory.

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However, some exceptions can be made. Creatives who produce videos or audio might prefer tracks that get their creative juices going, lyrics and all. However, if you find lyrics to be distracting, switch back to instrumental tunes.

2. Take It Easy

Not all instrumental music is calm and relaxing. Focus music should be, however. So, beware of instrumental songs that are too loud and stimulating. High volumes and tempos can work you up when you need to stay calm.

Again, some roles can make exceptions. Physical laborers can use more rambunctious tunes to keep them energized. While calm tunes work best for those in desk-based roles, don’t go too extreme. Something that’s too soothing might make you feel tired, and yawning all day isn’t exactly the path to productivity.

3. Pick Music You Enjoy

At the end of the day, the best focus music is what you enjoy. If you hate classical music, don’t put together a classical playlist just because you stumbled on a study about its benefits.[2] Your dislike of the music will take away the productivity you’d otherwise get out of listening to it.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’ve never worked while listening to jazz before, why not? Save songs you like for later listening. Over time, you’ll build a playlist of tried-and-true focus music.

4. Update Your Setup

Before jamming out to your productivity tunes, make sure you have the right equipment. Invest in a music streaming service so you don’t have to listen to ads. Purchase noise-canceling headphones to avoid distracting your co-workers.

Focus music is all about ambience. Anything that interrupts your flow—whether that’s poor sound quality or glitchy streaming—needs to go.

Expect to spend at least $100 on headphones or speakers. For the streaming service itself, Spotify Premium is the standard at $9.99 per month. Slacker, Apple Music, and YouTube Music are also popular.

Building Your Perfect Playlist of Focus Music (With Recommendations)

Now that you know what to look for in focus music and how to listen, it’s time to build your playlist. Get started with these smooth, instrumental genres, artists, and songs.

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1. Chillhop Music

This YouTube channel has almost 3 million subscribers. Its music videos run 24/7 and feature driving yet relaxing beats.

Most songs on this channel fall into a category called “lofi hip hop,” a type of electronic R&B. Unlike traditional hip hop, lofi hip hop songs follow a slow, steady pattern that induces focus and relaxation.

Chillhop playlists can also be streamed on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Popular artists include nymano, No Signal, and Sleepy Fish.

2. Andy McKee

Andy McKee is an acoustic guitarist who became famous after “Drifting,” one of his early songs, went viral on YouTube. “Drifting” exemplifies the creative, quiet guitar techniques found in the rest of McKee’s music.

Today, McKee has six albums of primarily acoustic guitar. One of McKee’s most popular pieces, “Rylynn,” is a perfect example of his soothing yet upbeat sound.

3. John Butler Trio

The band John Butler Trio became popular after releasing “Ocean,” a 2012 hit with more than 50 million listens on YouTube.[3] Heavy on acoustic guitar, “Ocean” is an intricate ballad that ebbs and flows like the ocean itself.

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Known for flowing changes in key and mood, the John Butler Trio proves that fast songs can stand in as great focus music. The group’s long songs—“Ocean” is 12 minutes long—are less disruptive for long projects. Two other favorites by John Butler Trio are “Betterman” and “Spring to Come.”

4. Classical Radio on Pandora

Classical music has long been a staple for music lovers looking to get work done. Pandora’s classical station features a great mix, from Beethoven to modern artists like Maria Callas and Jorge Bolet.

Pandora has radio stations for every genre imaginable. You can generate playlists based on genre, artist, or even a specific song.

Other music apps offer similar playlists and radio stations you can turn to for your classical music fix. From piano-heavy tunes to violin concertos, you’ll find plenty to perk up your ears.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack

Movie soundtracks are full of amazing focus music. One of my favorites is the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which is lively and adventurous but not in your face.

If you like what you hear, Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, has worked on a huge array of films. Zimmer also put together the soundtracks for The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Inception.

One thing to watch out for with cinematic music is associations. As iconic as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack is, if you’re thinking about Jack Sparrow instead of balancing spreadsheets, you should probably switch to a new song.

6. Legend of Zelda Soundtrack

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Another hotspot for instrumental music is video games. If you’re not sure where to start, check out selections from The Legend of Zelda.

Anyone who’s played The Legend of Zelda games will immediately recognize what they hear. The soundtrack is light, airy, and full of awe. Keyboards, harps, and flutes feature prominently.

Although you could spend hours listening to The Legend of Zelda music, don’t forget about fan-produced songs in this genre. The video-gaming community is robust, and instrumental re-creations of your favorite games’ soundtracks can be found all over the internet.

7. Nature Sounds and White Noise

This genre may be too relaxing for some, but others prefer less structured focus music. Sounds like thunder, wind, and rushing water can transport you to a quiet, idyllic place to get work done.

One type of white noise to avoid is city-related sounds. Even without lyrics, honking horns or chattering crowds can be distracting.

An advantage of this type of focus music is that it can be set on a loop. If you find a track you like, go ahead and put it on repeat. When it starts over, you won’t even notice.

Ready, Set, Play

The best part about focus music is that nothing is off-limits. Some people work better listening to Tom Petty tunes than instrumental music, and that’s okay. What’s important is that it’s motivating without being distracting.

To unlock your next tier of productivity, spend a couple of hours clicking around on your favorite streaming music site. You’ll get more done, and best of all, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

More Tips to Improve Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Lala Azizli via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] New York Post: Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study
[2] Forbes: Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?
[3] YouTube: Ocean – John Butler – 2012 Studio Version

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