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Published on March 22, 2021

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Focus

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Focus

According to a study done by Microsoft, we lose interest in just eight seconds.[1] That means our attention span is less than that of a goldfish’s (which is nine).

The battle for our mind is very real. Never before in history have we had so many different vehicles vying for our attention. Disney+, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok are just some of the heavy hitters out there and unfortunately for us, they are all very good at what they do.

The good news is we can fight back.

As a productivity consultant, I help clients regain their focus in a number of ways. Here are 11 ways to naturally increase your focus.

1. A Good Night’s Rest

As a society, we have become obsessed with getting ahead. We come in early, stay late, put in time on the weekends, and burn the midnight oil. We do so in order to give ourselves advantages over our peers and competition which lead to promotions and higher salaries.

Every time a new client walks through my door (metaphorically in today’s world), I run a time audit. I want to know how they invest their time, where the leaks are and how best I can serve them. Inevitably, nearly every executive that comes to me, shortchanges themselves when it comes to their sleep.

There are the sleepless elites (1 to 3 percent of the population)[2] that are able to get by on less than five hours sleep, but most of us simply can’t. Researchers have found that we need between seven and eight hours a night to operate at peak performance.[3] Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma and Lebron James are just a few of the people that get a good night’s rest.

A good night’s sleep allows our body to reset itself; reducing stress and alleviating muscle wear. Our ability to focus increases and we are able to reduce our mistakes.

Solution: It isn’t rocket science – schedule your sleep as you would a meeting with an important client. It’s that important.

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2. Dust Off Your Jogging Shoes

We have become a sedentary society spending an average of ten hours a day seated. Our body suffers as a result. To counter the effects sitting has on our body we need to move so it’s time to dust off your jogging shoes and get out there. It doesn’t have to be jogging, but we do need to get our blood pumping.

Martial arts such as Karate or Aikido are a great way to not only boost your stamina and improve your focus naturally, but you develop the ability to protect yourself at the same time.

Bouldering is another excellent sport which can be done alone. What’s great about going to a bouldering gym is you can listen to your favorite podcast or listen to lectures with your AirPods, killing two birds with one stone.

The benefits of regular exercise are well documented. Exercise benefits everyone, from the very young to even older adults. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), just a year of moderate aerobic physical activity an help stop or even reverse memory loss that can occur with aging.[4]

Most people fail when it comes to exercise because they try to do too much, too fast and simply give up. Don’t think of your health as a sprint, but rather a marathon. Play the long game. Experience has taught me that it’s not actually working out that’s tough, but creating the habit that’s the real challenge.

Solution: Start with just five minutes of exercise a day. Everyone can find five minutes. One the habit sticks, it’s easy enough to increase it to ten or twenty, but without the habit, your chance of success is low.

3. Nature is Your Friend

When it comes to natural ways to improve focus, nature is a winner. Too many of us go through our day simply moving from one screen to another. We sit in front of our laptop and work on our upcoming PowerPoint presentation, then pick up our iPhone to skim our social media feeds, then turning on our giant 65’ TV to catch up on our favorite shows. The strain on our eyes is intense, and worst of all, we don’t even notice it.

The solution here is simple – put your smartphone away, and get outside. Even just a short walk for 15 to 20 minutes can boost your concentration. Got a writer’s block? Same thing, get outside and simply enjoy nature. A short walk around the neighborhood or wandering through a park will do wonders to get your creative juices flowing. If you’re near a beach or river, even better.

Any natural environment has benefits. In fact, according to research from 2014, there is evidence to suggest that by simply adding plants to your office space increases concentration and productivity,[5] not to mention workplace satisfaction and air quality.

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It’s not just adults who benefit from natural environments either. Children with ADHD could improve concentration from a 20-minute walk in the park over a simply walk in an urban setting.[6]

Solution: Spend more time in nature. Here’s what happens to your brain when you walk in nature.

4. Brain Training Activities

Sudoku, crosswords, chess, jigsaw puzzles are popular for a reason. Not just are they challenging, but they help improve focus and patience.

Solution: Add more games to your mental diet. Here’re 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

5. Music

Studies have shown that listening to classical music improves cognitive ability.[7] Perhaps it’s the combination of a lack of lyrics with beautiful sounds that works so effectively. Our mind doesn’t get caught up trying to sing along with Taylor Swift, while at the same time, creates a sense of relaxation.

Solution: Add more classical music, nature sounds or BGM to your office space. Here’re some options for you: Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists)

6. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

We live in a world of noise. Notifications, buzzes, phone calls, kids, cars, etc. Some of the most productive times have been when I was simply sitting in a park when no one was around or laying on a secluded beach.

Unfortunately, not all of us have that luxury. Thankfully, we can create our own quiet places with noise-cancelling headphones. It’s not exactly a nature way to improve focus, but it’s too important not to include.

Solution: Pick yourself up some AirPod Pros and keep the outside world out. Just be sure not to use them when you’re cycling or in your car.

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7. Tai Chi

Not quite a martial art, not quite meditation. Tai Chi is an ancient form of focusing the mind that includes body movement often described as “medication in motion.” This low-impact, slow-motion exercise challenges you to focus on your breathing and circular movements in which the muscles are never tensed.

Solution: If you’ve always wanted to give martial arts a try but want a lighter version, Tai Chi could be for you.

8. Work from Paper

Our society has become so glued to technology that most kids are more familiar with their iPads than books. I do love my iPhone but I also know its limitations. Working from paper is one natural way to increase focus and retention. There’s something magical about picking up a pen and writing things down.

Typing is simply hitting a bunch of keys in a seemingly random order. Writing forces us to create each letter (or character for languages such as Japanese and Thai). That movement stimulates different parts of our brains and as such improves focus.

Solution: Real pros use a pen and paper in today’s digital world.

9. Caffeine

While I’m not a huge proponent of adding caffeine to your diet, I can’t deny the fact that it can help increase focus. Most people assume that means to drink coffee, however, I suggest people try green tea, otherwise known as matcha, instead. Not only does green tea contain caffeine, but it also has phytochemicals that not only improve cognitive function but also promote relaxation.

Solution: Go Japanese and turn to green tea if you need a caffeine boost.

10. Meditation

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We live in a world of noise. Meditation is precisely the opposite. It allows us to clear our minds. Thomas Edison once said, “When you become quiet, it just dawns on you.”

Meditation isn’t for everyone. It takes time to tap into its power and some people simply don’t have the patience for it. For those people, I suggest trying yoga instead. In many ways yoga and meditation are intertwined. They both rely heavily on breathing exercises so if you have trouble sitting still, yoga is a better option for you. Many athletes including Kobe Bryant were huge practitioners of both activities and the results speak for themselves.

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Solution: Try adding a healthy dose of yoga or meditations activities to your daily life. Here’re the 5 Best Guided Morning Meditation for Energy And Motivation

11. Improve Your Diet

I like to say, “You can only be as productive as you feel.” Our condition is linked to our mental and physical health. Much of the items on this list relate to improving our mental state, but our physical state is just as important hence why exercise was number two on this list. However, exercise is just one half of our physical condition. The other is our diet.

Too many of us fail to invest the time to create a healthy diet conducive to our focus and productivity. I was one of them, and I suffered from it. Thankfully, my wife was able to right the sinking ship and today, at age 46, I feel healthier than when I was in my 20s.

Entire books are dedicated to creating the perfect diet. I believe we don’t need nearly that much. The key to living well is simply a more well-balanced diet. The breakdown of my seven lunches and seven dinners each week is usually 40% chicken, 30% fish, and 30% meat. Except for the odd burger, every meal comes with a variety of vegetables. Lastly, and most importantly, I rarely eat till I’m full.

Solution: You don’t need to go vegan; a well-balanced diet can work wonders to improve your focus. Check out these 15 Eating Habits to Make You Stay Productive at Work.

Bottom Line

The battle for our focus is very real. We need to fight back! The 11 ways above will help you increase your focus naturally and boost productivity.

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Adrian Shepherd

Adrian is a productivity consultant and the CEO of iSucceed

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Focus How To Increase Focus At Work: 12 Brain Hacks Why Can’t I Focus? 8 Reasons and Possible Solutions How To Increase Your Efficiency At Work (14 Simple Ways)

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Published on April 8, 2021

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

Want to know what Steve Jobs thought was the ultimate key in achieving success?

“Focus and simplicity… once you get there, you can move mountains.”—Steve Jobs

And this belief is even more important today than it was years ago. At your fingertips is a literal world of information and entertainment. So, it’s no wonder we all have such wandering minds nowadays.

Thanks to the internet and smartphones, attention is practically a currency we should be more budget-minded about. In fact, a person who can stay focused is not only more likely to get more done but also be more satisfied at the end of the day because of it.

Going further, a person who’s focused will more easily achieve their goals—anything from losing 20 pounds to getting a promotion at work is within the reach of this type of person.

So, in the spirit of that idea, here are 10 ways to tame that wandering mind of yours and turn it into a laser-focused brain that gets things done.

1. Find Your Totem

Remember the totem in the movie, Inception? It’s an item that reminded people they weren’t in a dream when they touched it, and it was able to keep them grounded in reality.

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You can replicate this idea when it comes to staying focused as well. All you’ve to got to do is find something to be your “focus totem,” and it’ll remind you that you should stop daydreaming and get back to work. Ideally, it’s something you can see and touch.

In the movie, a chess piece and a spinning top were used—both are good ideas. You could also use a picture of your family, a mini trophy, or even wear a ring to focus your mind as well. (In fact, a green lantern ring might be kind of cool for this.)

2. Promise a Reward

Incentives are an obvious way to go. Having gold at the end of any journey makes you want to press forward just for the sweet results. In general, rewards should correlate to the difficulty/length of the work.

For example:

  • Finish a quick house chore = a piece of chocolate
  • Complete an annoying administrative task = 10 minutes of Youtube
  • A successful day of work = a whole movie on Netflix

Pretty simple stuff, right? But you’d be surprised how often you forget to reward yourself for doing solid work on the regular.

3. Make It Stupid Easy for Your Wandering Mind

I don’t know about you, but if I perceive my work to require more effort than I care to use, I’m instantly turned off. This then leads to distraction and procrastination. But you can offset this by breaking a difficult task into a bite-sized piece.

Case in point, what seems easier: 30 pushups or 3 pushups?

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It’s obvious, but sometimes our brains need to be “convinced” we’re only doing a small amount of work to get things going.

But here’s something cool about this tactic: You can (and most likely will) keep going past your stupid easy benchmark. You don’t have to, but my experience tells me once you get going like this, it’s easy to go beyond your bare minimum goal.

4. Empty Your Mind With Journaling

Sometimes, there’s too much stuff floating around in your brain that is making your mind wander. In that case, it can help to spill everything in your head onto a journal to free up some space. You can use a pen and pad for this or something digital like Evernote.

There are two basic ways to go about it:

  1. Freestyle – where you just write whatever randomly flows through your brain without thinking or pausing. This is great if you’ve got a million different ideas racing through your brain.
  2. Focused – where you create prompts or an outline to streamline your thinking and you just respond to the questions or format. This is best when you want to grasp a certain topic.

5. Use the “Just 5 Minutes” Method

Try telling yourself that you’ll work for “just 5 minutes” and then you can stop. You’ll find that the task feels far easier to handle. And like the “stupid easy” method, this tricks your brain into thinking the task is lower effort than it really is. After all, 5 minutes for even the worst task is psychologically manageable for any person out there.

The key is to honestly allow yourself to stop at 5 minutes—no matter what. That’s what allows your brain to accept the method as legit and also lets it overcome the mental hurdle that makes your brain want to wander around and focus on anything but your task.

6. Recite a Focus Mantra

I like to think of mantras as a totem you can take with you anywhere you go. They serve the same purpose—reminding you to stay focused—but can be done anywhere and anytime.

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I find the most powerful type of mantra to be based on reality. I learned this approach from Dr. Jon Fader—a performance coach who was on “Good Morning America”—and his book Life as Sport: What Top Athletes Can Teach You about How to Win in Life. He calls this “objective optimism.”

Basically, you create a mantra that’s based on personal success in your life. That way, the mantra isn’t just a fluffy positivity statement, there’s also the weight of real-life success giving it power

Some examples:

  • If you’re struggling to make yourself go to the gym but have technically been there many times already, you could say, “just another day of heading to the gym—easy.”
  • If you’re suffering from impostor-syndrome after accepting a promotion, just say, “I’m here for a reason” to remind yourself that your efforts were recognized by others and are the real deal.
  • If you’re nervous about an upcoming sports competition but have trained diligently for it, you could say, “I’ve done all the work possible” to remind yourself that your earlier efforts have created the best version of you for the event.

As you can see, the most powerful mantras are evidence-based and positive. So, just find proof of relevant success in your life and transform it into a motivating mantra.

7. Use the “Multi-Yawn” Approach

One of the best ways to be distracted is to be tired. And sometimes, you’ll be tired in such a way that you’re “sort of” working but not realize that you’re actually constantly distracted.

If you can notice when you do this, one thing I like to do is crank out as many big, satisfying yawns as possible. Olympic athletes sometimes do this before their big events. It calms them down and helps them perform better in the process. And it works just as well for us regular folks. I find it has a similar effect to taking a good nap (and actually works best in unison), so you can imagine how effective this can be.

8. Find an Easy Win

Nothing feels good like winning. So, it can help to find a few simple tasks you can do with little effort and just get them done immediately. This will create momentum and propel your productivity forward. The feeling of success will lock your focus in on the task at hand and refocus your wandering mind. Use this when you feel “resistance” to getting your work started.

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9. Create a “Wins” List

Feeling like a capable person who can win at life is motivating in and of itself. In light of this fact, it can help to have an ongoing “wins” list to prove you’re an able person.

Just keep track of all your daily wins—big and small. And whenever your focus starts to wane, give that list a peek and remind yourself that you’re more capable than you realize.

10. Add Stakes to the Mix

If you were to lose $20 if you failed to complete a task, would you be more focused on completing it? Of course!

Try and find ways to put something on the line when it comes to completing your tasks, and you’ll find your focus, motivation, and ability to things done to be higher than ever before.

For example, if you’re at work, you could involve a co-worker by saying you’ll buy their food if you don’t complete a task before lunchtime rolls around. At home, you could say you’ll also mow the lawn if you don’t remember to wash the dishes before the day is over. Or you could just use something like Beeminder or TaskRatchet, which actually charges you cash for failing to complete a task or goal on time. (It’s scary but effective)

All are viable methods, so just give one of them a shot.

Who Else Wants More Success?

Of the many methods of winning at life out there, focusing is definitely a top-three contender. You can’t get anything you want in life if you don’t buckle down and get your work done—a wandering mind won’t create success.

But with these 10 focus tips, you’ll be ahead of the competition and be closer to a fitter body, higher income, and a flat-out better life than before.

More Tips on Sharpening Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Clay Banks via unsplash.com

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