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Published on March 22, 2021

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Focus

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Focus
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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

What Is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals? How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine 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

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Last Updated on July 27, 2021

Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better

Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better
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What comes to mind when you think of learning how to focus better? Do you think of the attention or concentration it takes to complete a task? Do you consider the amount of willpower needed to finish writing a report without touching your phone? Do you think it requires sitting in complete silence and away from distractions so that you can study for an important exam or prepare for an interview?

I’m sure many of you can relate to the above statements and agree that the ability to focus is about staying on task for a given period of time. Breaking that concentration would mean that you’ve lost your focus, and you’re either doing something else or trying to gain back that focus to finish up the intended task.

With an ever-increasing amount of information—that is easily accessible online and offline—we’re faced with a lot more opportunities and avenues to create possibilities to experience things on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, that can make it a lot harder for us to make progress or get things done because we’re either easily distracted or overwhelmed by the constant influx of information.

That’s why many of us end up having problems concentrating or focusing in life—whether it be on a smaller scale like completing a task on time, or something much bigger like staying on track in your career and climbing the ladder of success. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we blame our failures due to a lack of focus.

Learning how to focus better doesn’t have to be too complex. Here is some information to help you get started.

Focus Is Not About Paying Attention

What if I tell you that you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time?

Focus isn’t just the attention span of giving 20 minutes to a task. It actually goes far beyond that.

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The real reason why we focus is because we need to do something that exceeds our existing capability. We need to devote large amounts of time and energy to move the needle in life, to make that progress and positive change.

And why do we want to do that? Because we want to spend time becoming a better version of ourselves!

At the end of the day, the reason why we stay focused on any task, project, or goal is because we want to succeed. With that success comes progress in our lives, which means we eventually become better than what we were a month ago, or even a year ago.

Let me give you an example:

Say you’ve been tasked to manage a project by your boss. You have targets to meet and favorable outcomes to achieve. Your focus and attention has to be on this project.

Once the project has been completed, your boss is happy with the results and your hard work. She rewards you with praise, a promotion, or maybe even a year-end bonus.

That’s your success right there, and you feel good about your achievements. Looking back at who you were before and after the completion of this project, wouldn’t you say you’ve become a better version of your previous self?

Focus Is a Flow

This is what focus is and how where learning how to focus better starts. It’s not a one-off, task-by-task mode that you jump into whenever needed. Rather, focus is a flow[1].

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Focus is the way in which you deliberately target your energy to push progress in something you care about. Because focus takes energy, time, and effort, whatever it is that you need to focus on should be something meaningful to you, something that’s worth shutting down phone calls, text messages, and social media for.

So, why is it that we sometimes find it so hard to focus?

Usually, it’s because we’re missing two major elements. Either we don’t know where we want to go—in that we don’t have a clear goal—or we do have a goal, but we don’t have a clear roadmap.

Trying to improve your focus without these two things is like driving to get somewhere in a foreign country with no road map. You end up using a lot of gas and driving for hours without knowing if you’re getting anywhere.

Let’s go back to the example of your boss assigning you a project to manage. The company is opening a new office, and your boss wants you to oversee the renovations and moving-in process of this new location.

Now, if you didn’t have a clear goal or end result of how the new office should look, you could be busy arranging for contractors, interior designers, or movers to come, but have no clue what to assign or brief them on.

The second scenario is that you know exactly how the new office should look and when it should be up and running. However, because you don’t have a clear roadmap to get to that end result, you end up working all over the place; one moment you’re arranging for the contractors to start renovations, the next moment you’ve got furniture coming in when the space isn’t ready. What do you focus on first?

The Focus Flow

Without a clear goal and road map, things can turn out frantic and frustrating, with many wrong turns. You also end up expending a lot more mental energy than needed. But, having a Focus Flow when learning how to focus better can help.

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Let me show you how theFocus Flow works.

  1. It starts from a clear objective.
  2. This becomes a clear roadmap.
  3. Then it manifests into a state oftargeted attentionand effort.
  4. This results in pushing your progress towards your ultimate destination.

Setting a Clear Objective

To start off, you need to set a clear focus objective. If you don’t have an objective, how can you decide on which things are worth focusing on? You can’t focus on everything at the same time, so you have to make a choice.

Like driving a car, you need a destination.

In this case, you don’t want to drive around aimlessly. You want to arrive at your destination before you run out of gas.

A good focus objective, therefore, needs to be concrete. This means that it should be something you can visualize, such as determining how the new office is going to look after you’ve completed the renovation and moving in. If you can visualize it, that means you have a clear enough picture to know what’s needed to achieve it.

Drawing a Focus Roadmap

The second step is to lay out a practical focus roadmap. Once you have your ideas, setting an objective is easy. The most difficult part is determining how you’re going to achieve your objective.

There are lots of things you can do to work towards your goal, but what comes first? What’s more valuable, and how long will it take?

That’s where having a roadmap helps you answer these questions. Like driving, you need to have at least a rough idea of which major roads to drive on, and the order in which you need to drive them.

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Yet, creating a roadmap can get tricky because you have absolute freedom on how you’re going to achieve your objective.

To create a good road map, you should include major milestones. These are targets you need to hit in order to achieve success. Your roadmap should also include feasible and realistic actions that you can achieve as you learn how to focus better.

Need a little help in drawing this Focus Roadmap? The Full Life Planner can help you. It’s a practical planner to help you stay focused and on track with your most important goals and tasks in an organized way. Get yours today!

Power Up Your Productivity

I hope you now have a better understanding of how focus truly works. By harnessing your focus using the Focus Flow, you’ll be able to work on a task more productively, not because you’re able to concentrate, but rather because you know exactly what your end goal is, and you have a game plan in place to make that happen.

Once there is clarity, I can assure you that you’ll be less likely to get distracted or lose focus on your tasks at hand.

You may think it’s going to take you extra time writing out an objective and setting out a roadmap. You may believe that you are better off getting right down to the actual work.

However, as I’ve mentioned, there’s no point in rushing your efforts that lead you to nowhere or cause you additional detours. You’ll end up expending more mental energy and time than needed.

Once you’ve made your roadmap and found your focus, follow it up with unbreakable determination with Lifehack’s Actionable Motivation On Demand Handbook.

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More on Overcoming Distractions

Featured photo credit: Paul Skorupskas via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Very Well Mind: The Psychology of Flow

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