According to a study done by Microsoft, we lose interest in just eight seconds. 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) 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. 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.
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.
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, not to mention workplace satisfaction and air quality.
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.
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
Studies have shown that listening to classical music improves cognitive ability. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
|||^||TIME: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish|
|||^||The Wall Street Journal: The Sleepless Elites|
|||^||Business Insider: STUDY: Your Six Hours Of Shut-Eye Is Leaving You Horribly Sleep Deprived|
|||^||National Institute of Health: Moderate Exercise May Improve Memory in Older Adults|
|||^||Science Daily: Why plants in the office make us more productive|
|||^||National Library of Medicine: Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walk in the park|
|||^||NCBI: The cognitive effects of listening to background music on older adults: processing speed improves with upbeat music, while memory seems to benefit from both upbeat and downbeat music|