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How Can I Improve My Focus?

How Can I Improve My Focus?

Are you easily distracted? Find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because your mind wanders, you worry too much or have too many things to do that you can’t settle down and concentrate on that one thing? Here’s a great answer we found on Quora by Achintya Prakash who provides some valuable tips on how to improve my focus.

Here’s the answer:-

I see productivity and focus as two distinct things, albeit interrelated. I believe it is possible to boost productivity with a somewhat minimal increase in the inherent focusing ability of a person. However, an increase in focus should in general lead to greater productivity, apart from other benefits.

The Bhagvad Gita likens a persons senses to wild horses, and the mind is akin to the charioteer, who holds the reins of these horses. If you cannot rein in your senses, they will run wild and take you to places you don’t wish to go. Focus essentially boils down to the absolute control of your senses, which is why meditation helps so much in improving it.

I’m sure lots of people don’t read long rambling answers (which this invariably will turn into), so getting to the gist of things, this is what i believe would help a lot (note that I’m trying not to mention things that already have been mentioned) :

1. Practice meditation (the duh! answer)

Its good if you can allocate at least an hour or more for meditation, but a lot of people can’t. That doesn’t really matter; at any point when you are breathing, you have the opportunity to practice meditation. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by focusing on your breathing, really focusing on the air, how it touches your nostrils and upper lips as it enters, how it feels on the back of your throat, how it feels as it escapes. Just focus on this for sometime. You’ll find that you feel restless, that your mind wanders and there’s an endless and (sometimes absurd) chain of thoughts that will follow. Whenever you notice yourself drifting to other thoughts, gently bring your mind back to focusing on the breathing. Regulating the breathing not only calms down your circulatory system, but focusing will help you achieve a sense of ‘peace’ and a strange satisfaction. Its hard to explain the feeling, do it sometime and you’ll know. The great thing is, you can do thisanywhere and anytime, whenever you have a bit of breathing time. So maybe on a commute, while waiting in the lift, while waiting for a code to compile, when you’re booting windows….whenever you have some time to kill.

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2. Listen to music (and I mean really listen)

Listening to music helps in improving your concentration and focus, but only when you really listen. Most people listen to it while doing something else; working, exercising, reading. Try and listen. After I started learning an instrument and really listening to the music, I realized that I could make out what was being played by the individual instruments, the patter of guitar strumming, the bass line etc etc. Thats when I really started enjoying classical music as well. A lot of people still don’t have the ability to focus only on a single instrument and figure out whats happening. Try it, it adds a new dimension to the music you listen to and expands your tastes. (When you clear your mind out and let it be filled only with music, its also another form of meditation, where you are essentially clearing the ‘clutter’ of your thoughts and focusing on one thing).

3. Cut down your goals into smaller, achievable, more immediate targets

I’ve found that having just an end goal in mind, while providing an initial drive, can confuse and frustrate a person, and you lose focus. That’s because if your target goal is difficult or big (as it should be), then you may not see any immediate results which bring you closer to it. Break it down into smaller targets, improvements that you ca achieve within a day or a week, and check it off as another rung to your ‘ladder’ of success.

4. Work when you are most comfortable

Some people work better at day, some at night, Sometimes your environment may just not allow you to relax during the daytime. I don’t mean stay awake the whole night and work the whole day. Get your sleep, but work when you find yourself to be the most productive.



5. Start fasting a bit

Its well known that eating heavy slows you down, directing the blood to your stomach for the digestive process and making you sleepy. A small amount of fasting has a lot of benefits. It speeds up your metabolism to a certain extent and keeps you alert. Going on a juice fast is usually ok for most people. This isn’t a quick hack either, because fasting on a regular basis would help keep you in good physical condition (your body only has certain nutrition requirements, we’re not storing blubber for the winter here). Don’t starve yourself though, death is counter productive.

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6. Force yourself a bit, don’t force yourself too much

Sometimes when we’re feeling lazy, we need that little push to get us out of our state of inertia. That’s ok, having to force yourself to start working is normal, the flow comes as you go on. However, there are times when you hit a mental wall, and you’re mind simply refuses to go on with something. Don’t force yourself too much at this point, even if you end up working it won’t be really productive. Go do something else, let off some steam, preferably something much different from the work you were doing.



7. Delay gratification

There was a TED talk on how people who delayed gratification were more likely to succeed. I think there is some merit in this statement; people who can delay immediate gratification can focus better on the bigger picture and not be distracted. Incorporate this as an exercise in your daily life…let someone else have the last donut, don’t smoke that cigarette right now, say no to the extra cheese, don’t have fries with that, let that itch torture you a bit more, run away before climaxing…you get the point. At some point you’ll realize its easier to say no to a lot of things, which means you have more yeses for the right things.

8. Wear light clothes when you can

Its good to have things ventilated. There’s a reason meditation is done in comfortable clothes (or if you see the sadhus if India, in no clothes).

9. Sit with mother nature once in a while

The singing if birds. The crackling of twigs. The sound of wind through the branches. The babbling of a brook. The sound of waves. Just sit and listen sometimes. You’ll feel at peace and calm. And being calm really lets you focus.

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10 Give yourself some buffer time

Before starting something or while ending a work session. Wind down gently, don’t rush into something else. A 5 minute silent breathing exercise helps a lot.

11. Don’t procrastinate the little, unpleasant things that take a minute

Because they will weigh on your mind at some point. Lessen the burden, finish ’em off fast.

12. Exercise your mind everyday

Do some puzzles, do the crossword, engage people in impassioned discussions, get engaged in impassioned discussions, build something creatively, break something creatively. Don’t let your mind idle. (Note: Meditation, or trying to have no thoughts isn’t keeping your mind idle at all. )

13. Exercise your body everyday

You don’t have to be ripped. But it’s important that you’re body is an asset to you, not a liability.

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Bonus: Watch Game of Thrones

This won’t improve focus but its awesome.

Featured photo credit:  Sudden Inspiration via Shutterstock

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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