How to Increase Mental Focus and Stay Sharp

How to Increase Mental Focus and Stay Sharp

Do you feel like you’re busy all the time and that the days are getting shorter? Are you constantly overwhelmed and can’t seem to quite make your deadlines? Is the amount of time you’re able to concentrate diminishing?

If you answered yes, you’re lacking mental focus which is holding you back from your full potential.

In fact, according to a Harvard study, we spend about 47% wandering our mind.[1]

wandering mind

Learning to improve your focus is how you break free from the never-ending cycle. You’re not always going to be able to be 100% focused, but learning how to focus will help you meet your goals and enable you to conquer any task.

Below you’ll learn how to focus so you can train your brain and know exactly what needs to get done.

Let’s get started.

1. Identify Your Purpose

It’s going to be difficult to maintain mental focus when your body, mind, and soul are not in line with your purpose. Every day can seem like it’s on repeat and filled with eternal dread. When your heart isn’t in it, you aren’t able to hit a flow state and maintain concentration for long periods.

Consider that your lack of passion may be causing you to lose focus throughout the day. If this sounds like you, it might be time to contemplate taking a new direction in life.

Finding a new path in life can be frightening. The payoff of facing your fears is being able to focus more for longer periods while being able to spend time on what you love. Try new things, spend time focusing on yourself, and find out what makes your clock tick.

One of the best ways to discover your drive and purpose is to use the ‘5 Whys‘. This form of self-questioning will help you get to the core of what you want out of life.

It works like this…

Let’s say your initial want is to “make more money.”

Why do you want to make more money? “Because I want to buy a big house.”

Why do you want a big house? “Because living in a big house is comfortable”

Why does only a big house make you comfortable? “Because I have a big family, with a wife and three kids; we need a big house for everyone.”

Why do you want a big house for everyone to live in? “Because I want them to live in a comfortable place.”

Why is that? “Because I love my family and I want them to be happy.”

Can you now see the clear difference between the initial want and the true purpose at the end? In this example, you thought you wanted more money; but in reality, what you truly want is for your family to be happy. While making more money and getting a big house could do that, how you treat your family and the time you spend with them are key elements too.

2. Prioritize Your Work

Losing focus when juggling multiple assignments? Start by learning how to work more efficiently. By prioritizing your tasks by importance, you won’t end up having to deal with a deadline you brushed off until the last minute.

Not every task requires the same attention. Working on your time management skills will help you split up your time intelligently for each assignment. Spending your time wisely each day will let you focus intensely on the task at hand, not letting a moment be wasted.

Set yourself up for success by setting goals to finish up your work each day. You’ll start to see a positive feedback loop when your assignments are completed with ease, making it easier to stay focused.

Luckily, prioritizing your tasks is really quite simple. Just do the following:

  • Spend 5-10 minutes in the morning assessing the tasks you need to complete that day
  • Decide which are the priority tasks, and which tasks are not so important
  • Order the tasks on your to-do list from high priority to low priority
  • Start working through your list from top to bottom

When you start using this simple time management approach, you’ll see big results in what you’re able to achieve. No more missing deadlines; and no more stressing yourself out jumping between tasks.

You can also take it to the next stage by using our Superstructure Method.

This involves analyzing each task to identify its:

  • Intention: Why you’re doing it
  • Value: What benefits the task brings you
  • Cost: What you have to give up or invest to achieve the value (in resources, time spent, etc.)

When you do this analysis, you’ll be able to quickly see which tasks you should prioritize. You can then sort them into Must Haves, Should Haves, and Good to Haves. And remember, if any of your tasks are likely to take more than 3 hours, then break them down into smaller tasks.

Now that you know the priority of your tasks and approximately how much time you’ll be spending on each task, it’s time to put all these things into action.

This is as simple as scheduling these tasks on a weekly planner — specifying which day and at what time should you tackle these tasks. And when you follow this planner, you’ll no longer be overwhelmed with loads of tasks anymore. You’ll always have an organized weekly plan that allows you to master your time.

Another benefit of working in this way is that you’ll start to create a solid routine for some recurring tasks such as replying to emails or having regular meetings. Routines save your time and energy as you no longer have to make decisions every time. Routines are also a great way to keep you away from distractions.

To start prioritizing your everyday tasks more effectively, grab the following FREE Guide To Creating More Time. You will end busyness and overwhelm and start to get important things done.

3. Eliminate Distractions

Even when you’re working from home, distractions are everywhere. Figure out which type of distraction you’re dealing with so you can learn how to not get distracted.

Internal Distractions are your thoughts and emotions and include things like daydreaming, fears, and worries. When you start feeling overwhelmed, do some breathing exercises to relax your mind. You’ll find that taking a short break allows your mind to reset and unwind.

External Distractions happen outside of your mind. Typical external distractions include checking social media feeds, phone calls, and annoying co-workers.

Removing External Distractions

It’s impossible to focus if you’re constantly interrupted. That’s why it’s so important that you do everything you can to minimize the number of distractions in your life — particularly when you’re trying to work.

If you need to focus on a task, then make sure your external environment enables you to focus. This might mean moving to a coffee shop for an hour instead of trying to work in an open-plan office with lots of colleagues chatting and asking you questions.

If working from home, then you may want to create a ‘do not disturb’ policy to help prevent your family members from entering your office space and interrupting you while you’re on Zoom calls or focusing on writing project documentation, etc. If you have an open-door policy, you’ll have countless distractions that are bound to impact the amount and quality of work you accomplish.

Sometimes, putting on music that helps you to focus is also a way to take control of your external environment. Try this Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work.

You can learn more about getting rid of external distractions here: How To Remove External Distractions.

To become indistractable, grab our free guide End Distraction And Find Your Focus.

Removing Internal Distractions

While it’s fairly easy to sort out your external environment, fixing your thoughts is not so easy.

Just think of all the times you find yourself daydreaming. If you’re like most people, you probably do this more than 10% of the time you’re awake.

Now imagine if you could reduce this daydreaming time by half or more. This would significantly boost your focus and your productivity. You can achieve this by taking 3 simple steps:

  1. Set Deadlines — When you have plenty on your plate, you’ll be much less likely to start daydreaming. You’ll also naturally find yourself able to focus more. Giving yourself a deadline for tasks can also help keep you focused on them. For example, you may have noticed how you can find your focus when your tax deadline is due!
  2. Reward Yourself When You Accomplish Small and Big Goals — Stay motivated and on track by rewarding yourself when you complete tasks. Small tasks get a small reward (perhaps a cup of coffee); big tasks get a big reward (perhaps a night out with your partner).When you make this technique a habit, you’ll also have something to look forward to!
  3. Take Regular Breaks — Taking regular breaks is essential. If you fail to do this, you’ll tire your eyes and brain, kill your creativity, and eventually cause yourself to burnout. Studies also show that people who take regular breaks are the most productive. One simple way how to increase focus is to practice the Pomodoro Method. You can find out what this is and how to do it in the section below.

Sometimes, instead of being a distraction, technology can help you stay away from distractions. Get one of these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you manage your time better.

4. Stop Trying to Multitask

So you think you’re good at multitasking? Think again.

The American Psychological Association’s research[2] has shown that multitasking (especially complex tasks) hampers productivity.

Each time you start multitasking, there’s a cognitive cost that can result in:

  • Lowered productivity
  • Damage to your brain
  • A drop in your IQ
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Decreased learning ability
  • Diminished decision-making skills
  • Burnout

Work smarter, not harder by sticking to single-tasking. It’ll allow you to focus intently on one thing without the added productivity loss. Your focus will increase when you aren’t constantly dividing your attention.

If you feel that you’re too busy and can’t single-task, it’s best to take a step back and consider taking a break.

5. Deal With Your Procrastination Habit

Distractions and multitasking can undermine your efforts, but if procrastination takes control of your life — you’ll be beaten before you even get started. You know what we mean, finding it a struggle to get out of bed, putting off working on your first tasks of the day and finding every reason under the sun not to work on that big project.

You may not be aware of it, but there are actually 5 types of procrastinators:

  • The Perfectionist — This type of procrastinator is someone who pays too much attention to the minor details. Sometimes described as ‘analysis paralysis’, the perfectionist is afraid to begin a task or project because they worry about getting every detail right. Even if they do manage to get started, they often get caught up in the details and fail to finish.
  • The Dreamer — This type of procrastinator is someone who enjoys thinking about ideas and plans. However, they seldom put their plans into action. They tend to be highly creative individuals but find it hard to actually start or finish a task.
  • The Avoider — This type of procrastinator is scared to take on tasks that they think they can’t manage or complete. They choose to put off work rather than be judged by others if they make mistakes or fail to finish tasks.
  • The Crisis-Maker — This type of procrastinator deliberately pushes back work until the last minute. They feel that deadlines are necessary and they believe that they work best when being forced to rush.
  • The Busy Procrastinator — This type of procrastinator has trouble prioritizing tasks because they either have too many of them or they refuse to work on tasks they see as below them. Because they don’t know how to choose the task that’s best for them, they end up postponing or failing to make any decisions.

Do you recognize yourself in one of the above types?

If you’re not sure, you can take this Procrastinator Assessment to find out.

Whatever your goals and dreams are, without action on your part, they’ll just remain wishful thinking. So defeat procrastination now and start making exciting things happen in your life.

To break the procrastination habit, check out

You may not have considered nutritional supplements as an aid to your brain power, but as you’ll see, there are several readily-available supplements that can give your memory, focus and productivity a boost.

6. Drink Some Coffee (In Small Doses)

Caffeine helps your cognitive ability as shown in a 2017 study.[3] You want to watch out for coffee or caffeine becoming a crutch rather than a tool. Drinking too much coffee will have the opposite effect when you’re left dealing with the inevitable energy crash.

Learn more about how to drink coffee the proper way in this guide: The Ultimate Coffee Guide For Energy Boost

If you don’t like coffee, you can drink green tea for added health benefits.

7. Boost Your Focus Naturally

As the day drags on, you’ll find your energy drifting as well. You can boost your energy naturally with vitamins and supplements that will help you stay focused all day long. You’ll also find that certain foods help to improve memory if you find yourself being forgetful throughout the day.

Sneak in some exercise right at your desk for a quick energy boost. Exercise fights fatigue and boosts energy. It may seem weird to bust out some push-ups right at your desk, but you’ll feel on top of the world when those energy-boosting endorphins come to save the day.

Blended Vitamins for Focus Boost

Popular brain-boosting supplements include: Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Omega-3s, Gingko Biloba, Magnesium, and Zinc.

A combination of the essential vitamins can help you stay sharp and focused throughout the day.

Fish Oil Supplement for Brain Power

Omega 3 is critical to heart and brain function, as well as our overall well-being. However, our body cannot produce it on its own at significant levels, so it’s vital that we consume this type of fat through diet or supplements. Infuel Omega 3 Fish Oil offers an abundance of Omega 3 healthy fats with high EPA and DHA content which directly support the regular growth and development of the brain, eyes, nervous system as well as maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

Unsure if supplements actually work? Check out this article: Do Memory Supplements Work?

8. Utilize the Pomodoro Method

This popular productivity method requires you to work in 25-minute intervals, known as a Pomodoro while focusing on only one thing. After each Pomodoro, you take a 5-minute break, then get back to work. After completing four Pomodoros, you can take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

Breaking up your workflow into chunks allows you to give your brain a moment to rest. Many people swear by the Pomodoro Method, so it’s definitely worth giving it a go to see if it works for you.

Learn more about how to utilize the Pomodoro Method here: Why the Pomodoro Method Is the Best Productivity Timer

9. Meditate (And Practice Mindfulness)

Learning how to meditate will help you deal with your internal distractions. Meditation is the art of centering your mind, body, and soul. When you’re completely centered, you allow the mind to empty which enables laser-like focus.

Even 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation can have dramatic effects on your workflow and attention span. A 2018 study showed beginners who practiced mindful meditation (even briefly) improved their allocation of attention span resources. You will start being able to release the internal distractions that build up throughout the day and increase your ability to focus.

When meditation is used alongside mindful practice you’ll have the ability to bring the lessons learned from meditation into your daily life. Being mindful throughout your day will allow you to release stress and deal with negative thinking on the fly.

Meditation and mindfulness when practiced right are two of the best ways to improve your productivity. If you find that meditation isn’t working for you, give it a chance for a few weeks before deciding to move on to other methods.

10. Eat Energy Rich Foods

Think of your body as a machine. Without the proper energy sources, you will falter when you need to be focused. One of the easiest ways to increase your focus is by providing your body with the fuel it needs.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water, eating complex carbohydrates, enough protein, and avoiding trans fats. Your body and mind are a single unit, they both take care of each other.

Plan for busy times by preparing healthy snacks ahead of time. A handful of nuts can be the difference-maker when you can’t make it to lunch during a busy day.

11. Create a Daily Routine

Having a plan each day allows you to allot time specifically for focusing and time for relaxing. When you’re without a plan, you’ll find that time whizzes by you and it’s time for bed before you know it.

Having a routine is a part of building a lifestyle filled with good habits. When you’re accustomed to working at specific times in your daily routine, you’ll have no issue focusing on the task at hand. Your brain will become accustomed to your daily routine.

A study done in 2009 by the European Journal of Social Psychology[4] says that it takes people 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. On average, it will take you 66 days of sticking to your daily routine until it becomes automatic.

You’ll be able to enjoy more free time and have plenty of energy left to focus once you’ve developed a proper daily routine.

If you want to start making a major transformation in your daily planning right now, then grab our Full Life Planner. This will help you better plan your life so you can focus on what matters most to you and excel in life.

12. Take Short Breaks

If you find yourself staring into the vast void of eternity when you’re supposed to be focusing, it’s time to take a break. Mental blockages happen for a variety of different reasons, but taking a break is one way to improve your ability to concentrate.

The research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health[5] shows that taking breaks reduces the amount of time needed to recover at the end of the day, making it easier to sustain focus. When you feel that you’re losing focus, get up for a few minutes and take a breather.

Allowing yourself to take a break is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’re aware that intense focus isn’t sustainable. Put on a timer every couple of hours and ensure that your brain is getting the rest it needs to conquer your tasks.

13. Unplug From Social Media

Modern cell phones have tracking apps built into them so you can track the amount of time you spend on them. Open up your tracker app and find out how much time you spend on social media and text messages each day.

Scary, right? Being pinged with likes, messages, and Snapchats may feel good temporarily, but it’s distracting you from what’s important. Dealing with a cell phone addiction is one of the easiest ways to increase your focus.

When it’s time to focus, turn off your phone. If the temptation is too distracting, keep your phone away from you. Avoid checking emails as well as they can be a source of distraction keeping you from focusing on your work.

Learn more about some of the negative effects of social media addiction.

14. Get in Bed

The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults should sleep between 7-8 hours each night.[6] Good sleeping habits are important when you’re required to focus. If you find yourself always tired, getting more sleep is an easy way to get back your focus.

Getting more sleep can sometimes be difficult, but sleep tracking apps can help you get into the right sleeping rhythm so you get a full night of REM sleep. You want to give your brain a chance to get deep sleep so you’ll be well-rested for your busy day.

If you have trouble falling asleep, you can check some of the best guided meditations to help you get to sleep.

15. Take It Easy Once In a While

No matter how many tips you try, you may find that you simply can’t focus once in a while. Part of living in the moment is being able to accept that you aren’t always in control of your ability to concentrate.

When you’ve tried everything, the best way to recover is to give yourself a day or two to completely relax. Your goals aren’t going to go anywhere, it’s ok to take it easy once in a while.

Forcing concentration will only lead to frustration. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s better to take a break rather than keep pushing against a wall. It’s something to consider if you’ve exhausted your options.

Learn more about how to live a fulfilling life.