Friday, October 9, 2015



4 Tips to Help with Learning to Focus

Imagine how it feels to have laser sharp focus on your task at hand. Imagine how it feels to complete a project from start to finish without distraction or self-interruption. 

Now, think of the last time you were able to do that. Can you remember? If not, your focus may require a bit of readjustment.

You likely already know that your “attention span” is the amount of time you can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted. The ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. However, it may interest you to know that attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation.

Research shows that the average focused attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000, and one second shorter than the average attention span of—a goldfish (9s). Can you believe that? We as human beings are now less focused on any certain thing than a goldfish… wow! 

Some of you have already lost focus reading this article, and many of you won’t make it to the end (17% of all page views last four seconds or less). But for those of you who are still reading, and manage to keep going, there are a few tips later to help you learn to focus.

You’re not alone when it comes to distractions. Avoiding distraction is tough and it’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time. You might wonder why some people able to do it and not you?

One possibility is that you were never taught how to focus. It’s amazing how, throughout our school days, we were never taught HOW to learn and be focused. The American school system is notorious for force-feeding us information for memorization, but they really never teach us HOW to think, learn, or focus. It seems like it is just assumed that everyone knows how, and that false assumption ultimately becomes ‘hit or miss’ on whether or not we learn to do these things at all.

Since we’re left to our own devices, it’s up to us to find ways to master our focus ability, so we can finally stay focused and on track with what we want to achieve for ourselves.

Here are a couple of tips to help you with that.

1. Exercise
Our psychology and our physiology are inseparably linked. Sometimes when we have an issue with our thinking or feelings, we can turn to our physiology for help. Physical activity can help improve your attention and focus, as it releases chemicals in the brain that affect learning and memory. Exercise provides a short-term boost to your mental and cognitive performance, making it easier to focus. 

2. Drink Water
A 2012 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration (so subtle that you don't really feel it) can lead to inattention. When we’re less than 2 percent dehydrated the ability to concentrate on a series of cognitive tests was impaired. 

As I mentioned above, our psychology and our physiology is linked. When the brain detects even the smallest changes in physiology, it may begin operating at a sub-optimal level to get your attention. Thirst is not the best measure of hydration, so a decrease in your ability to focus may be an early warning signal that you need water.

3. Chunk Down Your Tasks
Sometimes our biggest tasks seem so overwhelming and can seem to be a very unattainable. The thought of even trying to decide how to achieve them can seem insurmountable… then we subconsciously begin to allow distractions before we even start. This is our defense mechanism, but it is not a helpful one. 

One way to avoid the overwhelm, and increase our focus, is to “chunk down” our tasks into a series of smaller, more achievable tasks. Breaking down a large goal into smaller tasks—and accomplishing them one at a time—is exactly how any big goal gets achieved and allows you to stay focused while doing it. You’ll then see progress and be able to reward yourself with distraction in between.

4. Meditation
If you’re unable to focus for longer than a goldfish, you might consider trying meditation. Spending a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace as well as teach you how to focus.
Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special equipment. You can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you're out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting. 

If you’ve made it to the end of this article, congratulate yourself. Your attention span is longer than that of most people. Most people who have great focus realize when they get off track and choose repeatedly to re-focus on the same task. This ability to renew attention permits people to “pay attention” to things that last for more than a few minutes, such as reading long articles. So improving your attention span becomes a cycle of focus, distraction, and REfocus.

Believe to Achieve! 

What are some other tips that you have used to personally improve your attention span and focus? Share and leave a comment below.

RELATED: Focus and Concentration Hypnosis MP3

Joe Vulgamore is a Life Coach and Leadership Development Specialist - as well as a Personal Development Author and Speaker. He works with people to develop life and leadership skills to sharpen their edge, perform at optimum levels, and achieve excellence. He has 30 years of leadership experience and a proven track record of helping thousands of people from over 14 countries, across 5 continents, to make life-transformations through one-to-one coaching and workshops.

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