Focus. Pay attention. Listen up.
By Vanessa Tran
Because you have 8 seconds until you get distracted after reading this, according to a 2015 Microsoft study on human attention-spans. Due to the digital world we live in, and that the brain is always seeking out what’s new and what’s next, that 8-second attention span has even shrunk over the years.
Whatever it is, whether it's distractions, a lack of motivation, procrastination, fatigue, trying to keep busy, or feelings of anxiety or depression, our inability to focus can diminish our productivity and can put or chance of success at risk. I call this interference.
To focus is when you limit the level of interference around you, so that you can single out the important tasks you need to work on to align with your goals and values. You don’t need to go to extremes like the main character Bradley Cooper in ‘Limitless’ either.
It has also often been said that ‘there are not enough hours in the day’. We can use 6 to 8 hours to sleep, with the remainder 16 to 18 hours to work, rest and play. But what if we had 25 hours in a day? What would we use that extra hour to do? Like in the film ‘25th Hour’, Edward Norton discovers what matters to him in his last 24 hours of freedom. What would you focus on if you have one day left, 24 hours or one hour left?
Here are some top tips and ways to improve your focus and concentration.
1. Limit multitasking
You may look superhuman, but multitasking does more harm than good. It has been proven that people who multitask in facet hinder brain development that those who do not. The brain’s grey matter which affects emotional control, decision-making and empathy shrinks during multitasking. The recommended remedy is to try to focus on one task at a time.
2. Reduce the number of tabs open on your web browser.
Stop flicking tabs, Alt+Tabbing’. But if you find it hard to do this, try to group the tabs together so they are easier to manage, or download the web browser widget One Tab.
3. Stop reading your phone while eating
This is a huge pet-peeve of mine. Either you eat, or you use your phone, but not both. Why? Because chances are you don’t even remember whether there was onion in your lunch or not, because you weren’t focused on enjoying your meal. Instead: you were on autopilot, you let the phone interfere with your mind as it was in two places.
4. Write a To-Do List - Immediate to long term goals
Whether it’s on paper, on a Trello board, or in a Think Trigg Life Mapper diary, to-do lists help you prioritise what is important and what needs to be actioned first. By segmenting your to-do list into ‘Immediate’, ‘Short-term’, ‘Medium-term’ and ‘Long-term’ goals with dates, you are creating a record to help you not only define your tasks but helps you provide an outlook to your life’s purpose. If you don’t write a list of work to be completed, then incomplete work could eat away at your focus, so you could fall into the trap of being ‘scatterbrained’ or ‘biting off more than you can chew’.
5. ‘Ditox’ and unplug for 30 minutes and embrace the boredom
Choose other activities that get you off your phone, off your couch and get you up and living your life without digital connectivity. Replace checking social media, emails, watching TV with activities such as ‘digital detoxing’, journaling, exercising, reading, doodling, meditating, listening to music, volunteering for a cause, or catching up with friends and family. Or just be bored and embrace it because creativity can blossom from boredom.
Now is the time to retrain your brain and increase happiness and life longevity with the 5 steps above. As World Mental Health Day falls tomorrow on 10 October, it’s time to refocus your life on what matters most.
How will improve your focus, to live a happier, healthier and more productive life?
By Vanessa Tran
Vanessa is Founder of Ditox, Australia’s digital health company, which focuses on enriching people’s lives through meaningful reconnection - so that they become more focused, present, and balanced - and improve their digital wellbeing and plugged-in lives. Vanessa is also owner of Ikigai, a social agency for change and impact that supports purpose-led businesses that want to make a difference.