FYI | Day 19 – Improve Your Focus

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For Your Inspiration! (FYI!) Month 2011 – This article was part of an exciting and challenging month dedicated to discovering passions, setting goals, learning success strategies, and sharing thoughts to ponder throughout the day!  If you’d like to find out what this month was all about, check out FYI Month 2011 for more information!

FYI: For-Your-Inspiration Month!

* There may be some confusion about the many possible definitions of the word Focus. Today, Focus is being used synonymously with concentration.

In a world where everyone and everything is trying to command our attention, it is no wonder we are becoming a nation full of information junkies needing a quick fix every ten seconds or so. Are you surprised that there are 5.3 million children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in the United States alone (in 2010)? Maintaining focus and concentrating on the task at hand is a serious problem we are having, and most of us tend to have wild eyes that are more active than a parakeet with a bratty kid sticking fingers in its cage.

Improved Focus

I love the Spanish word used for defining the term ‘to focus’. It comes from the word ‘centrar’ which literally translates to ‘to center’. So when we say, “Necesito centrarme”, it directly translates to “I need to center myself” or simply, “I need to focus”. How perfect is that?

Yesterday we discussed improving our productivity, which is all well and good, BUT, nine times out of ten, what we really are lacking is our ability to tame the mind and concentrate! I’ve battled my mental-distraction-demons for years and my lack of focus is usually brought on by my desire to always be entertained (it’s just too easy right?!). I could watch the latest viral videos, catch up on sitcoms, play Scrabble on my phone, etc.! I’ve trained my mind to expect constant and easy stimulation over years of doing it. Breaking the mold is tough!

Below is a list of suggestions on how to improve your concentration RIGHT NOW, and then we’ll discuss how to improve our overall ability with capturing our focus instantly using long-term strategies.

Suggestions for Improving Your Concentration Right NOW:

  • Create an Objective. By setting a purpose for everything we do, we have a clear picture of what we are aiming for and what needs to be done.  If the objective is really long, make a sequential list of action items to knock out.  The clearer you are, the less uncertain your thoughts are, and the more focused you can be.
  • Satisfy Your Biological Needs Before Beginning – Make sure you are not hungry or thirsty, you’ve used the restroom, and you aren’t too hot or cold.  When we are uncomfortable the brain tends to focus on the body instead of allowing thoughts and creativity to flow.  Take care of these things first.
  • Set Up Your Environment for Success – I repeat this a lot, but it is easier to change your environment than to change your behavior.  Create a clean workspace with only the necessities to get the job done.  Do you prefer bright or dim lights?  Light music or silence?  Set your mood and environment!  Some people even feel stimulated and focused by adding pleasant odors to the room.
  • Being in the NOW. Stop your mind from thinking about the past and planning for the future.  Simply be in the present and know what needs to be done at this moment.
  • Take Breaks. I tend to be a person that likes working non-stop for hours on end before taking a break or finishing quickly for the day.  But I am actively taking breaks every 20-30 minutes to stretch and walk around.  Stepping away allows you to get a fresh look at the project, as well as stretch and exercise the body which in turn, helps the brain.  Try to maintain focus on the task as you do this.
  • Write Down Your Blockage. I usually keep a notebook by my bed, so if my mind doesn’t shut off at night and can’t sleep, I can write down my thoughts so they are out of my brain and put somewhere concrete.  This allows me to release them from my mind and sleep better.  This is the same idea; write down the thoughts that are preventing you from focusing, then try and release these thoughts from your mind to deal with them later, knowing that they are safely stored.

Suggestions for Improving Mental Clarity Over Time

  • Meditation. Take time from your day to meditate; clearing your thoughts of all distractions, releasing bodily tensions, and focusing on your body and mind. Practice not thinking about the day’s events, the past or future, relationships or people, work or play, etc. Simply focus on being. Some people are scared of meditation because of the word itself, and others are just scared being alone with their thoughts. Don’t let this stop you. You are the master of your own thoughts and practicing meditation daily helps ensure that you won’t become the slave to wayward, unprovoked, and undesired thoughts.
  • Empty Your Mind. Similar to meditation but for less duration.  Take little moments before each task to close your eyes and clear out the mental fuzziness and start focusing and visualizing the task you are about to start.
  • Get Enough Sleep. Concentration is primarily powered by the prefrontal cortex (holding our executive functions and rational thought) and this part of the brain is MOST negatively effected by lack of sleep. Tired, can’t think clearly and easily agitated? These are the signs of an exhausted prefrontal cortex which is being overpowered by the emotional sides of the brain. Rest up!
  • Exercise. Exercise is the single most important thing you can do for your mind and body. You probably know this already. But do you do it regularly?
  • Find your ideal time of day. Your body has its very own internal clock, and the time of day greatly affects how your mind, body, and organs perform. This will all be trial and error to find your peak performance times. When is your best time of day to think deeply? When is your optimal time of day for exercise, eating, sleeping, etc.? I have forced myself to become an early bird waking up before 5 AM many times in my life, but I always tend to cycle back to being a night owl and doing my best thinking and writing after 10 PM. Perhaps I should better listen to my body?

Focusing Your Lens

Equally important is where you direct your focus. When I was a youngster, I could focus 100% of my attention in whatever direction I chose, but it was primarily directed towards games, mastering the pogo stick, and staying off the carpet because it was hot lava. Once you have a better handle on your ability to focus, you need to guide it into a direction that will lead you somewhere positive.

Your Task

Being a scatterbrain is sometimes a part of life, and some people tend to get lost in this state quite regularly. Try to recapture your focus and don’t allow your mind to get the best of you… at times, it can be a beast to wrestle down!

Today, recognize if you’ve done all you can to ensure the success of retaining focus.  Were you able to read this article in one sitting?  Winking smile

Practice some of the strategies discussed and recognize that the biggest gain will be received by those that train their brain instead of allowing their brain to train them.

This post was written by

Greg has written 69 articles on Student of Me.

Greg is the creator and primary writer for Student of Me. He probably spends way too much time on the computer writing, researching, programming, and working on his photography. He loves escaping from screen-time to travel, ride his motorcycle, experience the outdoors and spend time with loved ones. You can contact him at greg (at) studentofme.com!

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2 thoughts on “FYI | Day 19 – Improve Your Focus”

  1. cepee says:

    Great advice! I’ve enrolled in a meditation crash course that begins the end of Feb. Looking forward to it.

    p.s. your lava comment made me laugh

  2. Greg says:

    Hi Cepee! Yes, we played that game a lot 😉 When you have all the time in the world you have to get a little creative! Let me know how that course goes for you!

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