In today’s digital age, it’s hard to stay focused among all the bleeps and notifications coming from our smartphones, computers and fitness watches. In fact, studies have found that on average, humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish.
So, in today’s world of constant digital bombardment and work demands, how do you actually stay focused?
While our brains are extremely powerful, they’re pulled in multiple directions at once. Thankfully, you can train your brain to stay focused on the task at hand with some expert tips:
While multitasking might sound neat on a job description, it actually detracts from the work quality of everything you’re doing, and destroys you productivity.
Instead of letting multitasking hijack your productivity, consider prioritizing instead. Rank your tasks in terms of importance, and take them on one at a time in order of priority. This won’t only help your focus, but it will utilize your depleting mental batteries on the most important things first.
Do your ABCs
No — not the alphabet, but this trick from Harvard Business Review is just as simple to learn. It’s a way to stomp “your brain’s brake pedal” when a distraction pops up, and it involves three steps:
First, become aware of your options — you can either give into the distraction, or keep going. Next, breathe deeply. Finally, choose what option you’ll move forward with. Most likely, after taking these steps, you’ll be able to continue on with your task.
Use tech to fight back
The research found that these alerts send a message to our brains that something else is urgently needing our attention, when in reality, it is rarely actually urgent or even relatively significant.
Filter your email, automate your news, and use simple, free tools to help manage your social media presence. Seeing a notification releases dopamine in our brain, causing us to be addicted to these digital signals. Using technology to automate will help you abandon the idea that every notification is urgent, or that you have to share every article on four different networks.
For instance, Tiffany Sauder, founder and president of Element Three, said that the first time her company landed a big client, she felt like she worked for her inbox and not for herself. She realized how detrimental a loss of focus can be for a fledgling company, so she began using Gmail filters and setting aside specific parts of her day to tackler her inbox. Her productivity — and her company — have thrived, and yours can too.
Tame your emotions
Sometimes, its not a hefty workload or Facebook notification that ruins your focus – your emotions can be just as detrimental. When you’re upset or angry, that Excel spreadsheet is probably the last thing on your mind.
Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. and psychology expert, recommends a 3:1 balance of positive and negative emotions for optimal focus. Why? Negative emotions are regarded as threats by our brain, inhibiting our ability to do other cognitive work.
Just taking a short break from whatever it is that is triggering a negative reaction can all help keep this balance in check. In its place, do something to trigger a positive emotion, like talking with a coworker you enjoy or taking a walk, to improve your brain function and increase your productivity.
Take a break
We have the ability to create additional attentive space by committing to routines such as sufficient sleep, meditation, keeping a journal, exercising or simply spending time in nature. Being consistent in these practices allows us to better sieve through distractions, concentrate on the task at hand and organize emotionally.
In their early years, individuals who sacrifice these types of activities (put off exercising and sleeping due to a lack of time), will experience success. However, those who are successful for the long-term, those who eventually become the leaders of major businesses, invest their time in these types of activities which allows them to perform at their peak.
Do you have any tips to stay focused? We’d love to hear from you – give the LTH Tribe a shout-out!