“Focus. Speed. I am speed. One winner, forty-two losers. I eat losers for breakfast. Breakfast? Maybe I should have had breakfast? Brekkie could be good for me. No, no, no, focus.”
These are the mental ramblings of a childhood favorite, fictional hero–Lightning McQueen–as he tried to hold on to a semblance of mental focus to hail another racing victory.
The struggle of Lightning Mcqueen isn’t just scripted, adults struggle every day with mental focus.
One minute you’re writing an article for a client, and the next minute you’re liking photos on Facebook and uploading selfies to Instagram while trying to figure out what you’re cooking for dinner.
There are several things that affect our ability to pay attention–some internal and some external. Genetics influence attention and the way people focus. That can’t be changed.
However, there are ways to pinpoint the external attention attackers and conquer the minor things that steal our focus.
Here are 6 tips to improve your mental focus.
Put first things first. By organizing your tasks, putting the most important first, you give yourself a head start on focus.
Make a list of things to do in one setting then stick to the list.
For example, writing paper.
- Block off specific time
- Gather all of your materials
- Find a quiet spot without directions
- Start immediately
Identify Distractions that Block Mental Focus
Every distraction comes at a cost.
Personally, people lose valuable time when their focus is interrupted by unnecessary distractions. Professionally, companies lose financially at the helm of distracted workers.
In a typical office setting, it takes 25 minutes for a worker to resume a task once they’ve been distracted.
In other environments like dorm rooms, homes offices, and personal spaces, people almost never return to their intended project.
As a matter of study, it was revealed that cell phones are the number one distraction for 97% of all college students.
Types of Distractions
Mobile Devices and Electronics
Cell phones, tablets, televisions, and handheld gaming systems are the number one distractions for all people. Fun ringtones, dings, and flashing lights to indicate new messages are tempting.
“I’ll just check this quick notification.” It’s a comment on your facebook post about a hot topic you’re sure to respond to…more than once.
“Let me send this quick text.” It’s a group text that lingers on for an hour.
It’s best to silence this type of distraction and turn it face down a little distance away to ensure a task gets completed.
Opening a new tab on your laptop to one of your social media accounts while your working is another distraction that disturbs mental focus.
The temptation to flip back and forth to check notifications and posts steals time–valuable time away.
Study buddies are helpful, but when that study buddy is also a BFF, side conversations that draw away from important tasks are inevitable.
Spouses and children are also people distracters. They don’t mean to be, but they are. If you’re working on a task at home, make sure it’s in a quiet zone where everyone else in the house knows is off limits when occupied.
To gain mental focus, identify every possible distraction before starting a focus project, then distance yourself from it.
Meditation is simply focusing the mind on one thing.
To do achieve this means to block out distractions and find a quiet place to hear your own personal thoughts then quiet them.
The benefits of meditation
- Meditation helps individuals improve concentration–focus.
- Stress reduction is also a benefit of meditation, seeing that in order to perform it, you must purposely remove yourself from stressful environments–environments that hinder mental focus.
- Meditating slows the aging process by changing brain physiology, increasing brain cells.
Rome wasn’t built in one day. And, unless specified as urgent, neither are most projects. Take a mental break.
Mental breaks help by slowing down thought process. By simply taking 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit in a quiet place, absent from activity and stress, people give their minds a chance to rest.
Mental breaks also help with refocusing.
Tasks can be mentally daunting. Sometimes you hit a wall and frustration takes over. The brain shuts down.
Push away for a few minutes and allow your brain to destress and refocus.
Change Your Diet and Add a Little Fitness
Food affects us psychologically and physically.
There’s an old adage that says, “We are what we eat.” It’s true! We are! Certain foods control the way we focus mentally, and when our bodies lack a regular exercise routine, we put our mental health at risk as well.
Establishing a steady exercise routine could sharpen your memory and increase your focus.
Exercise increases endorphins in the body which in turn helps people concentrate and feel mentally sharp.
Adding as little as 30 minutes a day at least three to four days out of the week can help give you an edge on mental focus.
Practice Memory Exercises
Just as our bodies age, so do our brains. Brain health matters. Focus relies on it.
Memory exercises help keep the brain healthy.
Simple brain exercises like learning the words to a new song, playing Words With Friends, and recalling a location you recently visited, help strengthen the brain, increasing focus.
It’s believed that the attention-span of the average person is eight seconds.
Basically, eight seconds into a conversation, task, or thought process, a person’s mind loses focus.
Picture reading the first eight words of a book and having to start all over from the beginning, or standing with the refrigerator door open for eight seconds and totally forgetting what you opened it for.
That’s loss of mental focus.
Personal and professional damage happens because of loss or lack of focus. Companies lose money because of employee errors due to distractions.
Lack of intellectual focus affects students abilities to learn, especially when they have access to electronic devices like cell phones and tablets.
There’s hope. Improving your mental focus is as simple as prioritizing, getting rid of distractions, taking mental breaks, and changing your diet.
Check out our blog for more life-changing tips.