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Do you find your attention drifting throughout the day? Has your attention span become so short that you're fairly sure you'd lose a staring contest with a mirror? In today's busy society, distractions are everywhere. Every time you turn around, you're face to face with something else that can distract from the task you're supposed to be completing. Youtube videos, social media alerts, and a vast array of distractions available at your fingertips have destroyed your focus and concentration, but with a few brain exercises, you can start to reclaim them.
Remember, however, that this process is not one that will happen overnight. You can't go from lacking the concentration to read all the way through an article that covers more than a single page to fully calm and focused with the use of a focus exercise or two. Many experts recommend thinking of your mind as a muscle. You wouldn't expect to be able to walk into the gym with no previous history of physical training and walk out lifting several hundred pounds. Likewise, your mind requires training in order to help reach your goals, and some minds are more stubborn than others! Practice regularly to help increase your mental focus and attention to detail.
Sit Absolutely Still
When was the last time you sat completely still–no muscle movements at all, including involuntary ones? Chances are, you're much more likely to fidget as you go throughout your day. Your fingers tap on your desk or fiddle with your hair. Your foot jiggles. You might find yourself shifting constantly to find a more comfortable seat or turning your head away from the task at hand to seek out distractions. To help limit this behavior, set aside ten minutes to simply sit absolutely still. Focus on your body. Control even the faintest of involuntary movements. You'll have to breathe, of course–passing out from lack of oxygen would put an abrupt end to the exercise!–but other than those necessary movements, try not to wiggle so much as a toe. Once you've worked your way up to a full ten minutes, try it for fifteen! This exercise will help you to clear your mind of all distractions and truly focus on the actual task at hand.
Set a Timer or a Deadline
If you find your attention quickly slipping when you're supposed to be concentrating on an important task, try setting a timer. You'll focus completely on the task at hand for a specific period of time–say, fifteen to twenty minutes–and then move on to something else or allow yourself a brief break. During that time frame, however, you won't allow your attention to drift away. If you're on the internet, you won't check your email or your social media accounts; you'll just keep working. Struggling to decide how much time is appropriate? Try setting a goal-oriented deadline instead: "I won't click away from this website until I've finished the entire article." "I will keep writing until I've finished the entire email." "I will keep doing research until I've found the answer I'm looking for." When you set deadlines, it's easier to accept that you'll have time for that distraction later instead of feeling like you're trapped in your current task forever. Keep a pad of paper or an open document on hand so that if you need to remember to do something later–for example, sending an important email to a client–you'll have the reminder right there when your task is complete.
Shut Out Distractions
One of the most important things you'll do for your work day is learning to identify the distractions in your life. Does the chime of your email cause you to lose focus? Your coworkers sticking their head in your door to ask for your opinion on things that aren't actually relevant to the work day? Loud noises from outside your office? Learn how to make these distractions disappear to help increase your focus every day. For example, you might wear headphones or earplugs to help reduce distracting noises. You might need to turn off email notifications when you're working, ignoring your email until a specific time in your day. Each time you lose focus, it can take an average of twenty-five minutes to return to your original task. Instead of losing that time and allowing yourself to be distracted, learn what it is that causes the distractions and remove it from your day as much as possible. That might mean closing the door to your office when you're working on a project, putting your phone in your desk drawer where you can't hear it, or even locking down your social media accounts during the work day, but the effort will be well worth it!
Schedule Blocks of Time for Focus Throughout Your Day
When you have the whole day in front of you, it's easy to ignore the little voice in your head that's trying to remind you to focus. You still have all day! Checking your email for just a minute won't hurt, right? Unfortunately, those distractions can quickly claim your day and make it impossible for you to accomplish your goals. Instead of starting your day with a To Do list, start your day with a schedule that has specific activities penciled in for specific blocks of time. You'll find that it's much easier to maintain concentration when you know what you're supposed to be doing during that particular time block.
Your phone, television, tablet, and computer are all vying constantly for your attention. Whether it's a text from your spouse, a funny cat picture that's been emailed out to the entire office, or a funny commercial that you can't help but laugh at every time you see it, you're surrounded constantly by distractions. If you truly want to increase your focus and concentration, make the conscious decision to disconnect. Turn off your devices so that you can focus on the task at hand. If you're on your computer, don't allow yourself to visit more than one website at a time: single-tab browsing will greatly increase your productivity. As you become more accustomed to the lack of technological distractions, you'll find your focus and productivity greatly increase.
Improving your focus might not happen overnight, but you can perform these exercises regularly to watch it continue to grow. With time, you'll find that you're able to be much more productive. Not only that, when you're not distracted constantly, your day will fly by instead of creeping along at a snail's pace. The benefits of enhanced focus and concentration are immeasurable–and you can have them with a few simple exercises.
In addition to these tips consider taking a brain supplement to improve focus.