If you want to work more effectively, you need to focus. And in the age of social media and the near-constant assault on our senses from phones, tablets, computers and the like, keeping focused can feel impossible.
And let’s face it, if we could focus, we would probably be a lot happier and the work we would produce would be much stronger.
Lately, finding some sort of focus has been hard. Especially this year, with so many projects vying for my attention. I find I’m easily distracted and constantly shifting from one task to another.
It’s no surprise then, that my progress is less than astounding. My mind is divided and I have no focus.
I’m not a doctor or a psychologist, but staying focused is something I have always struggled with, and so I have some tips that have worked for me and might help you out as well.
Make Your Goal Clear
When you sit down to get some work done, be very clear and specific about what you want to achieve. Do you want to ink that image? Finish that sketch? Write 1000 words? Know what it is you are trying to achieve, no matter how big or small, and keep that goal in your mind. If you find yourself wandering into other things, stop. Remind yourself of what you are trying to accomplish and refocus.
Use Chunks of Time
Whenever I’m tired or struggling to get focused, I do it in bursts. Better to have 10 or 15 minutes of intense focus time than it is to spread it out over an hour or two. The work I produce is always so much better in those bursts anyway.
If you can, start as early as possible. When you wake up is probably the best, but the earliest you can. As the day goes on, we get bogged down with information and expectation and it becomes that much harder to focus on a single task when it feels like that to-do list is ever growing. Right after you wake up your mind is clear, and it’s easier to focus. Your goals are much more easily defined. Use that time to your advantage.
Choose the Right Environment
Find a space that is for working, and go there when you want to work. If you sit down to work in front of the TV, or in the kitchen where the family is cooking, you are just asking for distractions.
Not easy, but then nothing is ever as simple as we would like, is it? But you can do small things to help yourself out. Put your phone on the other side of the room. Turn off the internet. Install one of those site blockers like StayFocusd or use an app like Forest which stops you from using certain apps on your phone. Start habits which can help keep those distractions at bay, and eventually you’ll find it easier to avoid being distracted by them.
Find Your Focus Soundtrack
This is the only one that might be a little controversial. I think the general consensus is to turn off all the noise, but I personally find the silence even more distracting than the right soundtrack. There are some sounds and music that just block out all my distracting thoughts and help me focus, and maybe it’s the same for you. It might be the sounds of a forest, ocean waves or the sound of a coffee shop. Maybe its classical music or a chillstep playlist on Youtube.
Find music that is quiet, repetitive, and has no coherent voices to draw your attention. Sometimes I find having sports on in the background has the same effect. Just make sure you don’t get distracted watching the game. If you do, that isn’t the background noise for you.
But maybe you ARE the type that needs silence. Get some noise cancelling headphones and block out those distractions. Find somewhere that you know is quiet and get to work.
It’s not easy to stay focused. And it’s a skill that is easily lost if we don’t do it often enough. But practice makes perfect, and learning certain habits and recognizing distracting triggers will help you find your focus again. And hopefully, some of these suggestions can get you there.
Over to You!
Do you find yourself easily distracted these days? How do you find your focus? Let me know in the comments!