Friday, May 20, 2022

How To Get Your Brain To Focus

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Stress Interferes With Your Focus

How to Get Your Brain to Focus | Chris Bailey | TEDxManchester

You may have noticed that short-term stress, such as working under a deadline, temporarily boosts focus.

But its impossible to keep this up.

Over time, stress takes a toll on your brain health and function, leading to a shorter attention span, reduced memory, and impaired judgment.

Chronic stress actually causes your brain to prematurely age and lose enough brain cells to measurably shrink.

Meditate

One of the best techniques to improve focus and reduce stress is meditation.

Meditation puts your brain in the alpha brainwave state which enhances focus and concentration, inspires creativity, and induces a state of deep relaxation.

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Meditation has definitely become a mainstream practice.

The US Marines have experimented with meditation and found that it helps soldiers stay focused and calm under pressure.

Major corporations like Google, Aetna, Target, and General Mills encourage their employees to meditate.

These companies realize that employees who meditate are happier, healthier, and less likely to ruminate or be distracted.

Sync Up With Your Circadian Rhythm

To get the most from your day, you need to dedicate your best hours to your most important work. Unfortunately, many people treat social obligations and meetings like immovable objects.

Instead, strive to synchronize your bodys natural cadence to your schedule.

This is easier than it sounds.

To begin with, just notice when you focus best and block out those times to work on your toughest and most time intensive tasks. For most of us, cognitive abilities peak in the late morning and slump during mid afternoon.

But theres an important caveat to this rule:

Creative abilities tend to peak during times of fatigue when the mind is allowed to wander more freely. So if your job has more and less creative aspects, consider using those slower hours for tasks like brainstorming.

Now, listening to your body isnt just about productivity. Ignoring your circadian rhythm has been linked to depression and obesity, says Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California.

Try A Small Amount Of Caffeine

If you’re feeling groggy, grab a cup of joe or other caffeinated substance. Studies suggest that caffeine may, in moderate doses, help to boost focus particularly in those of us who are fatigued.

But don’t get overzealous with the coffee, or you might get the caffeine jitters, which typically reduce your ability to concentrate. You can also try a cup of tea, which won’t give you the quick buzz like coffee but can provide you energy for a longer period thanks to the L-theanine chemicals in it that our bodies metabolize throughout the day.

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Practical Ways You Can Train Your Brain To Stay Focused

Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to stay focused on one task or thought at a time. Thanks to a variety of sources of entertainment, news, socialization and more work, it is easy to get distracted. Sometimes, distraction can be destructive in nature. For example, it impedes your ability to learn or perform your job. Not only do distractions slow us down, they can cause serious errors. To prevent this, we can develop better mental focus. This is a skill which allows us to begin a job without procrastinating it. Focus also facilitates continuous effort and attention until the task is completed. When we are focused, it is possible to keep going on with a task despite any distractions or setbacks. In addition to that, we are able to sustain energy in the job at hand until we reach the goals that we purposed upon. Here are some practical ways to train your brain to stay focused.

Remember To Take Breaks

How to Get Your Brain to Focus

You cant expect yourself to be 100% focused all the time. Adding breaks to your routine will help you fight distraction and build your concentration and attention span at the same time.

If you find yourself checking your email or Instagram constantly, make a pact with yourself and start with short, focused bursts of work first. The Pomodoro Technique is perfect for this approach.

Heres how the Pomodoro Technique works:

  • Select a task that needs your undivided attention. Keep your gadgets away .
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working. No choosing the right playlist on Spotify or making yourself comfortable at your desk for ten minutes!
  • If you feel the urge to take a break or check your phone, remind yourself that you will do it as soon as your timer runs out.
  • Take a 5-minute break after the 25 minute period is over.
  • Repeat as necessary, taking a 15-minute break in between four 25-minute work bursts.

The good thing about this technique is that its very adjustable. Some people find it easier to have longer work streaks or longer breaks it all depends on your preferences. Start with the classic approach, and later youll see if you want to tweak it to make it even more beneficial.

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Stare At A Distant Object For A Few Minutes

Many of us spend most of our waking hours staring at a digital screen, which can strain our eyes and actually make it more difficult to focus on, and therefore process, what we’re looking at.

To refocus the eyes, just stare at a distant object for a few minutes. One doctor suggested the “20-20-20 rule” to a journalist at LifeHacker. It goes like this: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at an object at least 20 feet away.

The idea behind the 20-20-20 rule is that the eye is a muscle and like all muscles it benefits from exercise. Just like how sitting in one spot for a long time can make your muscles feel achy and stiff, staring at one object does essentially the same to your eyes. If you don’t periodically refocus, your vision can become a little blurry or fuzzy after work.

Blue light glasses, which filter out the blue light that screens emit, have become popular to help screen-exhaustion. However, they won’t help with eye strain, but could potentially help your quality of sleep.

Why Cant I Focus

Most people dont have trouble with focusing. They have trouble with deciding.

What I mean is that most healthy humans have a brain that is capable of focusing if we get the distractions out of the way. Have you ever had a task that you absolutely had to get done? What happened? You got it done because the deadline made the decision for you. Maybe you procrastinated beforehand, but once things became urgent and you were forced to make a decision, you took action.

Instead of doing the difficult work of choosing one thing to focus on, we often convince ourselves that multitasking is a better option. This is ineffective.

Here’s why

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Want To Learn How To Stay Focused Start With Building Your Concentration Muscles

So what can you do when you need to hunker down and really focus on the task at hand?

Some people mistakenly believe that they just lack focus so they quit easy, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Many psychologists, coaches, and tutors, such as Elie Venezky, the author of Hack Your Brain, suggest that focus or concentration can be compared to a muscle. Turns out, your ability to focus can be noticeably improved, but it takes time and commitment.

Before starting, you should keep in mind that your ability to concentrate is not limitless, and its also very individual. While some people can learn how to get in the zone pretty easily, for others it might be a longer and harder battle . So, remember to give yourself time and dont be too hard on yourself if for some time it feels like you dont make any progress.

If you dedicate yourself to working on your concentration and attention, after some time youll notice that it is easier for you to stay focused, and your productivity will change for the better as well!

Ready to get down to work?

Start with these simple but effective tips and tricks to improve your concentration and focus:

Acknowledge And Then Dismiss Negative Thoughts

How to Get Your Brain to Focus

Rumination is the enemy of focus. Repeatedly dwelling on, say, a recent argument with your spouse can block out other important thoughts, making it nearly impossible to get anything done. Trying to block out negative thoughts entirely, however, usually backfires. Instead, acknowledge your natural thought patterns, and plan a time when you can give them the attention they deserve. Tell yourself, Yes, the argument last night upset me, and my feelings right now are valid to help you manage strong emotions and circular thought patterns without letting them hold back your focus.

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Eat Rightand Make Sure Dark Chocolate Is Included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally in the long term. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine, and dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavanols, which have antioxidant functions that can improve the way your brain functions.

Next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

Stop Procrastinating Start Producing

Focusmate virtual coworking eliminates procrastination and induces flow long stretches of intense focus. You and another user act as accountability partners, sitting side-by-side while doing your work, during a carefully structured 50-minute video interaction.

Sign up free. No credit card required.

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Finish Your Greens First

Tending to the high value items on your plate ensures that you finish those tasks regardless of how much else you get done that day .

We call this the Salad First technique: Place your most valuable task front and center and gobble it up before even considering other items on your plate.

Getting the less enjoyable things out of the way prevents the inevitable cycle of dread from creeping in.

Crossing off your most important items early in the day also builds momentum and a sense of accomplishment, training your mind to relate to yourself as someone who reliably gets important work done.

Focus On Similar Tasks

HOW TO GET YOUR BRAIN TO FOCUS

Tired of jumping from one type of thinking to another ? Then pick tasks that are similar, group them together, and do one at a time. This makes transitions smoother, and you may find that you get a lot more done by not jumping from one type of task to another.

Despite what you may think, multitasking is not more effective or efficient, especially when youre struggling with staying focused. In fact, the American Psychological Association reports that multitasking may reduce productivity by as much as 40 percent.

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The Cocktail Party Effect

In a variety of studies, researchers have shown that website visitors have learned to ignore the common areas of webpages loaded with advertisements. In many cases, the readers breeze right past the advertisements like they aren’t even there. Known as banner blindness this phenomenon is essentially saying that as you read more articles online, you learn to ignore the irrelevant or unimportant pieces of the experience. 3

This basic idea that you can focus on one part of an experience and ignore others is a cognitive psychology concept known as selective attention. It’s also called the cocktail party effect, which is named after the idea that your brain can pay attention to a single conversation while standing in a crowded room full of people talking. Selective attention helps you filter out the noise and focus on the signal.

Selective attention is what allowed Peyton Manning to instantly assess the defense of the Baltimore Ravens and change his play call accordingly. Manning has put in thousands of hours playing the game, studying film of opposing defenses, and learning from his mistakes. As a result, his brain instinctively knew what was signal and what was noise. He knew what to focus on and what to ignore.

Why You Cant Focus And What You Can Do About It

That little computer in your pocket was intentionally designed to be an addictive distraction.

Social media, YouTube, and your favorite Netflix series beckon.

Its no wonder you cant focus!

While the overuse of technology rightly gets a lot of the blame, its definitely not the only factor depleting your potential to focus.

Our modern lifestyle, in all kinds of ways, is not conducive to keeping your mind on just one thing.

Lets look at the top 12 reasons for diminished focus and even more ways to improve your attention skills.

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Create Goals That Satisfy Your Highest Priorities

Whenever youre resisting doing something, its likely that its because its not topping your priority charts.

As a human being, you behave and act in ways which ultimately keep you feeling safe and comfortable. As long as we can see we will get to continue feeling safe and comfortable.

However, the moment a notion arises of your needing to do something that feels unfamiliar , you can guarantee youll feel a sting of resistance.

The key is to examine and reframe what you need to do in a way that does satisfy your highest values and priorities.

If you believe you know what your values and priorities are, spend time looking at the results you have achieved with your goals. This is important when youre learning how to improve focus.

For example, you may think that one of your priorities is to have a healthy bank balance. However, your balance statement shows a lack of savings. This shows that having a lot of money is actually not a high priority for you at this moment.

At this point, you need to explore the variety of activities that yield a healthy bank balance that youre not currently exercising. Saving, reducing costs, and finding ways to increase your income are all activities you need to explore. These things might sound dull and like hard work.

Thats probably why youre not doing them! The great news is that they dont have to be.

Work out which of these activities are the easiest and fun for you.

Create A Do Later List

How to Get Your Brain to Focus

Imagine a scenario when you actually work rather productively and happy with everything youve done so far for the last half an hour.

And then, a random idea, errand, or question pops into your head out of nowhere.

When is the next Star Wars movie coming out?

I have to buy milk and coffee!

Should I have sushi or burger for dinner?

Of course, you cannot simply stop those thoughts from appearing and, actually, you shouldnt. Sometimes, these out-of-nowhere thoughts might result in creative solutions. What you should do is try to unload your brain and consciously point it back in the right direction.

The main problem with this kind of thoughts is that it is extremely difficult to let them go, as youre subconsciously worried that you will not remember them later. So, you end up trying to keep them in your mind for as long as possible, which causes distraction and overload for your brain.

Instead of spending your precious time and attention on random thoughts when youre being productive, simply write them down and get back to your main task. The mechanism is simple as soon as you get them written down, you wont be worried about forgetting them. And, come back to this list after youre done with your main task or have a break during practicing the Pomodoro Technique.

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Youre Too Tired To Concentrate

A lot of people pride themselves on how little they sleep.

But, please, dont be one of them.

Lack of sleep adversely alters brain cells ability to communicate with each other.

This, in turn, impairs focus, memory, mood, and overall mental performance.

According to Itzhak Fried, MD, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles, lack of sleep affects your mental performance as much as being drunk!

A lot goes on in your brain, besides dreaming, while you sleep.

During sleep, your brain is busy forming new brain cells, consolidating the days memories, and repairing, cleaning, and reorganizing itself.

Its not always possible to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night so when you dont, taking a nap can help fill the gap.

Taking a 20-minute power nap in the afternoon is a highly effective way to stay focused, alert, and productive for the rest of the day.

Dr. Sara Mednick, a leading authority on napping and the author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, discovered that taking a nap keeps productivity higher better and longer than consuming caffeine.

Create An Island In The Stream

When faced with the unceasing flow of communication that vies for our limited attention, think of a way to put yourself in a separate zonea kind of island in the stream. Zones can be physical or a temporal.

You might believe its impossible to take even short timeouts from your particular brand of madness. Weve heard some of our clients say, My boss requires that I always answer quickly! and Everything needs my attention immediately because my co-workers count on me. But there are workarounds to address almost any challenge.

Communication to others about the appropriate thresholds for interruption in our zones is critical to their success. There are many creative ways to establish your boundaries. In one hospital we studied, nurses wear brightly colored sashes while they dispense medicine to ensure there will be no intrusions, which could cause potentially fatal mistakes. One office we toured has a noisy bullpen co-workers there designated a specific conference room as a silent workspace. Find ways to meet your needs for concentration.

When you set and agree to flexible limits for your zones, you not only commit to them yourself, but also encourage others to respect and support your parameters.

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