Do you struggle with paying attention when you need to, or get too absorbed by unwanted thoughts or activities?
Mental health and happiness are closely related to the manner in which we pay attention. This essential skill is key to improving the quality of your life, as it will enable you to free up more time for things that matter - both at home and at work.
Download the Quick-Fire PDF Guide to Improving your Focus and Getting More Done for free to keep and share or read below some tips!
Multitasking is a myth
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can do lots of things at once, well.
“When we multitask the mind just switches very fast from one thing to the other and depletes our finite attention store” according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin.
This means that your mind has to keep ‘starting up’, every time you switch attention.
We live in an age where we are swamped with information, our attention is grabbed at continuously, and demands on our time are too high. No wonder then, that we end up just skimming across the surface of things and rarely rejoice in a sense of engagement with what we are doing, or a sense of accomplishment.
When we don’t allow ourselves the time and head space to switch off at regular intervals, our ability to focus on any one thing suffers and we end up with what feels like brain fog. Both our productivity and sense of fun plummet.
3 Things you can do to reclaim your focus of attention
Simply put: organise your time better and impose a bit of self-discipline.
1. Calm Down
Practice a simple breathing technique, body scan or mindfulness regularly. The far-reaching benefits of mindfulness are well researched and documented.
1) Take 10 minutes per week: set a time at the weekend to glance forward into the week ahead and see what fixtures are in your diary. Then loosely plan in work projects which will require your focussed attention. Consider planning to see friends that you wouldn’t otherwise bump into and make time for hobbies and/or exercise. Be realistic in the time you allow for things.
2) Take 5 minutes per day: at the end of each day go through the same procedure again deciding what tomorrow will look like. Remind yourself of the fixtures and put in at least 1 important thing you want to achieve. This exercise strengthens your neural pathways and increases the likelihood of success.
3. Balancing ‘Up-time’ and ‘Down-time’
The key to successfully reigning in attention and getting chosen projects done is in the attitude with which you begin.
- Decide at what time and for how long you will work on something;
- Safeguard yourself from any digital distractions by turning off all alerts and emails, and put your phone on silent, when you are busy. Then begin!
This compartmentalisation and temporary withdrawal from the outside world is immensely rewarding.
It is an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in your chosen tasks or projects. Keep at it and discover the joy of truly connecting with what you are doing.
Focussed attention can only last for anything from 45 - 90 minutes after which, it is time for down-time.
David Levitin’s research advises that breaks in the form of daydreaming and powernaps are vital to creativity. He calls daydreaming the neural reset button for the brain as it allows us to make creative connections that improve our thinking and make us more intelligent.
So be bold in ensuring you get breaks at work - every 90 minutes. Switch your vision by looking into the distance from time to time, or move about to reenergise your body. The pay-off will be in the sustained increase in productivity and quality of what you produce.