Have you noticed it is harder to stay focused as you age? Perhaps, you are finding you get distracted more easily. Discover how you can increase your ability to focus starting today.
Distractions happen. They can be all around you, or they can happen unexpectedly. With the advances in technology, interruptions are not only common, they are taken for granted. Almost everyone has had the experience of focusing on something, and your phone rings, or someone comes to your door. Then there are the unexpected things, such as a friend or your pet gets sick or you get sick.
Dr. David Meyers, a researcher at the University of Michigan, found the inability to concentrate for 10 minutes at a time in a day can decrease productivity from 20-40 percent. That is more than most of us can afford to lose. It is possible for you to handle distractions and increase your energy and ability to focus even with email, social media, iPods, IPads, and cell phones.
So, what are some basic things you can do to sharpen your ability to focus and increase your energy?
Have an idea of what you want to focus on, like the steps it will take you to complete a goal? It might be to: improve a relationship that is important to you, try a new recipe, or redecorate a room in your home. How important is it to you on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being extremely important? Is it in the present or future?
Take time outs. Deanna Davis discusses the need for "Recovery Time" in the form of time outs in her book Living with Intention. Your body has a high energy and focus cycle of about 60-90 minutes followed by a 20 minute low point in which you are less energetic and motivated. Mini breaks that let you rest or relax allow you to refresh yourself mentally and physically. These breaks also decrease the release of stress hormones which compromise your brain and physical health over time.
Use a "reset" button. During "crunch" times which you may face from time to time, you may have to rely on a simple ritual or habit that will provide a short recovery time. These need to take only about 30 seconds to a minute and be something that you can do automatically without thought. It might be several calming breaths, a short stretching exercise, saying a calming phrase, or looking at a picture that is pleasing to you. It is like touching a reset button that gives you a renewed feeling of energy and focus.
Have work-free zones. Establish times and spaces that give you the opportunity to disconnect from what you are doing in order to create more balance in your life. By disengaging for short time periods, you will increase your energy and focus.
You may have to intentionally practice these behaviors one at a time until they become automatic and effective. It helps if you:
- Have a strong reason to be more focused – a deadline.
- Feel committed because the task matches your values or is something you strongly believe in.
- Are willing to take the time to try some of these ideas.
- Develop a system to support the changes you want to make by putting in place something positive to make it easier for you to remember to change your present behavior (a note to yourself or a special place to put something).
It takes about three months for a new behavior to become a life-long habit. Then your mind is freed up to concentrate on other things that are important to you.
Be sure to develop a system that supports your change in behavior in order to make it easy for you to follow through with your commitment. You will be amazed at how sharp your focus can become.
Action Step: Begin today to try one of these focusing ideas. Remember it takes practice and time to make this change automatic. You will find the effort is worth it.
Comment below on what helps you to focus.
Until next time,