Are you struggling to stay focused for long enough to see some real work being done? Try implementing these steps to not only become more focused but also focus for longer!
#1. Meditate to Stay Focused
Various studies have concluded that consistent meditation can cause changes in your brain structure and function. The most notable changes were increased focus and better emotional control.
This is because meditation can change the way certain parts of the brain function; for example, the amygdala (an area of the brain responsible to reacting to stress) tends to become less provocative when practicing mindfulness regularly. Therefore, through consistent meditation, you're less likely to be distracted by emotional triggers and can thus stay focused for longer.
Additionally, studies have found that those who have practiced regular meditation for a couple of months performed better in cognitive tests and focus tests due to their ability to ignore distractions and concentrate for longer.
The research team at Columbia University Medical Centre concluded that meditation has other benefits such as:
- Reduced stress
- Reduced depression
- Improved memory
- Improved cognitive ability
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased attention span
- Improved sleep quality
#2. Stop Multitasking to Focus for Longer
Many multitaskers may believe that they're getting more done by trying to complete multiple tasks at once but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Research conducted by Stanford University found that those who regularly multitasked performed worse in tests concerning their attention span, memory and overall cognitive ability.
Other studies have found that those who multitask suffered up to a 40% decrease in their productivity levels due to them not being able to fully focus on any one task.
It's important to remember that for the majority of us, our brains can only do so much. When trying to split our attention between various different tasks, we struggle to perform any of them successfully; instead, it's far more effective to apply our undivided attention to a single task. This not only allows us to complete the task quicker than if you were multitasking but to a higher standard too.
#3. Get Enough Sleep to Focus for Longer
A lack of sleep has been found to cause effects such as:
- decrease in energy levels
- Impair ability to memorise
- impair problem solving ability
- cause mood swings
Author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping Through the Night, Barry Krakow states that "you're putting energy in the bank when sleeping" and that you need this energy to stay focused throughout your day!
This is supported by a study conducted by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concluded that employee's who were not getting enough sleep to meet their body's needs performed worse in nearly all cognitive areas including their ability to focus.
Furthermore, research has found that deep sleep (otherwise known as slow-wave sleep) is one of the major factors in determining your attention span, memory capacity and ability to process new information. Therefore, this is the reason why you should create a sleep schedule so that you can maximise the amount of deep sleep you get, instead of winging it.
If you're an adult ensure that you're getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night to increase your concentration levels. If you're still feeling tired after 7 hours, don't be scared to experiment with getting 8,9 or even 10 hours a night. However, if you're an older adult, the recommended amount of sleep you should be getting is anywhere between 8 and 11.
#4. Exercise to Stay Focused for Longer
Consistent exercise has been found to have long term effects on the brain such as:
- Increased attention span
- Increased memory capacity
- Increased motivation for the tasks you're working on
Regular exercise has been shown to increase the amount of a specific protein called BDNF (otherwise known as brain derived neurotrophic factor). This protein helps to attach brain cells to one another. Therefore by exercising, you're literally able to think better due to the improved connections between brain cells. This is one of the major reasons why exercise has such a beneficial effect on your memory.
Furthermore, regular exercise has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for mental disorders such as: anxiety, Alzheimer's, dementia, etc. Therefore, through regular exercise you're not only improving your focus in the short term but you're also protecting your cognitive ability in the long term.
Not only does regular aerobic exercise have benefits in the long term but it also can improve your focus in the short term. Studies have shown that immediately after a vigorous workout, problem solving, memory and attention span all improve.
#5. Use a Moderate Amount of Caffeine to Stay Focused for Longer
Caffeine is a stimulant found in various plants and leaves. Caffeine increases the amount of dopamine that your brain produces; dopamine is responsible for your ability to focus and your attention span, therefore caffeine can help you stay focused for longer periods of time.
The use of caffeine in relation to productivity has been well documented over the years. Various studies have found that consistent caffeine use improves our memory and cognitive function, both in the short term and long term.
Despite the beneficial effects of caffeine on our cognitive ability, it's key that we don't go overboard. Too much caffeine can interrupt your sleep quality, which is one of the most important factors in our ability to focus.
The effects of caffeine are near immediate, it takes up to 10 minutes to see noticeable effects and up to 45 minutes for the peak amount of caffeine enters your blood stream. It's important to note that the effects of caffeine can stick around for anywhere between 2 and 8 hours, therefore it's important to avoid using it anywhere near your bedtime so you can sleep properly.
To see the best results, try to make some of these tips a regular habit; for example, try getting into the habits of exercising, sleeping well and meditating so that you can implement them consistently and continue seeing improvements in your focus levels and productivity.