8 ways to improve your focus

With our attention spans now shorter than a goldfish, staying focused can be hard. But there’s a few things you can do to help your brain stay laser focussed.

Attention span is a hot topic right now—smartphone dependency has resulted in human attention span now being shorter than a goldfish. Short form video is everywhere, even films are more commonly being shortened into series to battle our distracted brains. Though not all is lost—your attention span is like a muscle, it can be stretched and trained to work better. There are plenty of ways to train your brain to focus, and undo the damage of scrolling and procrastinating.
 
Utilise Do Not Disturb mode on your phone to limit distractions whilst focusing
Utilise Do Not Disturb mode on your phone to limit distractions whilst focusing

1. Limit distractions

Perhaps the most obvious way to sharpen your focus is to simply cut down on the number of distractions around you. Remove social media from arms reach - it can be a huge source of distraction as it's specifically designed to grab and hold your attention. Try putting your smartphone away or popping it on Do Not Disturb until after you finish a task. You can set time limits on your phone to lock apps for periods of time to further remove temptation.

2. Declutter your space

If you’re trying to improve your focus, start by decluttering your space. Clutter and visual noise can be hugely distracting and negatively impact our ability to concentrate. A messy space is generally an invitation to get distracted and can leave you feeling stressed and frazzled. So get rid of anything that's not essential or aesthetic. Replace it with something that inspires calm. It's a simple but effective way to help your brain focus.

3. Take a break (or 3)

In order to focus properly, it's also important to take plenty of breaks throughout the day. This might sound counter-productive, but studies have shown that taking breaks can help us retain more information and perform better at tasks. Strapping yourself to your laptop and powering through encourages your brain to become overwhelmed, and you'll be far less productive as a result.
The Pomodoro Technique is a great way of breaking up seemingly unmanageable tasks into manageable ones. Work for 20 minutes, break for 5. Make sure your breaks are tech-free too - try not to use your break scrolling socials. Try going for a quick walk, making a tea or doing some stretching or breathing.
 
Take regular tech-free breaks, preferably outdoors
Take regular tech-free breaks, preferably outdoors

4. Stay active

It's a fact that exercise is good for your body and your brain. Physical activity has been shown to greatly improve memory, focus, and concentration by increasing blood flow to the brain. Exercise also releases endorphins, which help relieve stress and improve your mood. So if you find yourself feeling constantly distracted or sluggish, popping out for a quick jog, cycle, or walk can help your brain recalibrate. If none of those options appeal, think of an activity you'd happily partake in a few times a week—whether it's tennis, group workouts or dog walking.

5. Cut down on sugar and alcohol

This may sound like common sense, but eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is a great way to improve your focus. Eating healthy food will help you stay alert. Gorging on foods that are high in sugar and caffeine can make you feel jittery and brain-foggy, worsening concentration. To avoid this, curb sugary snacks and caffeinate . Alcohol is also a no-go if you want to boost your attention span since it depresses the central nervous system and slows down both mental processes and reflexes.
 
Get to sleep early and limit use of your phone before bedtime
Get to sleep early and limit use of your phone before bedtime

6. Get plenty of zzz's

Sleep is one of the most important things that encourages a healthy brain and better focus. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can cause memory problems, attention problems and loss of self-control. Sleep deprivation can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Getting better sleep may seem like an uphill battle, but if you're struggling to sleep (and finding your focus suffering as a result), try to practice some good sleep habits: deep breathing, meditation and cutting down on screen time right before bed are all ways to improve your sleep and focus.

7. Close multiple tabs and stop multitasking

This may come as a surprise, but multitasking can actually make you less productive, and worse, it's bad for your health. You're more likely to make mistakes, lose concentration, and can even damage your memory. Try focusing on one thing at a time instead of trying to juggle multiple projects at once. If possible, try doing one thing at a time in order of importance (e.g., writing that urgent email first), and put less important tasks to one side. Breaking down the tasks into smaller parts will help too. Productivity tools like Sidekick can help you learn this technique.
 
Get outside and immerse yourself in nature, such as a park or local woods
Get outside and immerse yourself in nature, such as a park or local woods

8. Embrace the great outdoors

Getting some fresh air is a great way to regain your focus. Outdoor activities such as taking a walk in the forest, picnics in the park, and wild swimming can do wonders for our mental health. Being in nature helps you focus on the present moment, which can help you become more aware and mindful of your surroundings. Practice soft fascination by opening your senses and notice the smells, sounds, and colours around you—this will help your mind work through any problems or tasks that your busy mind may struggle with.
 
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