We all have days when it’s hard to focus. Days when mundane tasks seem like too much of a chore to get started and when big tasks seem to difficult to tackle. Being unable to focus can be stressful.
Here we list three techniques that may help kickstart your focus:
1. Write a list – sometimes our inability to focus is not due to the task at hand but to the hundreds of other tasks on our to-do list that run on a loop at the back of our minds. If you find you have so much to do that you can’t focus on anything try writing a list. It sounds simple but your brain can be overworked by thoughts of tasks that haven’t yet been done. Much like an overworked hard drive the brain will constantly spin around half focused on the task at hand and half thinking stressfully about what it has to do next. Even worse, this constant background activity will affect the brain’s ability to carry out current tasks because it takes up too many resources leaving us drained and stressed. We can, however, trick the brain into stopping. A recent study found that just writing down when and how you are going to do the next task can help to stop the stressful fretting over unfinished tasks and help your brain focus on what it needs to do in the current moment .
2. Break it down – when a task ahead of you seems insurmountable try breaking it down. Our brains aren’t very good at sustained attention for extended periods of time so instead of settling in, and failing, to focus for a solid 6 hours help your brain to work by only asking it to focus for 25 minutes at a time. Set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes and don’t do anything but the task at hand for those 25 minutes. Don’t check your emails, don’t get up to make a cup of tea and don’t answer the text message that has just come in. Focus for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. After four 25 minute chunks of focus take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. This is called the Pomodoro Technique .
3. Use the Pip – if you feel stressed you may find it hard to focus. Try using the Pip for a few minutes to de-stress, relax and focus your mind before you start to work. You can even combine the Pip with your 25 minute focus times, why not use the Pip in your five minute breaks to really give your brain a break.
1. Masicampo, E. and R.F. Baumeister, Consider it done! Plan making can eliminate the cognitive effects of unfulfilled goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011. 101(4): p. 667.
2. Cirillo, F., The Pomodoro Technique. 2013: FC Garage.