Do you daydream when someone else is talking? Do have trouble sleeping because your mind is running over a to-do list a mile long? You’re not alone. Trying to focus on one thing is like sending a lone soldier into battle against millions of sensory details and distractions. That’s where the brain hacks below come in handy.
The ability to focus is a valued trait in many areas of life. Job descriptions tout the need for an employee to concentrate on multiple deadlines and projects. Focus is intrinsic to relationships when it comes to actively listening and responding to colleagues, loved ones and acquaintances.
When you’re unable to concentrate, it feels like everything takes longer or is more difficult — sometimes too difficult. That doesn’t mean your concentration level won’t improve. Like any skill, the ability to focus may be developed with practice, exercise and a few brain hacks:
1. Do Focus Sets
Think of the mind like a muscle. As with physical exercise, strength and endurance builds. The performance of one or more tasks is sustained for longer periods and skill levels improves. You start small and work your way up.
Consider the Pomodoro Method, where you work for a longer period (25 minutes) and take a break for a few minutes once the time is up (five minutes). The break length increases after four longer periods of 25-minute work. Use a timer or apps to keep yourself on track.
To change it up, work 10 minutes and rest for two minutes. This works your ability to focus as if you are doing mental exercise sets, which in a way, you are.
2. Divide and Conquer
To continue the exercise metaphor, consider taking a “leg day” and an “upper body day” with task organization. Focus on one task, and then move on to a different task during another block of time.
Some people prefer to perform a task with the television in the background or take on multiple tasks at a time. This isn’t always best for you. When you have too many distractions and are focusing on two or more goals at once, your attention and performance will be divided. Your IQ can drop up to 15 points with multitasking, and the effects are as if you’d stayed up all night smoking marijuana recreationally.
Your performance on tasks is slower and less accurate for this reason. Divide and conquer your tasks instead. Your concentration and mental agility will improve.
3. Move Your Body
One of the best brain hacks in the morning is to move your body to move your mind. It won’t take more than 15 minutes to see the effects, to get the blood flowing and spark your focus.
You don’t have to take a Zumba or kickboxing class for one to three hours just to focus, unless that’s your thing. Walking, yoga, dance and swimming are a few activities to stretch your mind and shake out distracting thoughts.
4. Feed Your Brain
Some days you’d rather lie in bed and forget the world. Your brain and body feel lethargic, like eating a big meal full of fats and carbs. However, not all fats are bad for you.
Healthy fats improve your concentration and boost your brain functions. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are not made in the body and have to be absorbed through what you eat. Plant-derived sources include flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Eating oily fish such as kipper, trout, herring, sardines, salmon and mackerel improves focus, also lowering your risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Other healthy fats, such as avocado and olive oil, may help with absorption and digestion.
With dedication and practice, these brain hacks will assist with improving your focus. Like any muscle, your brain needs to be exercised and challenged. Integral to your overall quality of life, your brain must be fed with good knowledge, nutritious food and healthy fats. Little steps make for big strides as your focus leads you to greater heights.
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