Whether you’re on the yoga mat or at the office, good focus is key to good performance. Unfortunately, staying focussed can be tricky, particularly when you’re surrounded by a world of distractions. Thankfully, there are ways to improve your focus and allow you to remain on task. To achieve this, think of focus as a mental muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. But what is the best way to do this? In this article, we explore the steps to focussing the mind.
The first step to focussing the mind is to eliminate distractions. While this step may sound obvious, people often underestimate the number of distractions that are around them. While having the radio on may not feel like a distraction, you may be surprised how much better you feel with it turned off. While turning the radio or TV off is an easy fix, some distractions may be harder to minimise. If you’re in the workplace, dealing with an interrupting co-worker can be tricky. If you’re at home, you may face the same issue with an interrupting roommate, spouse, or child.
One way to eliminate these distractions is to just be honest. Ask those around you for some time to yourself, even if it’s just ten minutes or so. Alternatively, find a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed. Some good examples of these are the library, a quiet coffee shop, or even your local park.
While multi-tasking seems like a great way to get more done, most people aren’t very good at it. If you’re working on something important, try to focus on one thing at a time. If you juggle multiple tasks, you’re unlikely to focus on the details that are most important. It’s natural for our attentional resources to be limited, so be sure to budget them wisely for best results.
Our attention span can be compared to a spotlight. If you shine the light on one area, you can see things clearly. However, if you try to illuminate the entire room with that light, you’re able to see far less. To improve your mental focus, make the most of the resources you have. Stop multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time.
The next step to focussing the mind is to live in the moment. If you’re constantly worrying about the future, it can be hard to stay mentally focused. The same thing goes for thinking about the past. To achieve complete focus, concentrate on the present moment.
To live in the moment, or “be present”, you need to get rid of any distractions. Earlier in the article, we spoke about minimising physical distractions; however, it’s also important to put away psychological distractions too. Anxiety is one of the biggest psychological distractions, so it’s important to deal with this in order to focus. While this may seem hard at first, over time you should learn how to put away your anxiety and enjoy a clear and carefree mind. Staying in the present moment will help to recapture your mental focus and build upon it. To improve your focus, stay engaged in the present for as long as possible and keep your attention sharp. Over time, you’ll be able to stay engaged for a longer duration without worrying about the past or the future.
Practising mindfulness is another great way to improve your mental focus. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, ranging from simple deep breathing exercises to meditation. To use deep breathing, start by taking several deep breaths. With each breath, notice how the air feels as it enters and exits your lungs. If you feel your mind begin to wander, gently guide your focus back to your breathing.
While deep breathing may sound simple, it can actually be harder than it seems. However, with practice, you’ll get the hang of it. The best thing about this exercise is that it can be practised any place at any time. Eventually, you’ll be able to disengage from the outside world and bring your focus back to where it’s needed.
If you’re struggling to focus, you may find it helpful to take a short break. Taking just a few minutes to shift your attention can drastically improve mental focus when you return to the activity. When working on a prolonged task, it’s natural to lose focus after a while. Thankfully, a short mental break may be all that’s needed to bring your attention back to the task in hand. Taking brief moments of respite can help you to keep your focus sharp and your performance high for the duration of the task.
The final step to focussing the mind is to keep practising. Unfortunately, there is no way to improve your mental focus overnight. Instead, you need to take note of the steps above and keep working at them. Over time, each of the steps will become second nature and your focus will improve. One of the most important things is to recognise the impact that distractions are having on your life. Once you minimise these, you’ll find it easier to accomplish your goals without getting side-tracked.
To build your mental focus, follow the above steps to focussing the mind. With time, practice, and dedication, you’ll be able to accomplish more and focus on the things that truly matter in life. If you find yourself struggling, retreat to a quiet space for some much-needed downtime. If a quiet space is hard to come by, pack a yoga bag with some noise-reducing headphones before heading off. This way, you’ll be able to escape from the outside world and bring your focus back to the present moment.