How To Stay Focused

Modern technology comes with many potential distractions. We can surf the web or watch a movie on our phone whenever we feel like it. Unfortunately, this can sidetrack us from the necessary but less inviting activities on our to-do list. Here are five suggestions on how to combat this:

1. Define your goals: When you keep your mind on something, it's easier to stay focused on it. Defining both your long-term and daily goals is very effective, especially when they come with significant tangible results. When you have a clear picture of what you need to accomplish in a given day or week, you’ll know what to prioritize–as well as what to ignore if necessary.

2. Break larger tasks into smaller ones: To reduce the pressure that comes with larger goals, divide them into smaller manageable tasks, or steps. This helps motivate you to get the job done while tracing your progress step-by-step.

The longer you work at once, the more energy it takes to maintain focus–so schedule short breaks between tasks and take some time to recharge. Once you complete a smaller task on the list, reward yourself by doing something you enjoy. Take a walk or run, grab a coffee, read the paper, visit your favorite blogs, or hang out with a friend. Not only does this help motivate you to complete a task; it rejuvenates you for the next one.

3. Start with the most difficult: Our brains are sharpest when fresh, usually in the morning before we’ve worked them. Therefore, this is the best time to tackle the toughest tasks. After getting them out of the way, you can relax and attend to the simpler, more routine activities.

As the difficult assignments are the most draining, you’re likely to get discouraged if your tasks get harder throughout the day. Putting off the tough things doesn't make them any easier; it actually has the opposite effect, as you’ll be more tired later on. Get them over with ASAP.

4. Remove distractions and time wasters: Mute your phone, close your internet browser, close social media apps, and turn off the TV. If you’re working on a computer, close all the inessential programs and windows, and work on a full screen. If working in a shared office, you can put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign if appropriate—this informs your co-workers that you wish to avoid distractions and this isn’t the time for small-talk.

Whether at home or at work, your desk should be kept clean and neat. Keep everything you need handy and remove anything you don't need. This removes the distraction of clutter, while saving the time of fetching necessary supplies later on.

5. Develop a healthy lifestyle: We are only human, and our daily choices have a direct impact on our focus. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, get some quality sleep, and quit unhealthy habits like smoking. It’s hard to stay focused when sleep-deprived, malnourished, or hungover. Having a well-balanced lifestyle will keep your mind healthy and your focus sharp.