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13 ways to stay focused

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Keeping focus is difficult. It could be at work, whilst studying, or pursuing a dream goal. For many people, it can be a struggle to consolidate their ambitions, passions and motivations into consistent, quality hard work. You’re definitely not alone in the struggle.

So, where are they going wrong? What are the bad techniques they have been taught in order to stay focused and how can they undo their negative impact? Here are 13 tried and tested ways to stay focused.

1) Learn to be bored

It is often said that 10,000 hours of practise is needed in order to develop a skill. Say, for instance, you practise for an hour a day. This amounts to 10,000 days of commitment, which is around 27 years of your life. Double the hours per day and that still leaves you with over 13 years to dedicate yourself to. It is impractical and idealistic to say that the experts and professionals of the field you’re trying to focus on don’t get bored, don’t feel the tedium of repeating the same training over and over again. The difference between you and them isn’t the external shows of passion and achievement, but internal resilience to stick to boring patterns.

Instead of thinking that you need to be enthusiastic throughout the whole process to stay focused, realise that you need to switch off from your emotions and just do it. Completely detach yourself from time limits and other parts of your life and allow yourself to be bored.

2) Work in silence

When trying to affirm our successes or assert our positions as a worker, student or otherwise, we tend to talk a good game to our peers about what we have achieved and hope to achieve. Not only does this take away valuable time that could have been spent focused on said achievements, but it also doesn’t work. Instead of feeling confident in who we are, we put pressure on ourselves to live up the image we have painted for our peers. We become anxious to succeed and self-conscious of how we appear, which can negatively impact our efforts. Remember that success doesn’t need to be explained. It will always speak for itself. Pursue success silently, without the added expectations and beliefs of others.

3) Keep your life tidy

Tidy your room, office, desk, practice space and you will indeed have a tidy mind. [How capsule wardrobing can make your life easier] Organising all equipment and stationary saves you time on looking for it and prepares you mentally to work. Our approach to work is psychological, and having clear spaces to work from makes work feel less stressful and hectic. Work on maintaining the tidiness, instead of leaving it for another big clean up. Picking up the habit of tidiness is inextricably linked to picking up the habit of focusing. It improves your endurance in staying productive. Have a look at our daily checklist and planners to help organise your mind and physical surroundings.

4) Look after yourself

Staying focused can be a physical strain. It’s important to relax [A checklist for chilling out and enjoying life] and be healthy. Make sure you eat three square meals a day and stay away from junk food as much as possible. It’s also equally important to get enough sleep at night to ease mental fatigue and conserve energy. Everyone has different sleeping patterns, so make sure to figure out what works for you. It is so much easier to focus when you’re not tired and hungry.

5) Break down the big tasks

Taking things one step at a time is vital to staying on track. It’s easy to feel overloaded by work [What to do when you feel overloaded] if you see it altogether as the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s good to narrow your vision. Organise your tasks into a logical order, and break the bigger commitments down into small chunks so you understand what is required of you. You will feel more focused when you have a better grasp of what to do and when to do it. There’s a time and a place for everything to be done, but it isn’t at the same time and place. To help you organise your life better try our interactive calendar that helps you to schedule your life effectively and our interactive to do lists to help prioritise and plan your day.

6) Schedule your breaks

Productivity in students particularly can start to decrease after as short a time as thirty minutes. Instead of forcing yourself to slog for hours, take little breaks as a pick-me-up before getting back to work. This can also help you make more efficient use of your time. The motivation of a quick coffee will encourage you to work hard in the allotted period of time. The alternative is to drift through hours of work, counting down the minutes, and potentially getting less done at a lower standard. You become more easily distracted without set points where you’re allowed to rest.

7) Limit your chances of procrastination

Think of the places where it’s easier to get work done – the gym, the library or the office. These places are built-to-purpose, so use them to their full advantage. When you are surrounded in an environment dedicated to the field you want to focus on, you can’t veer too far off track with working. If you know there’s a lot which can distract you at home, from the television to the fridge, leave the house.

8) Ask for help once

An irrational fear in those who struggle to focus and progress is the fear of asking for help. Not wanting to seem incapable to others, they try and figure everything out for themselves. Whilst independence is important, it’s hard to progress as a beginner when you have to figure out how to do things yourself. Plumbing the depths of expert knowledge can help you refocus your efforts in a way you didn’t think of before and gives you realistic ideas of how and when to do things.

If you’re still unsure to ask, follow the rule of only asking once. This forces you to concentrate on the advice and learn it by heart, instead of needing to repeatedly ask the same questions. Asking for help isn’t the problem, it’s asking for the same help over and over. If you feel you need some help in developing a plan of action, why not book a session with our expert life coach?

9) Save the hard tasks till last

This sounds like a bad idea but is in fact the most effective way in practising self-motivation. If you’re in this alone, ease yourself into your work with the easy tasks. The more you tick off your check-list, the more focused you will be on finishing it. It’s a simple mind trick, but simplicity is good amongst hard toiling.

The other benefit of doing the hard stuff last is you will have picked up better working habits and possibly learned more during easier tasks, which will aid you in completing anything more difficult. Think about it – it’s logical to increase difficulty as you go along. You wouldn’t complete a game by doing the boss level first and the beginner level last.

10) Make a superstitious routine

This doesn’t mean following extreme witchcraft. Superstition lends itself to mind-set, and it can manifest in something as simple as a favourite outfit, or a certain routine in which you begin the day. Superstitions help you feel in control and prepared for the work ahead. They aren’t to be ridiculed. There are plenty of sport stars, top business magnates and world-famous chefs who own a pair of lucky pants. Whatever helps you feel ready for the day should be done without hesitation. [10 daily habits of successful people]

11) Keep your schedule varied

The key to working smarter and not harder is to have an infallible schedule for the day. Having every activity planned for the correct part of the day will play perfectly into your hands in staying focused. Doing four hours of writing in the morning followed by all your chores with snacking as you go along is bad scheduling. Having breakfast, writing one article, checking emails and other messages, writing two articles, having lunch then doing chores, then writing the remaining articles as set for the day is much better scheduling. It will probably mean you produce higher quality writing even if slightly less, and it will also mean you are eating properly and doing menial tasks at your least motivated points of the day.

12) Exercise the mind

Exercise can be just as beneficial for the mind as your heart and muscles. The process of working out requires a rigid plan, perfect technique and mental toughness, which all lead to an increased propensity to focus. By putting an exercise routine alongside your work, the processes may lend themselves to each other. As your performances improve at the gym or in the swimming pool or at your exercise class, your work will also. If you struggle with stress or anxiety disorders and feel you need a workout which keeps your mind calm and collected, low-intensity activities like yoga will be of equal benefit.

13) Celebrate progress

Even if it’s just a party for one, it’s important to celebrate what you’ve achieved thus far. Don’t forget you can also log this privately within your account or share it in our Community if you want to really celebrate success. Breakthroughs and little victories can provide the few days of extra motivation you need to keep going after going through the motions with work for months. Once you get into the habit of succeeding, you won’t want to stop succeeding. Marking progress is the way to stay focused on getting better and better. To help you, why not set a goal and find support towards it in our Network?

Staying focused isn’t an innate skill and to think so is to already consign yourself to failure. You can learn to focus as long as you’re ready to put the hours in. When you find a job or hobby or ambition that you’re passionate about succeeding in, then nothing can stop you from getting what you want but yourself. There will be high peaks and deep troughs, but if you believe in yourself and  fall in love with the journey of improving and succeeding, you will achieve what you dream of achieving.

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This article was contributed by Pink Moods.

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