Sharpen Your Focus

It takes effort to focus. In a world filled with distractions you need to take ownership over your ability to concentrate. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Here are some examples:

  • A factor to Twitter’s success is that tweets are limited to 140 characters.
  • A new social media app called Vine allows users to share videos which are only six seconds long.
  • A friend shares a YouTube video that’s five minutes long and you immediately cringe at the video’s length.
  • Golf and classic board games are losing their appeal to younger generations.
  • A large number of behind the wheel look down while driving because they’re fidgeting on their phones.
  • Books and articles are featuring larger print, shorter chapters, and are sometimes broken up into spaced-out sentences so the reader feels like they’re conquering the material quickly.
    • One of my favorite Family Guy quotes is from Lois Griffin explaining Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code:

      “Oh and the chapters are only about two pages long so you feel really smart when you read it.”

  • Did you check your phone or open a new internet tab while reading the beginning of this article? (At least you made it this far!)

LindsaySharpThe wandering mind is a problem for many. How can you buck this trend and take control of your focus? You might not like the answer.

  • Take ownership over what grabs your attention!

As Lindsay Sharp, the director of four museums in London, said,

“It’s very hard to concentrate so you have to practice a lot.”

Assess Yourself

How do you compare against other people’s attention spans? You can find out through this twelve minute exercise: Test My Brain Website. Be sure to complete the Splitting Your Attention exercise which measures how fast your attention can move.

If you found yourself saying, “I can’t do that for twelve minutes!” That means you need to read the rest of this article. 🙂

I scored a 90 which was below average. Can you beat me?

Here’s one reporter’s story of how she worked on her attention span: Concentrate! How to tame a wandering mind

 Time to Improve Your Attention Span

Different situations call for different kinds of concentration and focus. Below are three different categories with tips and tricks to help you change your own behavior.

I’m not a master in this subject by any means, yet, I’m intentionally trying to better my focus with some proven techniques. Here are some behaviors and tricks that help me and I hope they help you.

1st Category: Your Efficient Work Place

1) Nanny for Google Chrome™

GoogleChromeThis gadget allows you to assign which times of the day you’re allowed to visit specific sites and how much time you’re allowed to visit these websites.

Notice which websites distract you and then you can block them when you want to be productive. If you end up reaching your specified time limit or are flat-out blocked from the website, you’ll get this disheartening notice.

2) Limit Open Windows and/or Tabs to Three

Make it a point to not have seventeen windows open or multiple tabs along your search browser. Your computer slows down with the multiple applications and your eyes can easily bounce back and forth between the different windows -thus cluttering your mind with multiple sources of information.

If you make it a point to only have three tabs open, you’ll train yourself to finish one of the tasks before starting a new one.

3) Video Game Music

Video game designers want their players to concentrate. Composers work hard to create background music which doesn’t distract the player and encourages them to keep chugging along.

If you have your own favorite game, try to find the musical piece on YouTube. If you want a suggestion, try these pieces to enjoy in the background while you work.

Here’s an interesting article explaining how music helps productivity: How Music Affects Your Productivity

 2nd Category: Become a Present Social Participant

1) Are You Focused?

Think of when you speak to people and you realize that they’re not present. Their focus and thoughts are elsewhere. You can tell by this person checking his phone, the person is fidgeting, or even watching television while you’re speaking. It’s a pretty crummy feeling. Just ask my fiancée.

During some of our phone conversations, she calls-me out saying, “You’re distracted. We’ll talk later.” This has happened multiple times when I have allowed a report, a newspaper article, or the internet to hold my attention while my ear was on the phone.

Now, if I get a phone call, I get up and walk around my office and even minimize all of my computer’s applications so my attention is on the phone. This makes me present in the conversation.

2) Out of Sight or Loss of Noise ⇒ Out of Mind

Avoid the phantom ring! Once your brain is trained for distractions, it’s on high-alert for the next buzz or notification.

  • Turn off your data to make your phone just a phone. That way you can’t browse the internet.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Turn off your email pop-ups.
  • When you’re in a social situation, put your phone on silent and/or put it in your bag.

3) Prevent the Zone-Out

If you notice your mind starting to wander center your thoughts with a phrase. My phrase is, “Right now, I’m focused on this.” It’s a mental nudge which redirects your mind to be present on whatever you’re trying to focus on.

This helps when you’re in group situations while you’re not a constant participant in the conversation. When it’s your turn to chime in by either being asked a question or you have something to say, you’ll be glad you didn’t zone-out. This habit is very helpful in work meetings.

 3rd Category: Sharpen Your Inner-Focus

1) Turn Your Phone to Airplane Mode to Help You Sleep

Your phone is for your convenience, not the caller’s. An hour before bed, turn your phone off and let your mind prepare for rest. You’ll realize that your phone isn’t a notification center when you’re in bed. It’s just there to be your alarm clock in the morning.

Practice this habit for a few weeks and notice how much better rested you feel in the morning.

2) Schedule Time Away from Distractions

Your mind loves time to just process or become consumed by an activity. It’s frustrating to bounce back and forth between different tasks. Our challenge to you is to find times to just focus on one task. Avoid distractions!EnjoyTheMoment

Be it a hobby, a sport, an activity, or meditation. Prepare your mind to not multi-task.

This time for yourself allows your mind to wander and to think.

  • Walk outside
  • Read a book
  • Play a sport
  • Go to a yoga class
  • Enjoy a meal with a friend or loved one
  • Meditate
  • Travel Somewhere New
  • Craft a project
  • Write a Journal
  • Doodle

Try to avoid areas with mass marketing like Times Square, malls, or where’s there’s a lot of stimuli. Try to be just mentally away in whichever activity you choose.

3) “Chip-Chip-Away”

When you’re overwhelmed with a task and you’re unsure how to start, sing this little tune to yourself. Maybe even dance a little while you sing it.

*Since I’m a little out of tune, this melody was taken from the classic 90’s hit, Shoop by Salt-N-Pepa

You’ll notice that your ability to focus skyrockets by just chipping away at the project at hand.

Congratulations! You concentrated and finished this entire article!

If you have any other tips to be more productive, please feel free to share a comment or contact us. Also, if you want to contribute to our efforts by writing your own article to help inspire our readers to reach Well-Rounded Success please visit our Team page and send us a message!


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