5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Focus and Attention Span

Get more work done by simplifying your approach and boosting your focus in the process.How many of you would like to improve your focus and attention span?  Okay, don’t go crazy.  Pipe down.  I know there aren’t many of us who would turn down that opportunity.

Yet there are so many of us who have difficulty knowing how to start or work when we:

  • have too much on our plate
  • feel too tired 
  • would rather check Instagram
  • would rather check what’s in the refrigerator
  • feel frustrated by our work
  • feel afraid of our work
  • get overwhelmed by our feelings about our work

The solution to overwhelm is relatively simple.

In working with psychotherapy patients and coaching clients, I have noticed the general tendency in other people to make things complicated.  I have that tendency strongly myself.  

This can mean a lot of things, including:

  • imagining that the end product needs to be perfect
  • examining every possible avenue that can be used to do the work
  • spending excessive amounts of time thinking about the project without actually working on it
  • interviewing everyone around you for their opinions about your task
  • overworking and making ourselves exhausted

Any of this sound familiar?  So what’s the solution?

Breaking things down into simpler behaviors, strategies, and approaches tends to help both my clients and me to cope with the stress brought on by work.  

We find a small action step to take, put it in our schedule, and make it happen.  Simple as that.

Once we have started working, our stress tends to ease up.  As a result, we then are naturally more inclined to focus on what is in front of us.  The view ahead is clear.

And that is awesome.  There are even more strategies to use when we feel like we can get started…

5 simple strategies to improve your focus and attention span

When people ask for my help for problems with anxiety and distractibility, these are some of the pieces of advice I give:

1.  Your drama with your work does not get it done.  In fact, it acts as interference, or a wall.  You block your ability to focus when you concentrate on your anxious and perfectionistic thoughts.  So much time is lost to the drama, you end up having little or no time left to do real work.  Give up the drama and improve your focus instantly.

2.  Don’t make your work more important than it is.  It may help to relieve the stress you are feeling to remind yourself, “It’s just boring work.”  Your work is simply asking to be done.  Remember, there is no drama needed.  Adopt a calm, neutral approach to all your work. 

3.  Have clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life.  When work  worries and procrastination extend into the areas outside of your work life, you can lose way more than productivity.  You lose the chance to refresh and to recharge, to feel calm, and to feel accomplished.  When you re-establish good boundary lines between work and the rest of your life, you will experience improved focus in both areas.

4.  Decide that what you do is between you and the work.  Your teacher, your mother, your neighbor, and your twin brother are not involved in your work.  They might see it and comment on it after you’re done, but you should feel free to produce and to create the work without their influence weighing on you.  

5.  We do our work to share it with other people.   Orient yourself towards doing good work so you can share it with those around you.  See your work as a kind of gift to other people, rather than seeing it as a mechanism for those people to judge and to criticize you.  Remember, no drama, just good work from you.

If after reading the list of 5 simple strategies, you still feel overwhelmed at the thought of work, please remember that emotions are fleeting.  They are brief reactions and internal expressions that will not last forever.

Once you start your work and you go step-by-step to the finish line, you won’t be so overwrought with feelings. The anxiety will start to fade.  It might linger a bit until you finish, but then it’s done.  It’s just gone.  It is taken care of by the fact that you were able to work. I think this should be a universal law because I’ve seen it happen time after time — we feel better once we have challenged our fears and removed our obstacles to working well.

Nike has such a good slogan with “Just Do It.”  

They didn’t say “Do It Like a Champion.”  

They said “Just Do It.”  Drop your drama, do your work for the work’s sake.  You can improve your focus and attention span by limiting how much your worries creep in.  Enjoy working smoothly from now on.

News to Share

1.  If you feel you need some support in your own efforts to improve your focus and attention, join us in the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group where we share tips and stories and keep each other accountable every week.  It’s a wonderful, supportive group of people.

2.  I’ve designed a Mindset Management Worksheet downloadable PDF to help you develop a positive mindset for yourself.  Keep it handy as you start to improve your focus and to get more done in your day.

Click here to receive the MINDSET MANAGEMENT WORKSHEET to help you get on your way today!

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The Simple 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distractions

Avoid distractions with these 5 simple stepsWe live in the era of distractions.  There is no doubt about this.

The number of distractions we face each day seems endless. When we get mired in the larger web of distractions, including the internet, busywork, errands, e-mail, and shopping, we can lose sight of the activities, people, and actions that will bring us happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. We get sucked into short-term distractions and quickly forget what really makes us feel good.

What is the cost of being overly distracted?  The costs of giving in to distractions are many.  We may lose:

  • our sense of self-efficacy
  • our free time
  • our sleep
  • our money (think shopping sites)
  • our safety while driving
  • our connectedness with others, including our children and our friends
  • our way (literally)
  • our time to plan our projects mindfully
  • our time away from various digital devices
  • our organized self (because we don’t have time to put things where they belong)
  • our grade point averages
  • our learning opportunities
  • our time to exercise
  • our time to create new things and experiences
  • our sense of calm
  • our time to be relaxed

What keeps us in a distracted mode? It seems there is more pulling us away from our work and focus than pulling us towards it. We can be stuck in distraction zone because:

  • we don’t feel confident about moving forward
  • we are too tired to concentrate well
  • we are afraid of missing out
  • we think we have to cover all of our bases all of the time
  • we have never been very good at maintaining good focus
  • we are addicted to the streams of information that social media and services like Netflix provide
  • we have difficulty stopping ourselves once we start something
  • we have become accustomed to not getting things done efficiently, so we don’t clearly see the time wasted when we’re distracted

If you’re currently struggling to separate from social media, clutter, minor matters, or other distractions, I have a few suggestions for you to consider.  If you implement these 5 simple steps on a consistent basis, your difficulties should start to wane.

The Simple 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distractions

1.  Make sure you have one priority focus.

Get real with why you are where you are.  If you are a student, remind yourself of your purpose.  If you are an employee, remind yourself of your aim at work.  If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer, decide how you want to maximize your productivity.  I have found this to be a particularly hard trick to master, as I like to flit and float among several different ideas and projects all at once. When I’m honest with myself, I know I get my most meaningful work done when I know what my priority goal is.

2.  Write your plan down.  

There is something magical that happens when you write things down.  Use that magic to connect with your purpose, to focus your attention, and to get the distracting, unformed thoughts out of your head and onto paper.  Writing your plans down will do you a world of good.

3.  Be brave in the face of your lack of understanding.

So often, we become stymied by what we don’t know.  Instead of freaking out about not knowing what to do, decide to see the moment as just one part of the entire experience of getting something done. When we accept that there will be gaps in what we know, we will be able to stay the course better while working.  We can steel ourselves against the sudden impulse to flee the discomfort of not knowing what we are doing.

4.  Separate work from play/distraction.

Being able to separate work from play is one of the great keys to beating Procrastination.

When we allow distractions like Facebook into our workspace, we instantly mix work and play.  When we do this, both work and play get diluted.  We no longer get the bang out of our work, and we no longer get the pure joy out of our play.  And we find ourselves adrift in the distractibility zone.

Practice isolating work from play, even if the work and play times are very brief.  Work single-mindedly for 15 minutes.  Play for ten minutes.  Rotate these periods if you like. Expand them as you like.  But don’t mix them together.  Train yourself to resist being distracted.

5.  Have a sense of gratitude for your work.

Although the distractions these days tend to be enjoyable, light-hearted, or connecting us with friends and family, deep down inside we are aware that our greatest feelings of satisfaction come when our intentions match our behaviors.  When we let ourselves drift away from our focus, we lose control of our sense of purpose and our sense of agency.

Let’s get a handle on the distractions in our lives.

There is no need to eliminate distractions.  We need them to pass the day, to make things light, and to enjoy ourselves when things get rough or stressful.  That said, many of us natural-born Procrastinators will benefit from sharpening our ability to focus and to manage distractions more effectively.  Find the clearest, cleanest, most efficient way to move through the day.  The payoffs will be worth the effort.

Related:  The 30/30 App: A Free Tool to Boost Your Focus and Productivity7 Tips to Help You Become a Master Scheduler

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