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16 Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

Having trouble concentrating? Stop multitasking, and try sleeping better.
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Americans have about an eight-second attention span.

That's less than that of a goldfish.

But we can improve our powers of concentration by, for example, finding clever ways to eliminate distractions, hacking our workflows, or working on our mindsets. 

To that end, here are a few takeaways from recent Quora threads that tackled attention. 

1. Invest in your sleep. Not sleeping enough makes people distractedfat, and unethical, so be sure to get your rest. Though everybody's needs are different, it's generally six to nine hours. And invest in some nice sheets. --Yishan Wong

2. Exercise your body. Harvard Medical School has found that exercise improves your memory and concentration. You don't have to be a Channing Tatum, but it's important that your body is an asset, not a liability. --Achintya Prakash

3. Exile your distractions. Close email, Facebook, Twitter. Put your phone on Airplane mode. Turn off anything that blinks, dings, buzzes, or vibrates. Don't even give yourself the chance to multitask--given that it erodes your attention span. --Bill Hall 

4. Keep a routine. If you sleep, work, and relax at irregular intervals, you'll spend unnecessary energy trying to organize your time. As French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." --Frederick Javalera

5. Use the Pomodoro technique. Taking its name from a Pomodoro timer, which runs for 25 minutes, the Pomodoro technique is a practice of focusing intently on something for 25 minutes and then taking a five-minute break to get coffee, go to the bathroom, whatever. --Selene Chew

6. Wake up at the same time every day. The regularity lets your hormones get into a rhythm, giving you the most energy, clarity, and focus through the morning. --Michal Ugor

7. Take a stance on email. Is your job to be on top of things, to respond to everything as quickly as possible? Or does it require long hours of studying and concentration? If the latter, email might remain urgent, but it's not important. So check it only a few times a day. --Xi Cheng

8. Know what your life goals are. If you don't know what they are, read a good book on the subject (BI's favorite: Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). Because when you know what you want to do, it's easier to not do everything else. --Rolfe Dlugy-Hegwer

9. Do things you enjoy focusing on. It takes "emotional labor" to do work that you don't engage with, so try to arrange your workday around that engagement, and hack it when it's not there. --George Mortimer 

10. Write out your obituary. It helps you identify what you actually need to get done. --Dan Webster

11. Take a break when you're making awesome progress on a task. You'll come back to it quicker and with more energy. As Ernest Hemingway said, always "leave some water in the well." --Pratik Mhatre

12. Put noise-canceling headphones on. Not only do they reduce noise, but they signal to your colleagues that you're not to be bothered. --Dave Concannon

13. Find a partner in crime. Teaming up with a co-worker will keep you accountable--if she's coding while you're checking Facebook, you'll feel foolish. --Krzysztof Kowalczyk

14. Read physical books. It will train you in paying attention to an object for an extended length of time--something the digital world doesn't provide very well. --Murali Veeraiyan

15. Listen to music. It helps you stay in your workflow, given that the sound occupies the part of your brain on the lookout for "danger, food, sex, or shiny things." --Amir Baer

16. Break large projects into smaller pieces. Then, instead of having vague goals, set clear deadlines. Execute against those to guide your focus. --Farsheed Atef

 

Last updated: Jun 12, 2014




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