You have good ideas, maybe even some brilliant ones. But with more distractions than ever before, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all. I’m becoming convinced that the real genius is no longer just ideas, but the ability to focus and execute on the projects that are important to you.
If you’ve been feeling distracted or your habits need a tune-up, here are 11 things you can try to find better focus.
1. Web Apps: If you find yourself compulsively checking Facebook and Twitter or shopping Etsy when you shouldn’t be, there are a number of apps that make it inconvenient to stray from what really matters. (Photo: Digital Trends)
– Freedom ($10): Prevents you from accessing the internet for designated periods of time.
– StayFocusd (Free): Google Chrome extension that lets you choose what sites to limit time on and set maximum limits each day.
– Self Control (Free): Lets you choose an amount of time to focus and blacklist certain sites during that period of time.
– Anti-Social ($15): Focuses on saving you from time suck sites like Facebook and Twitter.
2. Phone Pile: While there aren’t really any focusing tools like this for mobile, if that’s your vice, try getting co-workers to make a group activity of creating a phone pile and concentrate for several hours a day. (Photo: The Tech Block)
3. Focus by Leo Babauta: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has an e-book on finding the focus you need to create and simplify your life. It’s available in both free and premium versions with additional video material, interviews and bonus chapters. I’ve found it amazingly helpful to review several times a year.
4. Sleep: Ever had a day where you got nothing done because you were so tired that staying awake was a challenge? We all have! It isn’t a big surprise, but sleep is vital so that we can learn new skills and commit them to our memory. You probably know how much sleep you need to function effectively. So make it priority and don’t be afraid if you need more than others! Fewer than 5 percent of people are naturally short sleepers. (Photo: Snowbrains)
5. Exercise: Aerobic exercise, just a few times a week for 30 minutes at a time, has been shown to improve cognitive function and focus by increasing blood flow to the brain. Instead of saying that you don’t have time for exercise, think of it as being a tool for you to efficiently manage the rest of your day. (Photo: Tampa Sports Fitness)
6. Cut Down On Checking Your Email: It might be our first impulse, but checking our email first thing in the morning isn’t the best use of time. Shower, eat breakfast and have coffee if you are going to do those things anyway. Plan out your day and ask yourself what are three most important things you could accomplish today. When you do check email, try giving yourself a limited amount of time to process it and don’t check it until that next scheduled inbox visit. (Photo: Daily Exhaust)
7. Nutrition: Your diet has a significant effect on your brain and its ability to concentrate. So why sell yourself short? Foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, plus staying hydrated will give you a boost. Check out a full roundup here. (Photo: Fresh Avocados)
8. Before Bed Routine: If you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, experiment with a routine that works for you. You might try shutting off all screens an hour before you turn in, going for a evening walk or prioritizing what you have to get done tomorrow. That should keep you from wriggling anxiously under the covers. Here’s a full set of recommendations from the Mayo Clinic. (Photo: Reading Writers)
9. Time Boxing: Use time boxing (limiting the time during which a task is accomplished) to work on a specific project and set an alarm. Start with something manageable like 15-30 minutes and work your way up from there. You might even consider using the Pomodoro Technique as a guideline. (Photo: Artia)
10. Don’t Multi-Task: Multitasking might seem sexy, but it’s mostly a myth. There’s evidence that the true cost of task switching might be up to 40% of your productivity. Still need other reasons to give it up, head here. (Photo: OnlineCollege.org)
11. Think About the Opportunity Cost: When all else fails, take a moment to think about what you’re missing out by being distracted all the time. If you weren’t so distracted, could you learn a new skill or be even more amazing at what you do now? It’s a heck of a lot easier to change your behavior when you see how it can help with who you aspire to be. (Photo: VroomGirls)
Have a tip for focus you’d like to share? Let’s hear it in the comments below!