Do you find that you’re having difficulty focusing, both at work and home? Well, you’re not alone.
Even those who normally don’t have trouble focusing have found that the pandemic has robbed them of their ability to buckle down and maintain concentration.
Studies (Ariga and Lleras, 2011) have shown that after a prolonged period of time working on one task, the brain stops registering a sight, sound, or feeling, especially if the stimulus remains constant over time. The study concluded that the brain is built to detect and respond to change and that prolonged attention to one task actually hinders performance.
Regardless of the line of work you’re in—whether it’s artistic, business-oriented, or involves physical labor—focusing is important for your well-being. A lack of focus can result in excessive fatigue, stress, poor sleep habits, dehydration, addictions, and eating unhealthy foods. Here are some tips that can help you maintain focus, each and every day:
1. Clear your space. In his book Focusing, Eugene Gendlin suggests clearing the space where you work. If you have a home office, this means clearing your desk and leaving only what you need to work. That is, remove all the distractions.
2. Practice mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation encourages you to remain in the moment and not allow your thoughts to wander. If they do wander, use your breath to bring yourself back to the present moment. Begin by practicing this type of meditation 15 to 20 minutes once a day, increasing to twice a day.
3. Be mindful of your caffeine and sugar intake. These substances can cause sudden spikes and dips in your blood sugar and cortisol levels and thus affect your ability to focus.
4. Take frequent breaks. Not only is it a good idea to stretch your legs, but it’s an excellent way to clear your mind. Consider a walk outside in nature, or listen to relaxing music. Ariga and Lleras claim that even brief mental breaks from a task can dramatically improve the ability to focus on a task for prolonged periods of time.
5. Take a technology break. Even when working from home, you can do things during the workday that don’t involve technology. Taking a break from technology gives you a chance to clear your mind, and this particularly includes social media.
6. Engage your brain. This means trying a new skill, perhaps dancing, cooking, painting, tennis, or even learning a new language.
7. Maintain a journaling practice. Keeping track of what’s distracting you can help you refocus. But if you have what writers call a “monkey mind,” this can affect your focus. This is when thoughts and images creep into your mind and take over your consciousness.
Gendlin suggests getting in touch with your “felt” sense—in other words, discerning where you feel you’re losing focus in your body. Then, distance yourself from it. Stop and listen to the messages your body is giving you, and then write down those messages.