Improving our focus has a significant flow on effect to our daily life through increased productivity, enhanced relationships, improved well being and better memory. With so many distractions around us, it's not always easy to maintain focus. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to help improve your focus and increase your ability to concentrate.
Identify and limit your distractions
The first step to improving your focus is to identify the distractions that are hindering your ability to concentrate. Some common distractions include noise, social media, email, and phone notifications. By understanding what is causing you to lose focus, you can take steps to minimise or eliminate these distractions. For example, if noise is a problem, consider using noise-cancelling headphones. If social media is a distraction, consider using a browser extension that blocks social media websites or turning off your phone during work hours.
Set tasks and prioritise
Setting and prioritising your tasks before you start working can help you focus and stay on track. Start by making a list of the tasks you need to complete then, prioritise these tasks based on their importance and deadline. Having a clear understanding of what you need to achieve and the steps you need to take to get there can help you stay focused and avoid getting bogged down by distractions.
Staying organised can help you focus and reduce stress. Having a clear and organised workspace, as well as a system for managing your tasks, can help you stay on track and avoid distractions and improve your ability to focus. Try using a planner or task list process to keep track of your goals and tasks, and regularly clean and declutter your workspace.
Train your brain when not working
If you are consuming a lot of short form content and constantly switching between apps on your phone when you are away from work, you are training your brain to focus for only short amounts of time before it gets new and novel stimuli. This can then making focusing for long blocks of time at work harder. You feel an itch, an urge to check emails, social media or news site to get some new stimuli.
When away from work take time to read (an actual book!) for longer periods. Choose longer form content to consume - longer videos and articles for example so you can train your brain to focus for longer periods of time.
Multitasking can seem like a good way to get more done, but research has shown that it can actually decrease focus and productivity. When you multitask, your brain is constantly switching between tasks, which can lead to mental fatigue and decreased focus. To minimise multitasking, try to focus on one task at a time for blocks of time.
As much as we might like to think that we can focus solidly for hours on end doing deep work our brain just doesn’t have the capacity to do that. It has peak time and it needs breaks. The body works on an ultradian rhythm - this is a recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour day which is approximately 90 minutes in length. Research has found that this is optimal work session length before our brain needs a break.
Taking proper breaks can help improve your focus. During a break, our brains are able to consolidate information and prepare for the next block of work. This means we can approach the next task with fresh energy and a clear head making it easier to focus. The type of break you take is important. You want to make sure you're taking a break that will allow your brain to rest and recover and not be bombarded by a new inflow of information from scrolling social media or checking your inbox.
L-theanine and focus
Studies have shown that L-theanine can help with focus as well. In one study participants performed the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) over a two-hour session on each of four days, on which they were administered caffeine (50 mg), theanine (100 mg), the combination, or placebo in a double-blind, randomized, cross-over fashion.
SART is a task where people have to pay attention to numbers appearing on a screen for a long period of time - and most of us are looking at screens for long periods of time and needing to focus so we know how hard this can be!
The study found that when people were given caffeine or theanine, they made fewer errors on the task than when they were given a placebo. The study also found that taking both caffeine and theanine together did not provide any additional benefits over taking just one of them. You can find the study here.
So if it has hit 3pm and you have to focus but don’t want to have any caffeine so late in the day, it would be the perfect time to have an Adapt Drinks Relax. One can of Adapt Drink Relax contains 132mg of L-theanine and can give you the boost you need to maintain your focus.
Regular exercise has been shown to improve focus, memory, and overall cognitive function. Physical activity can increase blood flow to the brain, which can help improve focus and reduce stress. Try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, it doesn't have to be a crazy hard session, taking a walk and doing yoga will work.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for good focus and cognitive function. Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on attention, memory, and decision-making. To ensure you get enough sleep, try to establish a consistent sleep schedule - go to bed and get up at the roughly the same time, limit caffeine after 12pm and minimise alcohol consumption.
While all of the above may be challenging to implement, remember the effort will be worth it as improving your focus can leading to increased productivity, improved mental and emotional well-being, better decision-making, improved relationships, greater creativity, better memory, and improved performance.