It’s the start of a new day! You’re motivated and ready to get everything done. The plan goes well at first, you’re ticking off the todos, but something unexpected happens. You’re tasked with something you hadn’t expected or maybe your kids need attention. The momentum is gone, your mind is somewhere else.
You’ve lost your focus.
Staying focused for extended periods can feel challenging. The ability to focus eludes many even on their best days, but when you throw chaos into the mix you can really run into problems. In addition to your own daily problems, the reality of COVID also serves as an added challenge.
This can result in a seriously impaired attention span.
Everyone has their own methods to stay focused. Here are my three favorite ways to keep focused even when surrounded by chaos.
Limit Potential Distractions
Your environment plays a huge role in your ability to focus. Distractions are everywhere – eliminate as many as possible. These can include both internal and external distractions.
One of the best ways to improve focus is to silence your phone. Constant notifications will distract you, and even if you do not physically look at them, a portion of your brain is still preoccupied with the thought of checking. Ideally, leave your phone out of reach.
Having the TV on – especially on a news channel – is another source of distraction. If you know that there is a mountain of dirty dishes you have to deal with, or if you have loud noises in the background, distancing yourself from them can help a lot.
Mental distractions can confront you just as much as physical ones. During a chaotic day, you likely experience stress or anxiety. These feelings severely impair your ability to:
- Stay focused for extended periods of time
- Perform complex cognitive tasks
To help rein the stress or anxiety in, try purging your thoughts by venting in a journal or to someone you trust.
Give Yourself a Break
Studies show that taking small breaks while working improves motivation and productivity. During a hectic day, it becomes easier to get distracted, which means you may need more or longer breaks.
Some ways you can refresh your brain on days like this include:
- Take a 7-10 minute nap
- Drinking coffee pre-nap has shown to have an even better impact
- Meditate (indoors or outdoors)
- Any amount is better than no amount
One of my favorite Zen proverbs states, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
This is one of the most effective ways to stay focused amidst chaos. Our brains can’t perform more than one task at a time, so trying to do multiple things at once is not sustainable.
Luckily, there are better ways to accomplish your tasks. Try prioritizing them by:
- Performing the largest/most important tasks first
- Considering time constraints
- Ex. If you have multiple assignments during the week, start with the ones in closest proximity
Even though we can all fall prey to distractibility, there are methods you can use to maintain optimal cognitive activity. Limiting outside distractions, giving yourself downtime, and avoiding multitasking are just a few ways to do this. Don’t be afraid to think of your own ways to recharge your brain!