These days, just reading an article online can seem like an impossible task—with pop-up ads, related links, email notifications, and more competing for our attention as we read. Even offline, cell phones, television and radio ads, or a knock at the door make distractions feel more ubiquitous than ever.
Organizations, advertisers, and even our loved ones are constantly trying to compete for our attention. This endless stimulation can have negative effects on our ability to focus on one task. Research shows that after a distraction, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to the original task.
As we age, not only do we have to contend against the endless distractions of the modern world, but we also are battling nature’s effects on the brain, with an increase in memory problems and brain fog. Getting through a to-do list can seem almost impossible.
Fortunately, there are steps to help restore or enhance focus and feel confident in your productivity.
- Keep a notepad and pen nearby to jot down any reminders that you think of in the middle of a task—avoiding having to interrupt yourself with something new. While multi-tasking is a common goal, the brain can really only handle two simultaneous thoughts.
- Practice mindful meditation to train your brain to stay clear throughout your day. This can be as simple as taking a few seconds to count your breaths.
- Schedule time for important tasks and commit to completing them (and nothing else) during that time.
- Train your focusing abilities on something you enjoy. Read a book or watch a movie to enhance engagement and absorb yourself in the story. These skills can be recalled when working toward a goal.
- Exercise your mind every day. Crossword puzzles, passionate discussions, or making something keeps your mind active and strong.
Focus may not be attainable in ways it once was, but with mindful behavior it can still be achievable for maintaining a productive way of life.