Better ways to focus that actually work
How can I focus better? Probably one of the biggest questions I heard about staying productive. And it’s true, in this day and age, it is incredibly hard to focus and stay productive. But I’m here to help. Education is key to improving productivity and in this post I’ll let you know why you can’t focus.
What is focus?
If you were to look up in the dictionary, focus is the centre of interest or activity. It’s concentrating on something. If you have ever experienced times of immense focus, you will likely be chasing more. Being focused on your task gives you a free ticket that boosts your productivity (focus = productivity).
You’ll notice when you are in the immense focus flow because time will pass without much notice. You will feel so totally engrossed in what is happening in front of you. We need this productive flow. It’s good for our stress levels and obviously our productivity levels.
But you can not be focused and distracted at the same time.
What is disrupting your focus?
I can tell you without even knowing who you are, that your relationship with technology is seriously effecting your focus and productivity.
How do I know this?
The increase in technology over the last decade has caused many studies to take place on the affect on our brains.
You’ve probably heard of neuroplasticity before. This is what these studies have found is impacting the way our brains are working.
I’ll give you a quick run down.
So I’m Joe Bloggs who is looking to be more productive with my life. I’m feeling quite sluggish and slow, unmotivated and can’t concentrate on anything. So I google it. Found some info that says these apps are going to change my life, make me more productive and help me concentrate on my studies. I also came across some info on setting time limits, rewarding myself with screen time after studying for a certain amount of time and making myself accountable by telling my friends or posting it on socials. I download the apps, set my timers, write reminders in my calendar and create to do lists.
Who do you think has become productive in this story?
Can my phone help me focus better?
It’s more complicated than just setting some reminders and rewarding yourself. The push to streamline your cognitive processes using these apps and calendars will actually be helping your brain to go into a slump.
Remember how I mentioned neuroplasticity before? Your brain is capable of learning new things. It’s actually quite incredible how it does it (we can discuss this another time). However, there is a downfall to this learning, it cannot decipher good from bad habits.
You are so convinced that you can do 10 things at once, that you are out to prove a point. And in doing so, you are literally rewiring your brain to be less focused and productive. You have made new pathways in your brain to rely on technology for productivity, to-do lists, calendars, inspiration, entertainment and even brain games.
The internet is providing the perfect environment to develop this pathway – repetitive, intensive, interactive and addictive.
The pathways are so strong now, that it’s harder than just turning it all off. You will actually notice that you open apps and click on other tabs before you even make that decision.
The internet seizes our attention, only to scatter it.
If we spent money like we google, it would be like throwing money on useless junk constantly.
We can’t focus and stay productive because your brain keeps moving back to the digital distraction you have so readily available.
It’s like multitasking. And you know what I think about multitasking (if you don’t you must read it here Multitasking Doesn’t Work – Here’s why)
Your technology follows you everywhere so you’re always available, constantly checking, constantly switched on.
You’re constantly switched on, but going nowhere.
Are we losing any skills?
It’s not just a lack of focus and productivity that we are affecting here either. Remember how I mentioned neuroplasticity? Well your brain works on a triage system, you can’t fit everything you ever find out in there, so if you don’t need a pathway anymore, it gets rewritten. Use it or lose it.
Again, your brain doesn’t know which pathways should be saved, so we are starting to lose things like productive reading, memory retention and the ability to sleep.
These are everyday tasks people!
Do you have trouble concentrating on reading a book, finding that you are not able to concentrate on the words, eyes can’t focus, tired, watering eyes and constantly rereading paragraphs?
It’s because you aren’t practicing the skill.
We don’t read the internet, we scan.
We scan for the information we need, then move on.
Do you have trouble remembering the most basic things? a couple of things at the shop, the washing, what you are doing in this room?
Again, you are not practicing the art of memory.
Long-term memory is where you store all the information you know. Working memory is what is happening right now. Your short term limited info holding bay. When we search the net, we flood our working memory by just processing on a surface level.
Even when we sleep. Your brain will not just shut off because you are tired. It will stay in a state of constant anticipation, waiting for the next ‘ding’ of a notification.
You are not getting dumber in your old[er] age, you are using less of your brain for those skills we actually need. Don’t wait till it’s too late to start implementing change in your day. Start forming those pathways again, before it’s too late.
Your productivity and focus will thank you.