Do you often have difficulty concentrating on tasks? Does your stress seem to mount uncontrollably no matter what you do? Does this all feed into an endless cycle where your lack of focus increases your stress, which worsens your focus some more? Do you wish for increased focus?
Don’t fret! You’re not alone. Many people struggle to maintain their attention, especially when doing important tasks, and many more people feel stressed out by their everyday requirements.
But if it’s such a common problem, then why hasn’t anyone solved it? Well, as a matter of fact, science and research have already long held the answers to overcoming these issues – if you’re willing to practice them, that is. Here are 8 skills you can master to live life with increased focus and reduced stress.
1. Limiting Focus
Multitasking seems like a good thing, and lots of people pride themselves on their ability to multitask. As it turns out, though, it’s actually better to learn to narrow your focus and view instead of expanding it.
- Doing multiple tasks means that you do more things at lower quality.
- It isn’t necessarily faster to multitask; cycling between focuses may even slow you down.
- When you focus on too many things, you don’t get .to focus on details properly.
- Most people who claim to be good multitaskers are actually quite bad at it.
Try to think of your concentration as a type of spotlight. Shining that spotlight on one task at a time gives you a nice, bright view of the entire endeavor, as opposed to forcing you to look in multiple different directions at once.
If you need to do more than one thing to focus on (which is a common experience for neurodivergent individuals), try to stick to a few things as possible. It can be tough to be aware of the line between helpful multitasking and unhelpful multitasking!
2. Making Good To-Do Lists
In this day and age, there’s no excuse not to use lists. You have a phone with you that likely has a note application or can download task organizers. If you haven’t been doing so already, then you need to start!
Productivity experts explain that written-out action plans, whether in the form of schedules, to-do lists, or other similar option, will boost your positivity. This is because:
- It gives you a clear outline of your tasks.
- It can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Writing ranked lists will allow you to prioritize efficiently.
Not sure how to start? Pick two or three key, most crucial, and urgent tasks and place them at the very top of your to-do list, then rank the rest of your tasks in order of importance. Tackle them one at a time and feel the great sense of accomplishment from crossing off each one!
3. Assessing Current Focus Levels
To master your stress levels and focus, you need to know how to assess your current state. This self-awareness level doesn’t come naturally to many people, so it’s a skill that you may need to hone.
Start by trying to determine if you’re focused or not. If you’re focused, you:
- Tackle tasks and goals as needed
- Are you capable of breaking up big tasks into smaller ones if you have trouble with them?
- Can stay alert and concentrate on what you’re doing without needing to push yourself
- Take regular breaks but can get back on task relatively easily after a set amount of time.
- Are you making noticeable progress on your tasks
On the other hand, if you’re not focused, you:
- Find yourself regularly daydreaming, losing a lot of time in between
- Lose track of where you are in your tasks and keep having to retrace
- Feel like you’re constantly being distracted by everything, from simple ambient noises to actual interruptions
- Aren’t too sure if you’re making good progress or not and keep cycling between tasks
- Are you just “winging it” when it comes to getting out good quality results
4. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is a fantastic way to bring increased focus to your life, keeping you grounded and expelling stress from your mind. The act of concentrating on yourself in the current moment is beneficial in honing your ability to stay relaxed and focused.
Research has long indicated how proper breathing exercises and techniques can improve positive thinking by calming the body and mind. These exercises are all easy to do and can be done discreetly just about anywhere, without disrupting spaces or letting others know what you’re doing.
Your chosen breathing technique or exercise’s daily practice sharpens the skill, allowing it to be more effective for you and even take less time to become effective. Better yet, combine it with the next number: mindfulness!
5. Using Mindfulness to Build Increased Focus
What is mindfulness? It refers to the ability to keep your focus on the present without allowing your mind to drift to worries or linger on negativity. It is typically done by focusing on one’s breathing, the sensations of one’s body, and what the senses are picking upon.
Mindfulness doesn’t need to include meditation, but it can! Regardless of your preference – meditation or none – everyone can benefit from mindfulness, so put it to practice in the way you prefer. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s also effective for stress reduction and concentration.
6. Using SMART Goals
We’ve already talked about the importance of to-do lists. But what about, on a larger scale, beyond the simple routine of everyday tasks or work-related assignments? That’s where goal-setting comes in.
In your personal life, there are likely ways that you want to grow and improve. You might want to take up new skills, learn to handle certain negative traits of yours, or even get to a specific place in your life or career. These types of desires, when not addressed, can cause stress, as it’s often quite difficult to achieve these bigger goals without a proper plan. It’s also hard to stay focused on them if you’re not setting goals correctly.
A certain type of goal-setting is well-known for providing benefits in this vein. These goals are known as SMART goals, and research has found that they have positive effects on productivity and achievement. Learning to set SMART goals is crucial in your journey to living a relaxed, focused life.
So, what does SMART mean? Here is what the acronym stands for:
· S for Specific
Goals must have a clear and direct definition that you can’t hedge around, be confused by, or compromise on them.
· M for Measurable
Your progress towards your goals must be clearly trackable and measurable. An inability to determine your progress affects your motivation and can distract you.
· A for Achievable
It’s always nice to challenge yourself, and your goals shouldn’t be easy to achieve. But at the same time, they shouldn’t be impossible. Unreasonable expectations can only lead to disappointment and stress.
· R for Relevant
How do your goals fit into the rest of your life or into other goals? Are they relevant to your current desires and plans? If not, it’s going to be hard to stay focused on the.
· T for Timely
This means imposing “deadlines” for certain milestones in your goals.
7. Taking Breaks
If you’ve ever tried to focus really hard on something specific for a prolonged period of time, then you’ve probably noticed your concentration begin to drain away as your stress levels rise after a while. You might even reach a point where progression is nearly impossible, and if you keep pushing it, you may fall into a severe state of mental exhaustion and become burned out.
There are a few explanations for why this happens. Common beliefs include:
- The brain has spent its resources already and cannot expend any more.
- The brain tends to ignore nonstop stimulation sources, meaning constantly focusing on the same task for too long becomes too boring for the brain.
- Constant work and effort tires the mind the same way exercise tires the body
Regardless of which belief you abide by, research has shown that shifting attention away from tasks for a concise and quick period of time can positively affect your ability to focus. A short break may be necessary for you to maintain concentration and produce good-quality work.
Unfortunately, a lot of people have it in their heads that resting is synonymous with being lazy. More still have trouble noticing when they do need a break. Learning to step away and rest quickly is a tough skill to learn after years of conditioning to the contrary, but you can do it!
8. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a common calming technique. It works by evoking relaxation and positive thinking by individually tensing and relaxing separate muscle groups in the body, one at a time.
Muscles and the human body, in general, often hold a lot of excess tension from mental stress, and most people aren’t naturally aware of that tension. Progressive muscle relaxation allows each muscle group to release that tension that it holds, providing an almost massage-like effect.
To do progressive muscle relaxation, begin at your forehead. Please focus on the muscles in that area, tense them, and then release. Continue working your way down your body until you get to your toes. At first, it may be hard to focus on it, but eventually, you’ll get skilled at noticing muscular tension and relaxing your body in this manner.
Living life with a poor attention span and a lot of stress on your shoulders is far from ideal. You can learn to master these specific skills better control over how you handle this kind of tension. Once you’ve honed these abilities, better concentration and improved stress management techniques will soon follow.