Attention control is the capacity of a person to choose what they pay attention to and what they ignore. When people spend a certain amount of concentrated time on a certain task without becoming distracted, that period is called the attention span. Experts say that the attention span of a gold fish is 9 seconds. In a study conducted by Microsoft, the results indicated that the attention span of people has gone down from 12 seconds, measured in the year 2000, to 8 seconds in 2015.
Researchers point to an increasingly digitalized lifestyle as the cause of the diminishing attention span. People who are accustomed to looking at multiple screens are more easily distracted. On the other hand, the same study showed that more people are now better at multitasking. So, even though our attention span is now less than that of a gold fish, we have become more proficient in doing more than one task or activity at the same time. In other words, we have become experts in doing many things simultaneously while thinking less about what we are actually doing.
Focus vs Distraction
Today’s work setting introduces a great number of factors that negatively affect our focus. The object of our focus is the object of our attention, attraction, and activity. Unfortunately, our brain is hardwired to distraction. A distraction sends an alert signal to our brain that something has changed, and that we need to divert our attention to a possible threat or danger. And so, we receive those automatic signals every time we hear our phone beeps, a message comes in, a notification shows up, a co-worker stops by, etc. All these interruptions are costing our ability to satisfactorily finish a task. Moreover, it takes the brain an average of 23 minutes to refocus after getting interrupted.
The Benefits of Focus
Initiating and maintaining focus is a mental skill. It has been proven that the ability to focus produces substantial benefits. Focused people are happy people. They have a sense of purpose, and they know why they do the things they do. Focused people have self-discipline. Because focus is a learned skill that improves with practice, those who have mastered their ability to concentrate most probably have great control of their willpower. Finally, focused people are more successful. Usually, people who have a more positive outlook and control of their selves are more productive.
2 Phases of Focus
In a sense, focus at work can be divided into two phases: getting focused, and staying focused. Here are some tips to help us be more successful in finding focus.
Tips to Get Into Focus
Like any other activity worth doing, getting into focus needs some preparation. The following suggestions can help us get there.
Practice Meditation – Meditation is any practice where a person uses a technique to help them train or control their attention to achieve a clear, calm, and stable state of mind. An athlete who wants to be stronger or faster exercises their muscles. In the same way, a person who wants greater focus needs to exercise their mind.
Plan Ahead – Before starting any task or activity, it is best to already have a plan. Identify which tasks to do, in which order, and by when. Prioritize the more important ones, or those that require higher energy levels. However, it is important also to schedule time for the less important tasks, or other creative activities.
Clear the Clutter – Clutter is easily seen, and therefore, easily distracts. Keep the workspace clean and organized. They say a desk is a reflection of the person who uses it.
Organize your Mailbox – If we are not careful, email can take significant time without us knowing it. A good strategy is to have separate emails for work and for personal purposes. We can also categorize email, set filters and schedule a time to read them.
Get in the Flow – Every person has his or her preference and style of working. Some people perform their best when they work continuously, while others are more effective in several small intervals. Know the element, environment, and energy where you thrive.
Fuel Up – Eat the right amount of the right food that can supply the necessary nutrients for both the brain and the body. Drinking a glass of water can help the brain work faster by 14 percent, according to a University of East London research.
Tips to Stay in Focus
Getting into focus is a good start, staying in focus will be a great finish.
Skip Multitasking – Research shows that focus is inversely proportional to multitasking. In fact, switching between numerous tasks every now and then actually reduces our chances of completing any of them. So, the best way is to take up one task at a time. Planning ahead in the early tip makes this task easier.
Break up Tasks – A large complex task can discourage us to tackle it. However, by breaking it up into smaller tasks make it more manageable. It is easier to complete, gives us a sense of accomplishment, and rewards our brain with a positive outlook.
Take a Short Break – It may seem counter-intuitive to say that breaking concentration can help us get more focused. But that is exactly what experts are suggesting. Our brain is not able to retain attention for long hours. Performance seems to deteriorate after 60 minutes of continuous work. Therefore, it is advisable to take short breaks every hour to renew energy and refresh outlook.
Remove Distractions – If possible, work offline. If not, stay away from social media, and put that phone in silent mode, face down or hide it in the drawer. This may involve retraining the brain to respond to notifications in a scheduled manner rather than on spontaneous cues.
Practice Regularly – Like meditation, people should practice to stay in focus regularly until they become habits. There is no harm also in letting others know of your personal policies and practices. Chances are they will respect it, because they probably want the same.
Focus can help people to be more productive. Staying focused at work can help them establish a more respectful, productive, and supportive culture in the workplace. This can also mean more successful projects and a thriving business. Bridge24 is an online application that provides enhanced reporting and exporting capabilities to tools like Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and AceProject. It can help users stay focused by allowing them to plan, track and manage projects without having to switch between apps. Learn more what it can do for you by giving it a try!