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I tend to get distracted very easily. How do I train my mind to steer away from such thoughts and focus on the task at hand?


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John’s Answer

Yash whether you’re dealing with too many competing priorities, lack of sleep, or just a simple dose of the “Mondays,” not being able to focus can really put a damper on your productivity. That’s why it’s important to have a few simple tips and tricks at your fingertips. Knowing how to zone in on what needs to get done can help you stay on track with your most important tasks each day. If there’s one thing we could all probably use a lot more of, it’s the ability to focus. But telling yourself to stay focused on a task, especially a mundane one, is often a lot easier said than done.

SET SMART GOALS
If your lack of focus is a result of feeling overwhelmed by a complex project, try breaking it down into smaller bites. When you take a large, complex project and break it down into smaller, bite-size tasks, you can boost your ability to concentrate and focus on specific tasks. That’s because you end up with goals that you actually feel like you can accomplish.

BE MORE MINDFUL
Does your mind tend to wander away from where it’s supposed to be? Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone. Distracted thinking is common, and something we all experience. However, these short mental vacations often make it harder to focus on the task in front of you. By being mindful and recognizing when your attention starts to drift, you can quickly bring your focus back to where it needs to be.

MAK A TO-DO LIST
Let’s face it. The items on a to-do list can add up quickly. And, it can be challenging to find the motivation to accomplish everything you set out to do. After you make your list, choose two or three key tasks and put them at the top. Then rank the rest of the items in order of importance. This allows you to tackle urgent tasks when your brain is fresh and your energy levels are high.

GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS
First things first: You need to eliminate distractions. While you can’t do away with everything, you can make an effort to reduce or get rid of as many distractions as possible. There are several apps that work for your phone, tablet, or computer. Some of these distraction-busting programs also allow you to block online games, as well as social media.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP
It’s no secret that the majority of Americans are lacking in the sleep department. While a few nights of minimal sleep is okay, not getting enough sleep most nights of the week can negatively impact both your short and long-term memory, as well as your ability to concentrate.

I hope this was helpful Yash

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John’s Answer

I have a constant To Do List. List the items you want to get done per day and prioritize which is higher priority. You may want to estimate the time to get each done so you don't have too many actions for one day. Post this on a wall or where it's visible so you can stay on target. Don't move on to the next item until the first one is done. Take breaks in between tasks. Lower priorities may get moved to the next day if they don't really need to be done today. You can do this on paper or white board or computer or on calendars. Use a tool that is easy to maintain and revise. I use electronic calendar and excel for work and home.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Yash! I would recommend to maybe find ways to block out distractions. For example my phone was a big distraction for me but I would put it away either in a different room or my bag so I wouldn't look at it. I would also make sure to be on social media for a little bit; you can put a reminder on many social media apps where they send you a notification after you exceed your daily limit. Meditating is definitely helpful too, I think it's a great way to take a short break, relax yourself and then focus again. There's still much research being conducted in the field of meditating but it does induce alpha waves that relax oneself and there is much benefit of it in because it can help you regain focus. Definitely take short breaks if you can; after an hour I would recommend to take short breaks like 5-10 minutes, because I think it is helpful to step away from work and then go back to it. This can help in gaining your attention because after a while our brains do get tired and our attention levels decrease after about 45 minutes!
As a last note make sure to have fun with the task at hand. I know sometimes workload can become too much especially if there are a lot of reading assignments but if you find ways to study the way you like it will be easier for you to focus. Possibly use colored highlighters, speak to yourself and explain your lectures while taking notes , and maybe listen to relaxing music in the background. I personally like meditating Zen music, it's really calming! At the end of the day you should also have something to look forward too; for example when I was studying for my MCAT although the hours were long one thing that would motivate me was that when I got home I would get to read and drink some coffee. It was something small to look forward too but nonetheless a nice motivation to get my work done on time!
Keep striving!

Best of luck!

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Sunny’s Answer

Hi Yash,

I think it is important to take good rest to focus better. If you look at your phone or watch a show while taking a break, you are still absorbing so much information that would distract your mind. So one effective way of doing this is to meditate or take a 15 minute nap in the afternoon. If there are so many things to think in your brain, it might be hard to focus on the task in front of you. Taking a nap or mediation are ways of closing your eyes and blocking the distractions from the outside for a short time.

If you like working out, running or walking everyday would help you focus better. When you exercise, not only can you relieve some stress, but also gain more confidence.

I hope this helps!

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Morgan’s Answer

Hi Yash,

Like many people answering, I think a ‘To Do” list is very helpful and it is something that I use every day. I think we all go through a point where we procrastinate and do everything but the task that needs to be done. For me, I force myself to get the specific task done before I can do anything else. I set my mind to the idea that “I’m going to finish this before noon and then I can take my lunch break.” I hold myself accountable that way when the task is completed I feel relieved and happy that it was taken care of and I remember that feeling of relief for when I go to do my next task.

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Ashley’s Answer

Hello Yash! This is an excellent question, as I am very much the same - especially when I have a lot on my plate. To stay focused, I turn my cell phone to silent and put it out of sight. I often turn off my email notifications, and I make sure to take breaks. For example, this evening I've dedicated 30 minutes to answering questions like these. I will not do anything else during these 30 minutes, and will answer as many questions as I can. When I'm finished, I will take a short break and then move onto the next task - making dinner. :-)

Finally, I find it is hard for me to stay focused if I am tired, so make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, as often as possible.

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Steph’s Answer

Hi Yash,

Like some people answered earlier, a Pomodoro Technique is a great way to get things done while focusing on a task 20-25 minutes at a time in length, separated by short breaks.

Another option is to place a lamp on your desk and use it as a personal signal. Turn the lamp on when you're focused on a task for 20 minutes and once your timer is up (after 20-25 minutes) turn the lamp off, take a break, drink water, grab a snack, do something briefly away from your desk/computer and when you're ready to continue with your tasks, turn the lamp back on as a signal to yourself that you need to stay focused for the next 20 minutes again.

I hope this helps!

Good luck!!!

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Katlyn’s Answer

Hi! I can completely relate--- when I need to focus I have found it helpful to block off time/put away my phone/close email and try to hone in. I try to set small goals so that I can check things off the list and see the progress I am making....Be kind to yourself, it is hard to focus all the time--- I take 20 minute walks throughout the day to help my reset and get my focus back.

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Scott’s Answer

Yash,

Great question that hits on something that affects most of us. Time is the great equalizer and each of us has the same 24 hours in a day. Deciding where to focus our attention can be challenging.

I see a reference to using the Pomodoro technique in the answers and I find that technique quite helpful.

Another tip that helps me is to limit my TO DO list to the top 3 things I need to do so that I am only focused on 3 things in any given day. If I finish all 3 things I let myself choose whatever I would like to do next. Most times I don't knock out all 3 but I at least finish the #1 thing on my list and that's OK.

Lastly, notice I said limit my TO DO list. My list is very long and I'm always adding to it. I've learned to be OK with having some things on my list -- it's not important to empty the list; it's important to get something in my top 3 items done on any given day.

Scott recommends the following next steps:

Check out David Allen's resources here: https://gettingthingsdone.com/
Saved!

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Joyce’s Answer

When I find myself getting distracted, I take breaks. However, to keep myself on the task, I time box. Utilize tools such as a pomodoro timer, where you do short spurts of focused work and take breaks when it is time. An example could be work for 20 minutes, try not to get distracted and when the timer is up, take a break!

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