12 Effective Ways to Improve Focus for Enhanced Productivity
Are you looking for some effective ways to improve focus and concentration? If so, you’re not alone! Unlike any other time in existence, we are all being bombarded daily with constant information from various sources all fighting for space in our minds. Whether it’s from coworkers at work, family members at home, texts, the internet, social media, the news, television, things we read, etc. We are intaking a lot of information every day.
This can make it incredibly difficult to focus and stay on task. Even during quiet moments, there are things easily at our fingertips to distract us, even simply our own worrying thoughts. Yet your productivity and performance at work, your hobby or side hustle, and even your workouts all hinge on you being able to focus effectively on them.
But not to worry! There are definitely some things you can do to get back in control of your focus. Here are 12 effective ways to improve focus and concentration for enhanced productivity.
- Monitor your health
- Make time to exercise
- Spend time outside in nature
- Get adequate sleep and rest
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Meditate and journal
- Cut out distractions
- Take breaks
- Listen to music
- Set a timer
- Limit your focus
- Train your brain
Ways to Improve Focus with your Lifestyle
Much of your ability or inability to focus is directly tied to your physical, emotional, and mental health and personal habits. From the balance of your hormones and blood sugar levels to feelings of anxiety and depression, what’s going on inside your body matters. This is largely affected by how you choose to live your life daily. Here are some ways to improve focus with your lifestyle.
1. Monitor your health
If you’re looking for ways to improve focus, the first thing you need to do is monitor your health. Your inability to focus could actually be directly tied to an underlying medical health issue (both physical and mental), and correcting that issue alone could do wonders for your focus and concentration. Talk with your health care professional about your inability to focus and any other symptoms you may be experiencing. Also discuss your medications, as certain medications can have a distracting or dulling effect on the mind.
Here are some common ailments that can contribute to trouble with focus and concentration.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Restless leg syndrome
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Poor gut health
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Cushing syndrome
- Mental disorders, such as schizophrenia
- And so much more!
2. Make time to exercise
One of the most effective ways to improve focus with your lifestyle is to make time to exercise. Exercising boosts your energy, mood, feel-good hormones, circulation, and blood flow to the brain. It also releases tension in your body and improves your overall health. And you don’t need to do anything elaborate. Even just a simple brisk 30-minute walk each day can have a major positive effect on your ability to focus.
3. Spend time outside in nature
Another significant way to improve focus is to spend time outside in nature whenever you can. While using sunscreen appropriately, there are many health benefits of getting adequate sunshine daily. For example, sunshine helps activate and regulate important hormones that improve your sleep and mood, which contributes to better conditions in your body and mind for focusing. Even if you have a busy schedule, there are still some ways you can try to spend more time outside. Here are just a few.
- Spend your lunch break outside
- Ride your bike to work or to run errands
- Do yard work and start a garden
- Trade the gym for outdoor workouts
- Work outside instead of in an office
- Try out nature photography
- Go to the zoo!
Not only that, but nature itself has a calming and rejuvenating effect. Some studies show that even bringing nature inside can help increase productivity. The addition of an indoor plant or two at your desk or in your office can cheer your mood and freshen the air around you, making it easier to focus on the task at hand.
4. Get adequate sleep and rest
Getting the proper amount of sleep has a major effect on every system in your body. This includes regulation of hormones, repairing damaged cells, strengthening the immune system, proper digestion, cardiovascular health, and so much more. That means if you’re not getting enough sleep, your focus and concentration at work will suffer too. A couple of late nights here and there won’t throw you off too much. However, if you are consistently getting inadequate sleep, you will be too tired to perform well and your focus and productivity will be affected. Here are a few tips for getting better sleep as one of the most essential ways to improve focus.
- Be intentional with your rest time and space
- Set your room to a cool temperature
- Unplug yourself from your tv, phone, and all screens 30 minutes to an hour before bed
- Establish a routine or signal for when it’s time to sleep
- Discover what activities relax you before bed, such as soft music, a warm bath, or a book
- Meditate, or breath and visualize your calm
- Write your thoughts in a journal
- Stretch to release physical tension
- exercise regularly, but avoid heavy or vigorous workouts before bed
- Establish a set time for when you go to bed and wake up daily
However, physical sleep is only part of addressing all of the rest you need to feel fully rejuvenated and alert. Contrary to how it sounds, “sleeping” and “resting” are not entirely interchangeable terms, and there are actually seven essential types of rest you need, including
So if you’re getting a full night’s sleep and still not feeling rested, alert, and focused throughout the day, you may be deficient in one or a few of the other types of rest.
5. Maintain a healthy diet
“Brain food” is called “brain food” for a reason. Your diet has a major direct impact on brain function. Choose to add foods in your diet that moderate blood sugar, fuel the brain, and maintain energy. Avoid processed, sugary foods that cause extreme fluctuations in your blood sugar resulting in dizziness or drowsiness. Stick to fruits and vegetables with plenty of fiber and adequate protein. Also, your brain needs lots of good fats to function optimally. So include foods in your diet such as:
- Coconut oil
You can also ask your doctor about taking supplements that are good for brain health, including:
- a daily super greens powder
- omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin K
Hydration and drinking plenty of water is also an important part of maintaining a healthy diet and one of the most critical ways to improve focus. One of the proven benefits of drinking water is that it improves brain function, energy levels, and nutrient absorption. Your brain is composed of almost 75% water. When fully hydrated, your brain will be more focused, efficient, clear, and creative. Water helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the brain and the rest of the body, aiding in proper absorption. This helps keep your energy levels up and prevents fatigue.
If you know caffeine doesn’t agree with you, no need to bother. However, that morning cup of coffee does benefit your attention and focus! So if you’re feeling in a bit of a slump in the afternoon and you need a way to improve your focus, a cup of joe might be just the boost you need!
This comes with a caveat, however. The more caffeine you drink and the later in the day you drink it, the more it negatively affects the quality of your sleep. So don’t overdo it with the coffee. Try to stick to no more than one or two cups a day, and none after 1 pm. Also, consider green tea which is a milder caffeine alternative to coffee complete with its own list of health benefits.
6. Meditate and journal
One of our final tips for ways to improve focus with your lifestyle is to meditate and journal.
It’s important to note that focus is different than attention span. Focus is your ability to concentrate your thoughts and attention on one thing, while attention span is the amount of time you can spend concentrating on one thing. The more you can concentrate your thoughts and for a longer period of time (i.e. increase your focus and attention span) the more productive you will be.
Therefore, meditation and mindfulness, which enhance these very things, are some of the most effective ways to improve focus no matter the circumstance. And that’s just one of the benefits of meditation for your health and well-being. If you’re new to meditating, no worries. It’s a simple concept that just takes practice. There are plenty of guided meditation apps (like Headspace) you can try to help get you started.
Similarly, getting in the habit of journaling your thoughts is another excellent way to improve focus. Journaling removes all the distracting thoughts, regrets of the past, and worries of the future onto a page to help clear your mind. Some people find that speaking to a professional therapist has a similar effect. Gratitude journaling is an effective way to replace worrying thoughts with thankful ones and help create inner peace.
Practical Ways to Improve Focus
As we’ve just discussed, a healthy lifestyle is essential for improving your overall ability to focus and concentrate. But there are also some practical ways to improve focus in your daily life that have more to do with external factors in your environment.
7. Cut out distractions
One of the first practical ways to improve focus might also be the most obvious: cut out distractions.
Although cutting out distractions might seem obvious, it can sometimes be the most difficult to achieve depending on your circumstances. For example, if you work in an office and have a few chatty coworkers who continually interrupt you, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. Likewise, if you work from home and have a couple of energetic toddlers running around, a spouse wanting your attention, or a loud roommate. Those are distractions you are more or less stuck with. However, there are a few things you can try to do to alleviate some of these distractions.
If you work from home, solve this problem by designating a specific workspace or home office for yourself where you specifically go to work. Being in this space will communicate to others (and yourself) that it’s time to focus and you are unavailable during that time. Make the space pleasant to be in. Position yourself near a window if you can to get plenty of energizing sunlight. Decorate it in a way that makes you happy to be there, and keep it tidy and free of clutter. And if you don’t live alone, a door that you can close yourself off with will be absolutely essential if you can manage it.
Alternatively, if you do not need to be home and find that environment too distracting, find a place to regularly take you and your work for dedicated productivity time during work hours. This could be a quiet coffee shop, library, or coworking space.
If you’re stuck in an office, try to designate some “do not disturb” time and indicate it as such or communicate it to others as your focus time. You might also ask if there is a quieter area you might move to.
Devices/ Online communication
Another way to cut out distractions is to silence your devices, apps, and notifications. Our smartphones are amazing little devices that help organize our life, keep us connected, and productively kill time while waiting in line at Chick-fil-a. However, they can also be major distractions when we are trying to get work done. All those notifications, pings, and ringtones are always attracting our attention. In fact, some researchers say that even if your phone is off, simply having it near you is distracting!
So when it’s time to get some work done, log out of your social apps and stay away from your email. Or you can try putting your phone on airplane mode. Batch together the time throughout the day that you allow yourself to check your social media and respond to emails. Set a specific time of day that you allow for those communications. Perhaps once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once before heading home, each for about thirty minutes or whatever your work dictates, especially if you do a lot through emails.
Even if your work requires lots of emails, constantly letting your focus be interrupted every time you get a new notification is a major bane to productivity. Instead, block out time away from notifications of any kind to get a specific task, activity, or dedicated work done.
8. Take breaks
Next, one of the most essential ways to improve focus is to allow yourself to take breaks. It might seem counterintuitive to say that stopping work will help you focus and be more productive, but it’s true! The longer you work at a task, the wearier you become and your focus begins to fade. The intense focus and attention you had at the beginning starts to become harder as the same task drags on.
Give your mind a rest from the constant stimulation when you’ve hit a wall or feel yourself fading. Get up and get your blood moving by stretching and taking a short walk in the sunshine. Go to the kitchen and grab a healthy snack. Or maybe even get a little social time in and talk to a coworker or friend. This short break and restful “nap” for your mind (and extra blood flow and circulation from moving around) will help rejuvenate your focus and concentration to your task again.
9. Listen to music
One of the most enjoyable practical ways to improve focus is to turn on some music!
While some people focus best in silence, silence cannot always be guaranteed, and sometimes can even allow our own thoughts to be too loud and distract us. Likewise, some people find the energetic bustle and white noise of a busy cafe helpful for their concentration. But other times, maybe the loud conversations of the people at the table next to you are difficult to ignore. Either way, one of the best solutions is music. Music has been shown to have therapeutic effects on our brains, and helping us focus is one of those effects.
Most experts agree that some soft music in the background can help improve your focus. The varieties that work best are classical or nature sounds, such as a thunderstorm, birds chirping by a river, or gentle ocean waves on a shore. Having something simple and soft playing in the background can become white noise to help quiet our own thoughts. It’s important that you choose music that won’t distract you, such as music with lyrics and voices. This isn’t meant to be a jam session, just a way of calming your mind and narrowing your thoughts to concentrate on the task at hand. If you’re not fond of classical or nature sounds, you might also try ambient sounds or lo-fi beats.
10. Set a timer
Another practical way to improve focus is to set a timer while you work. As you sit at a task for a long time, your focus begins to become weaker and weaker. However, you can train your brain to hyper-focus on a task for a shorter period of time by setting a timer, phone alarm, or a device-free productivity cube. Set a timer for “focus sprinting sessions” where you concentrate only on your task during that appointed time until the timer goes off – for example, for thirty minutes. When the timer or alarm goes off, take five minutes to stretch or let your mind wander and rest. Then reset your timer and start again!
11. Limit your focus/ Switch tasks
Next on our list of practical ways to improve focus involves two concepts about the tasks you choose to focus on.
First, it’s important to limit your focus and reduce multitasking. We all want to feel like we are champions at multitasking. However, even if you are particularly good at it and it makes you feel productive, you will always perform better and concentrate more effectively on the quality of your work if you are intently focusing on one task at a time. Instead of spreading yourself thin and producing mediocre work, excel at one task before moving onto the next.
Next, sometimes you might spend so long on one task that you get burnt out on it or stuck on a problem. If this occurs, your brain might need something fresh to focus on. At this point switching to another task you need to complete would be helpful, or even just to something you enjoy. This is different from multitasking, as with multitasking you are trying to complete a couple of tasks at the same time.
12. Train your brain
Lastly, there are ways to improve focus by training your brain with specific mind-stimulating games. Brain training games can help you improve your overall cognitive abilities, memory, processing, and problem-solving skills, and, in turn, your focus and concentration. Some examples might be:
- Word searches or scrambles
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Crossword puzzles
- Memory games
- And even some brain-stimulating video games!