How to Give Your Full Attention to Tasks at Hand
May 30, 2022
Nowadays, focusing on the task at hand is an increasingly rare skill that can give you an edge in all areas of your life. Increasing your capability for concentrated work will do wonders for your productivity.
In this post, I will cover strategies that can help you improve your focus and increase your attention span.
Focus is a muscle that you can train
Focus is the ability to direct your attention to a task or activity and block out distractions.
Think of focus as a spotlight. When you focus your attention on a task, it's as if you're shining a bright light on it. This allows you to see the task more clearly and work on it more effectively.
Most people think that focusing is an innate skill - you either have it or you don't. But that's like saying, you're either born fit or you're not. The ability to focus is a skill, just like any other, that can be learned and developed over time.
Sure, some of us are naturally more inclined to focus than others. But the focus is a muscle that anyone can train. The more you practice, the better you become at it.
How to manage distractions
One of the main reasons people struggle to focus is distracting things happening around them constantly.
Whether it’s a colleague talking loudly on the phone, the sound of traffic outside, or a notification from your phone, these distractions are disruptive and seemingly never-ending.
The best way to manage distractions is to create a distraction-free environment for yourself that gives you the quiet you need to focus.
For example, you can move your desk away from the window to reduce noise pollution, turn off your phone, or use a noise-canceling headset.
It's also crucial to plan and prioritize your tasks to avoid getting sidetracked. When you have a clear plan of what you need to do and when you need to do it, you're less likely to get distracted by unimportant tasks that tend to come up.
Another part of improving your focus is to stop trying to multitask. The human brain is not good at multitasking anyway - when you try to do two things at once, your focus is split, and both tasks suffer.
Practice deep work
Deep work is a term coined by author and professor Cal Newport that refers to the ability to focus without distractions on cognitively demanding tasks.
To do deep work, you need uninterrupted time to concentrate solely on the task at hand. To achieve that, you need a distraction-free environment, which we discussed earlier.
On top of that, you need to have the right mindset for deep work. This means being willing to push yourself to focus for extended periods and flex your critical thinking muscles.
It’s not easy - your brain will do anything to avoid mentally challenging tasks. Evolution taught us to preserve energy, and an active brain can use up to 30% of our energy sources.
But remember that focus is a muscle that gets stronger with practice, and eventually, your brain will get more efficient at deep work and require less energy to focus.
If you want to increase your productivity, start incorporating deep work into your daily routine. Dedicate at least one hour each day to focus on a single task without distractions. You might be surprised at how much you can get done in such a short period.
Complete shallow tasks in batches
Tim Ferriss popularized this idea in his book, The Four Hour Work Week.
The premise is simple: rather than working on one task at a time, you group similar tasks and complete them in batches.
Say you have a bunch of minor chores to take care of, like paying bills, scheduling appointments, and returning emails. Instead of doing these things one at a time, you can batch them together and complete them all in one sitting. This way, you’re not constantly switching between tasks and losing focus in the process.
It is more productive to batch similar tasks because it frees up time for deep work.
If you want to give batching a try, start by making a list of all the tasks you need to complete. Then, group similar tasks and choose a specific day and time to focus on them.
For example, you might batch all your errands together and do them on Saturday morning or return all your emails in one sitting on Sunday afternoon.
Manage your communication at work
You need to be able to manage your communication and set some boundaries with your coworkers. Let them know that when working on a task, you prefer not to be disturbed unless absolutely necessary.
You can turn off your phone, close your door, or wear headphones. Do whatever you can to send a clear message to your colleagues that you’re not to be disturbed.
If your team is remote, you need to control how often you use Slack or Zoom. Try to stick to set times for communication and avoid getting sucked into endless conversations.
Change your environment
Sometimes, you can feel stuck in a rut, and no matter how hard you try, you can't focus on your task. If this happens, it might be time to change your environment.
Maybe all you need is a change of scenery to jump-start your productivity. If you can, try working from a different location, like a coffee shop or the library. Or, if you work from home, try working in another room or your backyard.
It's been proven time and time again that exercise boosts productivity. Exercising releases endorphins, which improve focus and concentration.
So, if you’re looking for a way to boost your productivity, try exercising for at least 30 minutes each day. You can do this by going for a run, taking a yoga class, or lifting weights at the gym.
Take proper breaks
Make sure to take breaks to avoid burnout. What kind of break you take matters as well. This means avoiding checking your phone or social media, as those activities don't help your mind and body relax.
Instead, try taking a walk outside or listening to calm music.
And that's it for this post. Try implementing these tips into your daily routine, and they're guaranteed to help you focus on tasks and increase your attention span.