It’s hard to stay focused when you feel emotionally weighed down and have a million things on your mind. And when you have a lot to do and are surrounded by distractions, it only adds to the difficulty of trying to get through a task.
But there are many ways to feel less overwhelmed in order to concentrate better and retain important details. Erlina Sidik, Business and Life Coach at ESM Coaching and Consulting, shares her expert tips to improve your focus and clear your mind of distractions.
Q: How can we train our brain to be more focused and less distracted?
Erlina: Try these tips to help improve your focus and concentration:
- Get sufficient sleep. It’s easier to focus when your mind and body are well-rested and relaxed.
- Reward yourself. Do this after completing each task, to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. An example of a reward might be taking a short break.
- Dedicate tasks according to your energy levels. Be aware of which parts of the day you have the most energy and use those times to prioritise intense work that requires the most creativity, focus and mental energy. Conversely, use your least productive time (like after lunch) for tasks that are more routine or administrative.
- Schedule blocks of time, like 45 minutes to an hour, to focus on urgent tasks. Follow this with a short break. When your concentration and energy start to wane, it’s a sign that you should take a short break or switch to a simpler or more enjoyable task.
- Create a routine. This signals to your brain that it’s time to get focused. For example, you may want to put your headphones on and listen to music that helps you concentrate, or go to your designated workspace.
- Know when to call it a day. There will be times when we feel mentally “scattered” and unable to focus. It’s best to take a break, rest and come back to the task with a clearer mind.
- Reflect. At the end of each day, think about all you achieved and go over what you’d like to accomplish the next day.
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Q: How do we create effective to-do lists to help us stay focused on our tasks?
Erlina: Creating daily, weekly and monthly “priority lists” can help you stay on top of your goals and objectives. Your daily list should be realistic, achievable, and made up of three to five items that absolutely need to be completed on that day. The act of creating a daily priority list helps you set a clear intention for what you’d like to get done and keeps your mind focused on those goals until they’re completed.
Q: How do anxiety, worry and stress affect our ability to concentrate?
Erlina: When our thoughts and emotions are constantly being channelled towards a particular stressor or situation, we can’t help but feel anxious, worried or stressed. Focusing too much on something that affects us emotionally leads to overthinking and ruminating. It can be a challenge to let go of those thoughts and focus on the task at hand.
Q: How can we quickly get into a relaxed state when our brain feels overstimulated and overwhelmed?
Erlina: When we’re relaxed, our mind is clearer and less busy, thus allowing more mental space for creativity and focus. There are a few ways you can relax when you feel like you have too much on your plate:
- Try mindful breathing. Take a few intentional breaths and shift your mind to focus on your breathing instead of on what’s stressing you. This mindfulness practice has a grounding effect and takes you into the present moment. As you focus on your breath, you’ll notice your mind start to settle down, giving you space to shift your perspectives and refocus your priorities.
- Get moving. Movement is a wonderful and effective way to clear your mind. Step outside in nature, go for a walk, run or attend a fitness class. Changing your physical state will create a shift in your mental state.
Need an exercise break to unwind? Try our workout ideas:
Yoga is a great way to relax and help clear your mind. Why not sign up for for a trial class with Yoga Inc. at SAFRA Punggol – all NSmen and SAFRA members enjoy a 1-for-1 promo on single classes with their NS55 credits. More info at www.safra.sg/
SAFRA members also receive 10% off all regular packages (not applicable to prenatal and promotional packages); more info at www.safra.sg/amenities-offerings/yoga-inc
Q: Can you suggest how to create a workspace at home that’s free of distractions and conducive to productivity?
Erlina: When creating a workspace at home:
- Make sure the area is well-ventilated, and, if possible, has plenty of natural light.
- Choose a comfortable chair and desk, so that you can stay focused for a stretch of time.
- Keep your work essentials, like notepads, files and other stationery, within easy reach, so that you don’t have to break your focus to retrieve them.
- Dedicate the area to work and nothing else – this tells your brain that this is a space for focusing and concentrating.
- Remove any non-essential items that could be a distraction, for example, magazines and the TV.
- Personalise the area to help you feel more relaxed, comfortable and focused. Aromatherapy candles and posters with motivational quotes are just two ideas.
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Q: It’s easy to lose focus when we have a long or difficult to-do list. How can we get around this?
Erlina: Break down the list into smaller tasks. This helps you take small steps towards your goals and reduces procrastination arising from feeling overwhelmed. Every small task that gets completed takes you closer to your goals. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and the motivation you need to keep moving forward until you’ve checked everything off on your list.
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