In this post, I will tell you the reasons why you can’t focus on anything and how you can fix the same.
In today’s world, being able to focus is almost like a superpower.
You rarely see anyone who’s able to concentrate on a single task for hours and get their things done.
And the individuals who are able to focus, to nobody’s surprise, get so much more done than other people.
There are many areas where you could benefit from better concentration.
Whether it’s for school, studying, work or a hobby.
If you’re able to focus you can get your desired results faster and effectively.
So today I’ll explain what’s holding you back from focusing and what you can do to improve it.
And I know you’re procrastinating at this very moment by reading this post.
But I’ll make it worth your while.
So grab a pen and a piece of paper.
Make sure to write down a few key points about whatever you learn from this post or bookmark this page for future reference.
This way you’ll get the maximum value out of your procrastination session.
Let’s dive in.
The Two Types of Focus
We all have two types of focus.
Scattered focus and directed focus.
1. Scattered Focus
Scattered focus is broadly distributed attention.
This is your typical multitasker, trying to do many things at the same time.
Cleaning the house, while talking on the phone, while cooking dinner.
Or someone who’s trying to focus on one thing, but they keep thinking about something else at the same time.
And this is what most people do. They divide their attention towards many different things.
The problem with this type of focus is that your brain is extremely bad at switching between multiple things at once.
You see, when you switch from one task to another, it’s not an instantaneous switch.
Instead, your brain has to “load” the context of whatever you’re doing into your working memory.
When you’re constantly shifting your attention from one thing to another, you’re forcing your brain to load and re-load context over and over.
Essentially you end up wasting a ton of mental energy switching back and forth, leaving you exhausted without getting much done.
2. Directed Focus
Now on the other side, we have directed focus.
You achieve it by directing your attention to a single action while ignoring everything else.
This is what you should aim to achieve and it’s how high-achievers direct their focus.
They concentrate on one thing at a time, like a laser beam.
And they do that thing to the maximum of their ability while disregarding all other stimuli.
How To Avoid Scattered Focus?
So what can you do to avoid scattered focus?
1. Remove Distraction
You should aim to remove all distractions and avoid any stimuli which could potentially harm your concentration
Let’s look at it this way.
Let’s say you have 5 minutes of focus available at any time. That means you can use those 5 minutes in any way you like.
For example, you could use them all on studying, thus achieving directed focus there.
Now let’s say your mom enters in your room, while you’re studying, and tells you that dinner will be ready in 45 minutes. Even if you were super concentrated and even if that interaction only lasted for 10 seconds, your attention is now divided.
Dinner will now be on your mind and your focus will not be as good as it was before.
One of the focus units was used on that dinner, taking it away from your studying session.
It’s now going to take some time before you’re able to fully regain your focus and you’ll end up wasting your mental energy in the process.
2. Avoid Your phone
This tiny device is the biggest anti-focus machine available with us.
It rings, it vibrates and whenever you get a new notification it makes a sound.
That beep is all it takes, to take your mind off the thing you were supposed to be concentrating on.
But even if your phone is on silent, you’re very likely to take a quick look at it, whenever you feel bored.
Thus, dividing your attention.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should throw your phone away or anything like that.
Instead, I’m simply suggesting that whenever you want to concentrate on something, you put it somewhere, where you know it won’t disturb you and you won’t be able to look at it.
That being said, cellphones aren’t the only thing that divides your focus.
Anything can do that, but your phone is probably the biggest contributor.
The point is to become aware of the possible distractions and to avoid them.
3. Take Care of your physiology
Another thing that could be affecting your ability to focus on is your physiology.
This is something that is not considered often.
However, if you want your mind to function optimally, you need to take care of your body.
If you’re sleeping under 7 hours per day, your concentration will suffer.
On the contrary, it’s been shown that getting 7-9 hours of sleep, leads to a better ability to focus during the day.
Exercise is also something that should be done on a daily basis.
Thanks to the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters, your ability to focus on difficult tasks improve.
By exercise, I don’t mean going out and running a marathon, but a short walk around the block is already sufficient.
Bonus points if it’s a walk in nature.
4. Keep Hydrated
You might have noticed that when you wake up in the morning you can’t really think straight right away.
One of the reasons is because you hadn’t drunk anything for over 8 hours, so you’re mildly dehydrated.
Your diet plays another big role in your performance.
If you’re indulging and stuffing your face with unhealthy food or drinking soda, you’re doing your brain a disservice.
Food that is high in sugar content leads to brain fog and the inability to concentrate.
You might want to look into some healthier alternatives.
So if you want to focus easier, make sure to take care of your body.
How To Build Focus
Now let’s take a look at how to build your focus.
1. Through Concentration
It should be noted that concentration is a skill.
You can actually train your focus as you would train for a sport.
The more you do it, the better you get at it.
When you start, you might be able to focus for just 10 minutes.
But when you do that day after day, your ability to concentrate will strengthen and you’ll able to do it for longer periods of time.
So if you can’t concentrate for hours right now, that’s fine.
You can train your directed focus over time.
And the best way to practice your focus is to have a certain time in your day when you concentrate intensely on just one task.
Basically you want to make concentration a regular habit.
2. Make focus a daily habit.
A lot of us are waiting for the opportunity when everything is perfect when we’re feeling motivated and when all the planets are aligned before we go and try to focus.
But that’s the wrong approach.
Instead, it’s way better to have a dedicated time in the day, where you sit down and just concentrate on one thing for as long as you can.
You then want to protect that block of time.
The best time for focus is in the morning, about 1 hour after waking up.
Usually, that’s when you’re fully awake and your mind is not yet occupied with other things that require your attention.
Plus, at that time you typically have no distractions and you have all your focus units ready to be distributed.
This time of the day has been utilized by many historic artists, writers, and philosophers.
But what about the afternoon?
Well you see, if you’ve had a busy day, your attention has been already been scattered
in many different directions.
And your brain is heavily stimulated.
That’s why it’s so much easier to focus in the morning.
Your brain has been resting for 8 hours after all.
So if you decide in the middle of a distracted afternoon, to switch your attention to a cognitively demanding task, for example studying, you’ll have a hard time directing your focus.
Your mind will already be occupied with other things.
Such attempts will therefore frequently fail.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to focus late in the day.
3. Un-stimulate your brain And Take Breaks
You just need to un-stimulate your brain.
And you do that by taking a proper break.
You see, it’s very hard to concentrate on something for a longer period of time, without getting mentally tired. And it doesn’t matter if it’s scattered or directed focus. Both are exhausting.
That’s why you need to take a break and give your mind a rest after a while.
However, this is where most people slip up.
You see, taking a break doesn’t mean pulling out your phone and browsing Instagram, Youtube or whatever.
You’re still stimulating your brain and you’re still mentally engaged, therefore draining your mental energy, instead of recharging it.
What you should do instead, is go for a walk, meditate, or maybe take a nap.
These activities allow you to un-plug and start recharging your mental energy because they’re not as stimulating.
I know it might sound boring, but you should allow yourself to be bored to give your brain some breathing room.
Of course, taking a mental break isn’t just for when you want to switch from scattered focus to directed focus.
It’s also very useful when you want to extend your ability to continue focusing intensely.
Another way to look at it is to imagine you’ve been running for an hour without stopping.
Then you have a 15-minute break before you’ll be running for another 1 hour.
You can choose to:
A.) sit down, relax and do nothing for 15 minutes, Or
B.) jump rope and do burpees for 15 minutes.
Obviously you choose option A, as you don’t want to exert yourself even more.
You want to have enough energy to run for another hour after all.
In this case, running is an analogy for focus.
When you’ve been focusing for 1 hour, you don’t want to add more stimulation to the mix.
You’ll just tire yourself out mentally if you watch TV or browse the internet.
To find an activity that suits you, that’s not mentally stimulating and it helps you to disconnect.
Personally, my favorite thing to do is to go for a short walk.
It helps me recharge mentally every time.
4. Use the Pomodoro technique.
Now the perfect technique that ties intense focus and mental breaks together, is the Pomodoro technique.
It goes like this: You choose a task that you want to focus on.
Then you set a timer for 25 minutes and do nothing but concentrate on that task.
When the timer rings, you take a 5-minute break and restart the timer.
When you’ve completed four 25 minute sessions, you take a longer break, usually consisting of 30 minutes.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be so rigid.
25-minutes of work and 5-minutes of rest are just recommendations.
You can do it for however long you feel like, depending on the complexity of the task.
For example, when I’m writing my posts, I usually set the timer for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute break.
So you should experiment a little and find out which combination suits you best.
If you read this far, good job. Your focus is already better than most people’s.