Five Ways to Improve Your Focus

improve-focus2016 Update: We still stand by the links and advice below, but you can also check out our most recent discussion on how to focus on work (when your thoughts are elsewhere).

Do you struggle with focus at work (or, hey, at home)? What tips and tricks have you found to improve your focus?  I am always looking for the best ways to improve my focus, but keep coming back to a few ideas…

  1. Eat that frog. I have yet to read the book of the same name by Brian Tracy, but I really like the idea: whatever you’re procrastinating on most — your “frog” — get it done first thing in the morning.  As in: eat the frog. (Half of the trick here is knowing what your frog is!)  Once the frog is out of the way, I find that my mental focus is a lot better — or, at least, I’m free to procrastinate on other things.
  2. Only try to focus for small chunks of time, such as 25 minutes at a time (aka the Pomodoro method, which we’ve discussed with other time management methods as well as how to maximize your most productive times of the day).
  3. Turn your mouse over (or get away from the computer entirely).  I truly believe that the mouse is at the root of half of my focus problems — if I turn it over (so it’s on its back), turn it off, or remove it from my desktop, it cuts down on my almost Pavlovian response to go check Facebook whenever there is a mental pause.
  4. Use specific devices for specific things.  For example, if you need to read a ton and prefer not to print EVERYTHING out… but keep finding yourself distracted by Pinterest or something on your use-it-for-everything iPad, consider having one device that is JUST for reading, whether it’s a Kindle, an old iPad, or another tablet.  On a related note — I often find that I am MUCH more productive as a writer when I take my bluetooth keyboard and go work on my iPad (my iPhone will also work in a pinch, like if I’m on an airplane and only have a bit of desk space in front of me).  Before my iPad I would write longhand when I really needed to focus — the iPad is better because it gets the text on the screen (no need to hire someone to type it in for me, or waste time doing it myself) but, because there is no mouse, I don’t get distracted.
  5. Block specific distractions, like particular websites.  I’ve written before of my love for Leechblock — now that I’m on Chrome a lot more I tend to use the Chrome app Morphine.  I tend to allow myself 3 minutes at a time on sites like Facebook, but you can set it how you please.

Readers, what are your best tips for improving your focus?

Pictured: Frog burns, originally uploaded to Flickr by Tilley 441.




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  1. Love this topic. I notice I lose concentration the most when transitioning between tasks. I get overwhelmed on “what to do next” and the internet just seems like an easier solution. I like to have a short list of tasks I’d like to get done that day so it is easier to transition to the next thing.

  2. I find I am way more productive when I block access to certain (ahem) websites where I usually visit to procrastinate.

    • Meg Murry :

      Yup. Same here. Today has not been a good day on getting things done, I’ve spent way too much time on the internet (*cough* like here).

      For me, one of the problems is when the only thing I have pressing on my plate is a frog I really don’t want to eat – I can’t even procrastinate by switching to other tasks I hate less but that still need to be done.

      Ugh. Back to report writing.

  3. I use the pomodoro technique with my watch set to beep at the end of 25 as my counter. I promise myself a walk around the floor as a reward (on the way to the restroom usually) since, hey, sitting is the new smoking.

    • Pretty Primadonna :

      I was just telling a friend/colleague this! “Sitting down at work all day KILLS!” Setting a watch to beep every 25 minutes is a great idea as a reminder to stand up and walk around every half hour.

  4. We find it really helpful to schedule the whole day ( in advance to keep focus. It’s along the same idea as the timer method but more. In fact, I usually set the timer for the amount of time I’ve allocated to each task.