It seems like distractions are everywhere. Now, more than ever, perhaps, you have to learn how to focus your mind on one thing. Especially if you are working at home, or if you are working in an environment around many other people with multiple things going on around you. This also applies if you are home with kids and trying to be more productive around the house.
Focusing your mind on one thing at a time is a great strategy for getting more done in less time.
What is the ability to focus?
So what is the ability to focus? It means that you only pay attention to one task at a time and you block out distractions. Certain times and environments naturally lend themselves to helping you focus better. However, the ability to focus, in and of itself, is a skill that can be honed.
Why can we only focus on one thing at a time?
When you learn how to focus your mind on one thing you become more productive. Multitasking used to be somewhat of a badge of honor. However, there is no true multitasking. Multitasking is actually task switching, which does not give your brain time to completely focus on the one thing that really needs to be done.
You make a little bit of progress on a few different things, but overall, you make very little headway. The primary thing you are trying to do seems to take forever to complete. This is because when you multitask your brain has to switch tracks and never has time to deeply focus on what you need to concentrate on.
Why is it so hard for me to concentrate and focus my mind on one thing?
It is likely very hard for you to concentrate for several reasons:
- You are paying attention to distractions around you instead of blocking them out.
- Mental, physical, or emotional states are interfering with your ability to focus
- You feel stressed and full of internal distractions
- Other people keep interrupting you
- You fall prone to procrastination and have a hard time starting
- You are not taking breaks
What to Do When You Can’t Focus Your Mind on One Thing?
When you are trying to learn how to focus your mind on one thing, there are several things you can do when you can’t focus.
- Clean your environment. Clutter distracts us and we think and perform better when we are in a clean environment.
- Silence digital notifications
- Let your family or work colleagues know that you need some undisturbed time to work.
- Do an internal check to see if there is a physical, mental, or emotional need that is distracting you. Take some time for self-care to take care of that need first, then come back and work. For example – I can’t work well if I am hungry. That physical need will keep on distracting me until I stop and fill it. It’s the same for emotional and mental needs.
- Follow the five-minute rule. If a task takes less than 5 minutes, do it immediately. If you don’t want to do a task and find yourself procrastinating, start on it for 5 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before giving in to distraction.
- Be sure that you are taking adequate breaks. People are not machines. We can’t work and be efficient all the time. You also need downtime or “white space” in your daily routine.
What causes distraction?
Almost anything that causes you to lose focus can be a distraction. Distrations are anything that takes our mind off the main task that we are performing. You may be trying to write or design something (which takes a lot of focus.) Or perhaps trying to figure something out. Distractions are not all bad.
For example, my son just came up and gave me a kiss on the shoulder as I was typing. That’s not a bad distraction. However, it does not get the post written any faster, either.
How do you get out of a distraction?
Getting out of a distraction is not always easy. Focus is a skill. It’s one that I have practiced for a long time, so I am able to block them out to some degree and keep on writing. As for digital distractions, I have many notifications on my devices turned off. My kids also know that when they see me working on something that is not the time to ask me for something. (Hence, why my son just gave me a quick kiss and walked off.)
How do you prioritize and stay focused?
As with anything, you have to prioritize. I could stay focused working on this post for hours, but I also know where my priorities lie. While I need to make progress on the task at hand, my kids come before that. They are my priority.
Prioritizing is a mix of what is the most important to you, how urgent the task is, and how much of a result it will yield.
I set a timer for myself and decided that I would continue working on this post for 15 minutes. It is not terribly urgent, so I have time to come back and work on it later. My kids are my first priority, so as 15 minutes have expired, I will come back and work on this later. For me, the priority is showing my kids that they are important, and also for showing that I will follow through on the things that I tell them I will do.
How Do You Master Focusing Your Mind on One Thing?
How to focus your mind on one thing is actually both a skill and a habit. That means that once you learn how to do it and do it consistently, then it starts to become easier since its becomes a habit.
1. The night before, decide the most important thing that you need to do the next day
Planning ahead is part of learning how to focus your mind on one thing. The night before, decide what your most important thing for the next day is going to be. What is the thing that is the MOST urgent, has the closest deadline, or that will bring you the most results?
If in doubt, you can run your to-do list through the Eisenhower matrix to give you a better idea of the first thing that you need to tackle.
2. Do your most important thing first.
This is a tip that I learned from Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog” book. You will be the most productive earlier in the day when you are rested and refreshed. Do that most important thing, the biggest thing, or the thing you least want to do, first. That gets it out of the way so that you can do the other smaller tasks later in the day when your energy and your focus start to taper off.
3. Set your status to “busy”
I alluded to this one earlier in the post. You need to be firm that you are working. That means that you need to discourage others from bothering you. The reason my son came up earlier and did not say a word, is because he has interrupted me before, and I have insisted that I needed to finish what i was working on first before I attended to what he wanted/needed. (As long as it was not bleeding, sick, or some other urgent need.)
If you have to have certain applications running while you work, such as Skype or a messenger, set your status to busy. Often when people see your status as busy, they will wait to ask you a question or message you about something that can wait. It’s the digital version of hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.
4. Avoid social media
If I am trying to focus my mind on one thing so that I can be productive, getting on social media is the kiss of death to productivity. I know I’m not the only one that’s lost 20-30 minutes on social media because I got distracted by a post from a friend, or saw something I really wanted to comment on.
There are times that I need to get on social media to interact with other people or just for my own personal use, but don’t do it when you are trying to focus your mind on one thing. It eats time and focus for breakfast.
5. Put your phone away, or in another room.
Most of us have our phones with us all the time. It’really tempting to look at it every time it dings a notification. That’s great for staying connected, but very bad when you are trying to focus your mind on one thing.
Technology makes a great servant, but a terrible master. Sometimes those notifications are just downright annoying. Most of the time, your texts don’t require an immediate response. Put your phone away or in another room if you are constantly distracted by it.
6. Clean your environment
Our environment has more o fan impact on us than we realize. If you have clutter lying around, it is going to distract you and hinder you when you are trying to focus your mind on one thing. Your eyes will keep being drawn to it.
Sometimes if I am trying to be creative and come up with new ideas, the things around me can be used to draw inspiration from. However, when I am trying to focus my mind on one thing, in order to accomplish one task, it distracts me. Clean your desk as well as your desktop on your pc.
7. Find where you focus best
There are certain things in our environment that help us to focus better. It is different for everyone. For example, I focus best in a place that has bright natural light where I can see outside, but that has a desk (preferably wooden.) and books. The local university library has such a place. I used to do much of my studying in college at the library, so that environment is one that I focus very well in.
My youngest son, on the other hand, gets distracted easily and always has to be in motion. We have found that it’s easier for him to focus if I put an exercise ball in front of the desk for him to sit on. He happily sits and bounces on the ball, unconscious of the motion, because he can totally focus on his online lesson. The constant motion would drive me nuts, but it helps him.
Find the environmental factors that help you to focus better and then use that information to your advantage.
8. Try to work in the same spot most of the time.
When you get accustomed to working in a certain spot, your mind will start to associate that area with focused work. For best results use that spot only for working. A word of caution – if you are working from home, don’t work on your bed. Your mind needs to associate your bed for sleeping, not working, else you will eventually find yourself laying awake at night with work thoughts running through your mind.
9. Take regular breaks
You are not a machine. Your mind is not designed to work all the time. on one thing at a time. Be sure to take breaks while you are working. Additionally, schedule dedicated downtime to rest and recharge your batteries.
10. Set a timer for yourself
When we have a deadline or a certain time frame in which we need to accomplish a task, we become more efficient. Sometimes you have to do this so that you get a task accomplished. You will be surprised what you can get done if you only allot yourself a certain amount of time to work on it. This eliminates the struggle to get things perfect, and changes the focus to getting it done more quickly.
11. Use the Pomodoro Technique for Building Focus
The Pomodoro technique is a great method for learning how to focus your mind on one thing. It involves working in 25 minute bursts with a short (5-10 minute) break in between. You set a time, work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-10 min break. That’s one Pomodoro. After 4 pomodros, you take a longer break of around 15-30 minutes. It helps build your skills of focusing on one thing at time so that you can do that task to completion before you start on something else.
12. Listen to Focus music while you work
I will be the first to tell you that when I am trying to focus my mind on one thing, my first choice is to be alone and in a very quiet place.
That’s not always possible. When I can’t be all alone and in a quiet place by myself, I find that focus music helps me to stay on task and concentrate. It’s usually all instrumental. You can find focus music on youtube and on Amazon music.
Here’s one I use from youtube:
13. Find Enjoyment in Your Work
Things that we enjoy doing get done faster. If you start dreading your work, it makes it go by much more slowly and you will find yourself procrastinating. I like writing and helping people. That’s what I keep in mind while I am working on posts such as these. Find enjoyment in our work. You will find yourself able to focus your mind on one thing much better and it will make the time fly by.
14. Set deadlines for yourself
Set deadlines for yourself on when you need to get a task accomplished and make yourself stick to them. (That last part is sometimes problematic for me.)
You have to hold yourself accountable in order for things to work effectively. When I have an official deadline, I usually set a personal deadline that ‘s well before the official one so that I get things done ahead of time. It makes me feel great and also lessens my stress level.
15. Plan to reward yourself after you finish your task
So much of our motivation is connected to positive reinforcement. Sometimes that comes from external sources, but often it has to come from you. Plan to yourself after you accomplish your task. Knowing that there is a reward helps you to focus your mind on one thing. What do you find rewarding? It could be time to read a book that you really like, watch a movie, spend time with your family, or takes some time just for you to do a hobby that you love.
The Last thing You Need to Know About How to Focus Your Mind on One Thing
Learning how to focus your mind on one thing is a skill as well as something that becomes a habit. It involves blocking out distractions and optimizing your mind and your environment. Remember to reward yourself after you get your task accomplished. What is your best advice on how to focus your mind on one thing? Leave me a comment below and tell me what works for you!