7 tips to improve your focus and keep yourself on track

7 tips to improve your focus and keep yourself on track

With the pandemic waking and rising, no amount of the now-forgotten “flatten the curve” or even a simple “wear your mask” seems to be sufficient. This has caused a second wave to surface, forcing many to work from home, do their homework, or simply attend lectures without the added benefit of being in-person. Given the lack of focus on mental health and wellness in North America, it’s no surprise that many are finding themselves unable to stay focused. Here’s some tips to help you out:

1. Eat right. 

Everyone knows what it's like to be hungry. Sure, there’s different levels of hungry, and there’s different levels of tolerance, but those 15-30 minutes where your hunger aches won’t go away, where nothing short of that juicy cheeseburger that keeps popping up in your brain will sate you? That takes away focus. Beyond that, your neurotransmitters function differently when your body craves food, affecting your emotional stability, your energy, and of course, your focus. In order to rectify this, try to get into a routine- this means you can do IF, or eat three meals a day, or even five, so long as you’re getting in a healthy mix of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates (more vegetables, and less simple-carbs like bread), and healthy fats (not ice cream. . . only sometimes). If you need to snack, prepare some nuts, fruit, or seeds. All this combined, and you’ll be revving to go. 

2. Sleep even better than you eat.

You need your sleep - 7 hours minimum of it, actually. It’s okay to have some restless nights where you function on less, but you’ll find that your body will drift out of consciousness the longer you stay up. In order to maintain a high level of focus, sleep is imperative - and as you get older? Even moreso. Studies have shown that both males and females over 55 require 9 hours of sleep - as opposed to the 7-hours minimum for younger ages. Even so, sleeplessness has been on the rise - if you have troubles sleeping, consider the following:

Take your caffeine in the morning, as opposed to after lunch-time. 

Throw away the electronic devices (phone, TV, laptop, etc) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 

Prepare your body to meet your mind - try taking a bath or listening to soothing music to allow your mind to rejuvenate naturally.

Invest in window shading and/or ear-cancelling headphones if light or sound are barriers to your rest.

3. Stop multitasking 

Contrary to (popular?) belief, multitasking is not an efficient means of getting stuff done. A better method is to pair similar tasks one after another, allowing for a minimal loss in comfort or focus due to maintaining a similar environment. In fact, the APA reports (https://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask) that the loss in productivity often exceeds 40% when attempting to swap between two non-similar tasks.

4. Drop off the face of Twitter faster than Trump

Not just twitter- also take a break from Facebook, Instagram. . . whatever your preferred social media poison, take a break. There’s even an app called Focus that allows you to block social media for a period of time- in truth, any distraction is a bad distraction, but so long as they’re accounted for and strict schedules are kept, a few can be okay. An example of a fine distraction is an accounted-for 30 minute break. Maybe you decide to watch another episode of that Netflix show you binge watched the other day, or maybe you go for a quick jog. Anything is fine-and easily achievable-just make sure you get back to whatever it is you’ve been avoiding - do NOT fall off the wagon.

5. Try a secret technique

Ever heard of the Pomodoro technique? Well, you have heard of the pomodoro. ‘Pomodoro’ is simply the Italian word for tomato, and Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the technique, happened to use a tomato-shaped timer. The trick is simple: 

Set your time for 25 minutes. Don’t start until you’re absolutely ready.

At the start, get to work, and then when the buzzer sounds tally a small X to account for one interval done.

Go again, and with this break, take 7 minutes instead of 5.

Do it 3-6x, depending on how much work needs to be done, with longer and longer breaks (that you plan for ahead of time!) between each sitting. Make your maximum break 20 minutes, as any longer and you risk losing focus.

6. Use (properly dosed!) caffeine

Doing our best not to pump our own horn, but caffeine is one of the best ways to maintain focus, so long as a correct amount is used. Caffeine is proven to be one of the best cognitive enhancers available, which explains its widespread popularity in energy drinks, dozens of dozens of coffee brands, and now energy sprays too. The issue with caffeine is that the proper amount of MG varies by person, and going too high can spell disaster when it comes to focus, with anxiety being one of the main detractors. So, how can you manage this? We recommend dosing your caffeine in smaller amounts, which is why one spray of VAE carries 24 mg of caffeine. For some people, this amount is enough to produce an “energy buzz”, but for others, a few more sprays is necessary. However used to caffeine you are, it’s always advisable to test your caffeine in doses and test your tolerance to ensure you don’t intake too much at a time.

7. Get rid of distractions

Seems simple, right? Well, it isn’t always that easy. If you don’t have a quiet place at home, consider moving to a library, to a park, or even to a friend’s house to or to work. So long as COVID restrictions aren’t too restrictive where you’re located, it might be a good idea to study and/or work from home in pairs, allowing for that rare dose of social interaction that everyone’s been deprived of in the past 12 months. Another option is to simply close the door and tell anyone living nearby to respect your privacy for a while, to invest in noise-cancelling earphones if sound is an issue, and to turn off notifications on your phone. 

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