Monday, September 14, 2015

4 Tips for Better Focus

by Andrea Renee Cox

Are distractions holding you back? Is your desk buried under clutter? What keeps you from checking things off your to-do list?

For most of my life I have struggled with focus and organization. My excuse is I have lived with undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. I only know this because several of my tutoring students have been diagnosed with ADD, and I share the same symptoms and struggles that they deal with on a daily basis. Thankfully, God has revealed to me through trial and error what works and what doesn’t for me where organization and focus are concerned. That is not to say I have it mastered by any means; I do not. It is something I have to constantly work at and force myself to try and try and try again until I get it right for any given moment.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned the hard way.

1. Put away distractions.
Over the years, I’ve had to learn to put away my toys, books, and sports (my TV is constantly tuned to some game or match, it seems) during times when I need complete focus. This still remains my most difficult distraction, as I am quite a sports nut (I’m watching the US Open Women’s Championship as I’m writing this). But it’s important to shut everything off and set everything aside when working on something that requires my undivided attention. Having complete silence sometimes helps me listen to my creative side as I work on my writing projects, or just simply focus better on grading papers from my tutoring students, or doing household chores to the best of my ability and in a decent amount of time.

2. Avoid the kitchen.
By this, I mean not to take a million trips to the kitchen for snacks, beverages, or to throw something away. The way I’ve conquered this one is by having a small variety of snacks on or near my desk and always grabbing a bottle of water or a cup of cocoa before starting on my current work-in-progress. Also, I either pull a trash can close or start a small pile that is out of the way and then go dump it all on one of my restroom breaks. Shopping for work time snacks is a fun thing; it allows me to visit a couple of aisles I usually avoid at the store (too many options that can add up quickly!). And I find that, by putting a little bit of special attention on which snacks I choose for my work time, I become less concerned with what I’ll be munching on while I’m working, because I already put out the special attention to that very thing. Prep work beats distraction in this case.

3. Use a kitchen timer.
On days I’m really struggling to keep my focus for more than five or ten minutes at a time, I pull out my kitchen timer and set it for twenty or thirty minutes and keep my rear in the chair, even if my mind isn’t cooperating and pulling out the work I need it to accomplish. After each ding from the timer, I get up and stretch my legs for a couple of minutes, sometimes take a restroom break or wash a few dishes, something to use up some of my extra energy. Then I set the timer and sit down again, hoping and praying for better focus this time. On my good days, I can get cruising on my project and work straight through the ding and into the next twenty or more minutes. Those days get me setting the timer for forty-five minutes or an hour after my next break, if I reset the thing at all. Other days I don’t get much done and just sit there with a wandering mind. But the timer seems to help on most occasions, and I only pull it out when necessary, for I don’t want to depend on it if I don’t need it.

4. Set attainable goals.
At the beginning of each work session, whether it be writing, tutoring, or doing household chores, I set reasonable, attainable goals for myself. If I don’t do this, my mind sees only the big picture of what must be done to be completely finished with the given project. Talk about being overwhelmed! My mind tends to shut down under such circumstances, forcing me to accomplish absolutely nothing. If I set goals that I can accomplish in one day, then my mind relaxes and works at a steady pace so that I may slowly but surely reach those goals. Some days are better than others, and my to-do lists sometimes get completely checked off.  But each day I set these goals, I have hope and feel encouraged that I can actually make progress and reach that often unattainable elation called concentration. Which then leads to success and confidence.


What tips for organization and focus have you learned over the years?


Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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