Finding Focus and Concentration in an Always-On World
Finding time for tasks that involve focus and concentration is increasingly difficult in our smartphone-dominated world. With our over-connectedness to our digital devices, our FOMO, and the move to more emphasis on working from home, carving out distraction-free blocks of time while we focus on something important feels almost impossible.
Create ‘blocks’ of time to focus
And carving out those blocks is exactly what we need to do as the first step towards improving our focus and concentration. The Pomodoro Technique is one way of working which has five simple steps to help you focus on one task at a time and, because you set a strict time limit with a break, it enables you to do that efficiently and without feeling burnout and exhausted at the end.
5 Steps to the Pomodoro Technique
- Select your first task.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task for 25 minutes.
- When the timer rings, take a 5-10 minute break to stretch, walk around or get a bit of fresh air.
- If you have more tasks, repeat the steps but take a longer 20-30 minute break after completing four tasks.
The technique is incredibly popular with devoted adherents swearing it’s the secret key to unlocking improved focus and concentration, boosted productivity and creativity. However, the key to making it work lies not just in creating the blocks of time themselves, but in making sure you can completely focus while working through each block.
Distance Yourself from Notifications While Working
If you try and implement the technique while still picking up and checking your smartphone, the dedicated focus time you have created for yourself is eroded. Separating yourself from your smartphone while you’re focusing is essential to reap the benefits.
Studies have shown that the mere presence of our smartphone while we are trying to focus on something cognitively demanding, can reduce our IQ. In other words, just seeing our smartphone can make us more stupid. And that’s because, of course, the anticipation of the dopamine-creating notifications (from social media, messaging apps and other forms of communication) distracts us hopelessly. Even if we think we’re consciously ignoring our phone, our sub-conscious is thinking about the pay-off our brain will get when we pick it up.
So, put your smartphone in another room (the same studies show that even if it’s hidden from our view, but in the same room, it can still impact our focus and concentration) and carve out some dedicated time to focus on what’s important. Try it for just one 25 minute block of time before you dismiss it as impossible, or impractical, and see how much you get done.
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