Focus on focussing to avoid being derailed by distractions
ATTENTION is a natural function of our brains that helps to keep us safe. It is innate in all of us and you may have noticed how our attention seems to automatically flit between different things. This could be people, objects or situations that are unfolding around us, or things that happen within us, such as our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
Focus is slightly different from attention. Focussing is an act of will that requires choosing to pay attention to a particular stimulus for an extended period of time, whilst tuning out other distractions. Our capacity to focus is a skill that is learned and can be improved with regular practice.
One way to think of it is like our attention being an inner spotlight that is constantly on the move. Focus is our ability to harness that spotlight and choose where we point it at any given time.
If you find it hard to focus, then it can start to feel like it’s a struggle to get things done and tasks can build up and become overwhelming. If this gets to the point where it makes us feel anxious or stressed, we often avoid tackling problems altogether which just makes us feel worse in the long run.
Taking steps to improve your focus can help you stay on top of your to do list, making life easier and less stressful. The following focusenhancing exercise is a good place to start.
First, pick an activity to focus on. This could be a hobby or interest or a work-related project. Whatever you choose, pick something that you can return to on a daily basis.
Once you have chosen your activity, minimise any distractions. Turn off all your electronic devices. Do your activity somewhere quiet and choose a time when you’re unlikely to be disturbed.
Now set yourself the task of focussing on your chosen activity for five minutes. Notice what your mind does. Every time you notice that your attention has wandered, gently guide your focus back to what you’re doing.
Aim to set aside time to do this activity every day and gradually increase the amount of time you spend on it, perhaps working towards 30-60 minutes over the course of a few weeks.
Research suggests it takes around three weeks of regularly repeating a new behaviour to form a habit, so be patient and don’t expect a vast improvement over night.
With time, practice and minimal distractions, your ability to tame your wandering mind and focus your attention will flourish and grow.
It’s easy for our minds to wander when busy