These days many people, whether students or adults, are finding it difficult to focus, especially when working from home and not being used to the lack of more structured days. Because I work from home, I thought I would share some strategies that have helped me.
“I can’t focus.”
Saying that you can’t focus is a general statement, like saying you are stressed. In other words, what is causing you to have difficulty focusing? I have found that lack of focus, even in students, is not some kind of disability. It can be a result of things in the environment and within oneself.
Not only does being focused allow us to get the needed work and tasks done, but it also feels good to concentrate. Focusing allows us to come up with bright ideas and to solve problems. It raises our morale.
So here are some questions you can ask yourself to increase your focus. Some of these may be more relevant to you than others, and hopefully you can find a tip here that will help you get back on track.
1. Do you have a good work set-up?
As basic as it may sound, having a workspace that is organized and distraction-free is vital. Before you sit down to work, do you have all the materials you need? If you have not been used to working at home, you may need to create an environment in which you can work. Distraction-free can mean being away from the sound of a blaring TV, turning off Facebook or other notifications, and letting family members know that you need a certain chunk of time to work without major interruptions.
2. Are you being distracted by your body?
A body needs a certain amount of fuel and sleep as well as exercise to function well. If you sit down to work and are hungry or tired, you will drain yourself even further by trying to work. You may think you cannot afford to sleep more or that you don’t have time to eat, but the time of lost concentration or having to redo your work will end up costing you even more time. This is no pitch for exercise but getting some air in your lungs and circulation going is good for your body and soul. If you are not into working out, you can at least take a break and do something physical, even if that means cleaning your house. More on breaks later.
3. Are you being distracted by unfinished tasks?
One thing that I can find very distracting is when I have a lot of things piled up that I need to do. It will give me the feeling that I don’t have enough time and make it really hard to concentrate. How can I focus when I have so much to do? One way to deal with this is to make a list of all of the things, big or small, that are nagging at you and then get a few of them done, especially the ones that are weighing on you. If could be buying a gift for someone’s birthday that's coming up or sending someone a link that you promised. Get as many of the easy ones done as possible and write down when you are going to do some of the others. This can help free up some mental space and therefore help you focus.
4. Are you being distracted by indecision?
When we have things about which we have not decided, it can block all further action. These don’t need to be large things. If someone has asked me whether I can do a job for them and I have not decided, it can stop me from making other plans and hang up my attention. If I say yes or no, I can take it from there. If I find myself unable to focus, I often take a look to see if there are any places where I am holding back from making a decision and list those out. Then I start making decisions where I can. It can be a big relief. Moreover, if you are being hung up by someone who needs to make a decision that involves you, see if it can be resolved so that you can move on. For example, “Are you going to marry me or not?”
5. Are your tasks too general?
If you find yourself saying but not acting upon a task such as I really need to write that blog or I need to work on that project, it may be easier to face if it is broken down into smaller tasks. For example, if I need to write a blog, perhaps the first step is to brainstorm an idea for a blog. Once that is done, perhaps I need to do some freewriting as a second step. To work on the project is vague. Which step of the project should you be doing? Breaking down your tasks and then tackling them one by one can help you be more productive and less overwhelmed.
6. Are you scheduling work and breaks?
If day after day you are sort of working but also not, it will all feel like one long monotonous thing. It would be better to schedule work, even if it is an hour or 45 minutes at a time and then when you take a break, literally walk away from what you are doing and do something else, preferably something that allows you to get some circulation in the body. Reward yourself with a cup of tea or something.
I hope this can help you. It has helped me.