It’s important that you learn how to improve your mental performance and focus especially in the today’s age of notifications and attention-deficits. Being able to perform mental tasks efficiently with super-laser focus is becoming an impressive skill considering there’s so much stimuli at every corner just begging for your attention.
If you struggle to focus or you simply want to be more efficient at what you do, here are 5 simple steps that can help you.
1. Focus on one task at a time
Avoid interruptions and quit multitasking as much as possible. For some, being able to do multiple things at the same time is seen as a skill but it actually makes you less efficient. It lowers the quality of your work and slows down productivity. You may feel like you’re accomplishing a lot but your brain suffers the consequences. You see, when you multitask, you use more brain power. Did you know that it takes about 15 minutes before you can fully concentrate on a task? When you break this momentum, you’ll need another 15 minutes just to get in the zone again. That’s an inefficient use of your brain power.
Give your full attention to one task. If you find yourself getting distracted, fight the urge and pay attention to what’s in front of you just a little longer. The more you practice focus, the better you become at canceling out distractions. It also helps to schedule distractions. For example, checking emails, scrolling through social media, reading the news can all be done towards the end of the day when you’ve already accomplished your most important tasks.
2. Get organized
A cluttered environment does the same thing to you as multi-tasking does. It requires more mental energy for you to sift through all the unnecessary information. Only by then can you begin the most important tasks you were supposed to do. It’s why tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs opt to wear the same shirt everyday. It takes away the decision-making process of dressing up which allows them to use their mental energy on much more important matters.
This is just an example of course. You don’t have to go as far as clearing out your closet and putting on the same shirt. But if you can be organized, do it. It’ll help take your mind of unnecessary stimuli allowing you to focus better on things that really matter.
Write down important reminders. Schedule activities in your calendar so you don’t forget. Declutter your workspace. You’ll be in a better mood and your brain will retain information better.
3. Minimize sugar consumption
When you were still a child, your parents may have used sugar to reward for good behavior but the opposite applies when you’re an adult. Take away the sugar and you reap more rewards for your brain. Sugar lights up the same parts of your brain that’s associated with the pleasure of drinking alcohol. You can become addicted to sugar and when you’re constantly trying to fight that addiction, your ability to focus gets diminished.
Sugar, particularly, high fructose corn syrup, has also been linked learning and memory impairment. This means you’ll have a hard time remembering details and understanding concepts. Even worse, sugar has been associated with cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease. So if you love your brain and you want to stay mentally fit and focused even as you age, ditch the sugar.
4. Breathe properly
The brain needs oxygen in order to function properly. Unfortunately, most of today’s activities program us to do it incorrectly. There’s an increasing habit called “screen apnea” where people forget to breathe correctly when they read their email or use the internet. Also, when you are stressed, you tend to breathe shallowly which does nothing at calming you down at all. When you deprive your brain of its much needed oxygen, you can’t think as quickly and as clearly.
The next time you feel anxious, stressed, or distracted, simply stop and focus on your breathing. Are you doing it correctly? Probably not. Get back into proper breathing mode by placing your hand in your navel. Your belly should expand as you breathe in. This is called diaphragmatic breathing and it helps to provide more oxygen to your lungs and brain. Being mindful of your breathing also puts you in a meditative state which is a practice that’s been associated with better cognitive function.
5. Drink coffee at the right times
Coffee is the world’s most popular psychoactive substance due to its nootropic effects but your everyday cuppa can have negative side effects too. You develop a tolerance for it which can hinder your mental performance. In addition, too much coffee can increase anxiety and lead to addiction.
That’s why it’s important to drink coffee responsibly, meaning no coffee past 2pm and if possible, take it every other day. This is because half of the caffeine content remains in your system after five hours so if you drink one cup, half of the caffeine remains in your body five hours later.
The average cup of coffee contains about 80mg of caffeine which is below the addictive amount and helps you get that mental boost. If you wait an extra day for your next cup, you ensure that the caffeine from the previous day is out of your system which means you can safely consume it again, without getting addicted to it of course.
I bet you were surprised by some of the steps here. Who knew staying focused could be as easy as breathing properly and avoiding sugar? Some of them can be hard to adapt especially when you’re set in your old ways but just think of all the things you can accomplish if you started doing these simple habits? Try to do one at a time and slowly build it up from there.
Along with practicing these steps, you can also take supplements that help boost your mental performance. Nootropic supplements like Flow State are ideal to use if you struggle with focus. It’s safe to use since it’s formulated using natural, and science-backed ingredients and serves as a great aid for times when you need to push a little harder.
Any simple techniques you want to share that can help improve mental performance and focus? Share them in the comments below!