How to stay focused: comprehensive strategies and tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Learning how to stay focused is a beneficial skill that can help you accomplish your goals, achieve success in the workplace and improve your wellbeing. When you learn how to become focused during a busy time at work, you are able to complete tasks more effectively and accurately. There are a few different approaches you can take to improve your focus, from mindfulness to being more organised. In this article, we outline the importance of staying focused, show you how to maintain your focus while working on specific tasks and offer tips to help you remain focused throughout your working day.

How to stay focused

If you are looking to learn how to stay focused, there are a few steps that you can take to get there. The key to becoming more focused is remaining consistent with your approach. Below, we have outlined the steps that you can take to improve your focus:

1. Understand your current level of focus

Before taking steps to improve, it is important to gauge your current level of focus. This gives you a baseline to compare your progress and to be aware of the difference your new approach is making. A good way to begin is to assess your current habits and to ask yourself how effectively you maintain your current focus level. If you know you are easily distracted, then you are likely to lose concentration and consequently risk making good progress with completing the task in hand.

Try to track your current level of focus by timing yourself to find out how long you work before losing focus. Over time, you can monitor your progress by measuring how much time passes before you become distracted. You know you're on the right track when you are working for longer periods between distractions.

Related: Time-management skills: definition, examples and tips for improvement

2. Actively remove distractions

Distractions are the main reason why you may lose focus. It's important to recognise when you are distracted, and what you may be distracted by. You can then try to remove those distractions when you need to focus on specific work. Distractions often include loud or sudden noise, phone or email notifications, so moving away from such distractions will help you stay focused. If it is possible to do so, work in a quiet environment when you need to maintain your level of concentration. Put away your phone and turn notifications to silent. If you work alongside colleagues, agree boundaries with them for the times when you especially need to focus so that you don't become distracted by conversations going on around you.

Related: How to improve self-management skills and use them at work

3. Maintain a clean workspace

Clutter around your workspace can act as a trigger for distraction. It is very easy to get sidetracked if you're moving clutter around when you are trying to focus on a task, so remove the trigger by keeping a tidy workspace. Keep files and documents well organised and in a folder. Make sure all rubbish is in the bin and keep your desk as clean as possible. This removes distractions and gives you clearer head space to focus on a particular task.

4. Pace yourself

Improving your focus takes time and commitment, so pace yourself and don't expect to force yourself into instantly becoming a more focused person. Be realistic about milestones you set yourself. Set goals such as concentrating on a topic for five minutes at first, then work up to 10 minutes and build upon it from there. Working on your ability to focus is a learned practice, expect it to take time to progress.

Taking time to improve your focus also prevents you from getting frustrated. Being frustrated is counterproductive and can slow down the good progress you are making. A slow, methodical approach to improving focus ensures that you don't set goals that are too ambitious, which in turn makes you feel more accomplished with each success.

5. Avoid multitasking

Multitasking may appear to be an efficient way to complete numerous tasks, but you risk spreading your cognitive resources too widely and losing focus as a result. Instead, concentrate on completing one task first before starting another. This skill improves your focus, accuracy and attention to detail because you are directing your cognitive resources to one task at time.

Related: How to improve your attention to detail

6. Take breaks regularly

Overworking increases stress levels and negatively impacts your focus and concentration. To combat this, it is important to schedule regular breaks to improve your ability to focus. Spending too long on one task without a break puts excessive stress on your brain and body, which makes it much more difficult to focus and increases the chances of you making a mistake.

Taking breaks regularly gives your brain a chance to recuperate and relax for a few moments. This can drastically improve your performance on a task as it renews your energy levels and resets your internal clock, reducing the chances of getting distracted and losing focus. It is worthwhile taking a five to 10-minute break for every hour you work on one task.

7. Try to make tasks more engaging

When working on a task you feel is particularly boring, it can be very easy to get distracted and lose focus. A good way to counteract this is to try to engage directly with the task and find ways to make it exciting. Set goals such as completing a chapter within a set timeframe, or play relaxing music as a form of background stimulation. Such techniques may keep you focused and engaged with the task.

Related: 12 strategies to help you overcome procrastination

What are the Benefits of Learning How To Stay Focused?

Learning how to stay focused during difficult or complex tasks allows you to dedicate more of your energy towards completing the work. Being more focused allows you to complete tasks successfully, check for errors and accomplish what you need to in a given timeframe. This improves your performance, productivity and reputation in the workplace. Experiment with ways to staying focused until you find ones which work for you. Most of them revolve around using mental focus techniques.

These techniques can help you to stay on topic and not distract yourself from other activities, like responding to emails. Mental focus techniques give you the ability to overcome distractions and focus entirely on the task at hand. Being focused improves how you handle other aspects of your life, too. From being able to accomplish more goals in a day, to developing new skills that help you develop yourself further, focus lets you do more with your time.

Related: How to improve your attention to detail

Tips to improve your focus

There are many ways to improve your focus and take more control over how you work. Here are some tips:

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of training your awareness and attention by acknowledging your thoughts without dwelling on them. Multiple studies have shown the benefits that practising meditation for as little as five minutes can offer. From improving your mood to enhancing your ability to concentrate, meditation is an excellent tool that you can use to improve your focus.

Exercise

Exercise is a fantastic way to boost your mood levels, increase your motivation and improve your ability to focus. It is important that you try to make a habit out of exercising to get the full benefit out of it. Exercising for around 30 minutes for a few days per week can drastically improve your wellbeing, health and levels of focus.

Create a to-do list

When trying to focus on a task, it is easy to become distracted by thoughts about trivia. Looking up the weather or checking the news are relatively unimportant things to bother with when working on a task, but they are easy distractions to create. To discourage this behaviour, try to write down all the unimportant distractions whenever you think of them during work. When you have completed your task, go back and decide whether they are of any importance. This creates a space for you to focus without getting distracted by trivial activities.

Practice reading books

The act of reading a book can improve your ability to focus on tasks. As long-form content requiring concentration to follow the story, books are good practice when you are working on improving your focus. The books can be fiction or non-fiction and can cover whatever genre or topic you prefer and enjoy. The key part of this practice is focusing on the content for an extended period of time.

Use concentration exercises

There are several types of exercises that you can use to try and improve your ability to focus. A good example is to use breathing exercises to focus your attention inwards and clear your thoughts of any other distractions. There are many different exercises to help maintain concentration levels, so find one which works best for you and you'll notice your level of focus improve over time.

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