Staying focused is a complex concept that requires many different factors to align to be successful. One of the most crucial is staying on task and keeping your focus on one thing. While this seems easily accomplished, in practice maintaining focus can be incredibly difficult.
A wandering mind is a common reason people have difficulty focusing. One moment you are doing your work, the next you are mindlessly scrolling your social media feed or thinking about plans for the upcoming weekend. An unguided mind is bound to wander astray as there are simply too many things that are begging to grab your attention.
Below is a look at some common things that contribute to a wandering mind and ways you can mitigate them and refocus. Letting your mind wander is only natural, but learning how to guide it back can allow you to get more done and be more productive. Understanding different refocusing techniques and ways your mind can wonder can allow you to identify and effectively manage your focus.
One of the more difficult things that contribute to a wandering mind is wandering thoughts. Thoughts are more difficult distractions because they are non-tangible and you are the only one aware of them. Additionally, thoughts are incredibly difficult to avoid as they can pop up at any time.
At any given moment, you most likely have multiple things going on in your mind. Thinking about what you want for dinner, your current task, your upcoming birthday, or vacation plans can all compete for your attention, and when anything other than your current task grabs your attention your mind officially begins to wonder.
Below is a closer look at some ways to refocus your mind when confronted with obtrusive thoughts that derail your focus.
Mindfulness is an excellent technique you can utilize to refocus your attention to the present moment. At its core, mindfulness is about being intentional with your focus. Mindfulness can be achieved in many ways but they all center around forcing your focus to be on something in the present moment. Utilizing meditation techniques such as intentional breathing, noting thoughts, or even taking notice of the sensations around you can help guide your focus away from superfluous thoughts. Additionally, meditation can provide you with many other healthful benefits.
An important part of mindfulness is understanding and identifying when you become preoccupied with your thoughts. Mindfulness does not come overnight and with practice, you will be able to identify straying thoughts and intentionally reset your focus to the present moment or whatever task may be at hand. For a wandering mind, a healthy dose of mindfulness can be just what you need.
Keep a list
Many of the thoughts that take us out of focus can be traced back to something that we are either excited about or anxious about. Constantly having to remember things can be exhausting and can also take up a lot of your focus.
Keeping a list handy can allow you to jot down things you wish to remember and deal with them at a later time. By jotting it down, it can be much easier to let go of an unproductive thought since you know you will get to it at another point.
Oftentimes, the mind will tend to think about other things when it is not fully engaged in a task. Imagine a boring movie or long and arduous lecture in school. During these events, your focus most likely was not on what was being presented to you, but rather it was somewhere else thinking about the future, past, or anything else.
Staying engaged with whatever you are doing is a great preventative measure to avoid a wandering mind. Staying engaged can be as simple as making your task enjoyable, or you can take a more systematic approach to stay engaged.
One such example is to utilize a work cycle. Essentially a work cycle is a time management technique that consists of working periods that are innervated with small breaks between. A popular work cycle is the Pomodoro technique which utilizes 25 minute work periods followed by 5-minute breaks. With only 25 minute long stretches of continuous work, you are much more likely to stay engaged and not allow your mind to wander. The 5-minute breaks between allow your mind to wander and keeps it from getting fatigued during long work sessions which can worsen a wandering mind.
A wondering prone mind is one that has difficulty focusing on one thing for an extended period of time. Distractions represent the things within your environment that capture your attention and divert it from where it should be.
Distractions come in a wide variety of forms and understanding what things distract you, you can try your best to minimize them and even learn to disengage with them. Below are a few tips to help minimize distraction and the productivity-killing powers they can have over you.
Place your phone out of reach
Cellphones have become a large part of our lives, and they can be a source of distraction that can pull the focus away from what is important to you. With the entire internet at your fingertips and a near limitless amount of content to consume, phones are incredibly distracting. Top this off with the fact that they constantly bombard you with notifications and you have a recipe for a distraction like no other.
When you need to focus, consider placing your phone somewhere out of reach and placing it on silent. Doing so will limit the number of notifications that beckons you to lose sight of what you are doing. While it may be difficult to part ways with your phone, it can be well worth it to abstain as you will find it easier to effectively work and stay focused without your phone.
Control your environment
Another tip to help with a wandering mind is to create an environment that facilitates focus and is free of distraction. Getting a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can help to reduce noise distraction. Additionally, you can choose an area free of visual distractions which will allow you to prevent your mind from wandering in the first place. Going the extra mile and taking MitoQ can also help support your cellular health and promote focus and mental clarity.
With an established focus environment, you can utilize it as a means of helping you refocus. An example of this would be an individual that works from home. Having a dedicated office space that is free of distractions can effectively help them refocus after their lunch break and allow them to get to productively working faster.
In conclusion, a wandering mind is most likely caused by either your thoughts or distractions in your environment. To help a wondering mind you can do one of two things; either limit exposure to the things that cause your mind to wander, or work to refocus your mind. Creating a distraction-free environment represents what you can do preventatively. Meditation and utilizing work cycles are some of the things you can do to effectively refocus.