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Manual Family Attraction: How to Stay Focused on Family in a Distracting World

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The most difficult duties will not get easier the more we fret about them or put them off. We will only waste energy that would be better spent by just digging in.

Tips On Staying Focused In A World Filled With Distractions

Get after the hardest job right away while you are still fresh and have the energy. Research has shown that our minds are sharpest in the morning and that is when we should tackle the tough jobs. Real emergencies will come up and we have to deal with them. The majority of situations that do come up to distract us are not emergencies and do not require us to respond right away.

Many of these situations will resolve themselves on their own with time.

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus

Responding to these requests immediately will only set you up to receive more. By not responding, you are sending a message that you are a strong-willed, focused person who is very busy and over time you will be bothered less by trivial, time-wasting matters. Take a quick break when working on something if you feel your energy fading. Take a brisk walk, run, stretch, or do whatever creates results for you to take a brief retreat from the work and regenerate. You will come back to your task with renewed vigor and a sharper mental focus.

Instead of eating a large meal at lunch, snack on healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables during the day. Drink lots of water and get into a regular exercise program. Create a vision board, a mind movie, or some system that serves as a constant reminder of what you are working toward. Have a clear vision of what the school would look like so you can imagine it on a regular basis. Set aside regular time daily, if only five minutes, to visualize this goal.

The more details you can put in, the better. Become emotionally involved with the visualization by putting music, videos, or anything that provides you with an emotional charge. The other half did not. The test examined attention spans, memory capacity, and ability to switch from one task to the next — and the multitaskers performed more poorly on each test. Everything distracts them," Clifford Nass, who was a researcher for the study, said in a Stanford press release. If the saying "practice makes perfect" is true, then meditation is a sure way to enhance focus because it takes a great deal of concentration.

Scientific experiments agree. One study at the University of North Carolina, for example, revealed that students who meditated for just 20 minutes a day for four days performed better on certain cognitive tests. Exercise isn't just good for the body. It promotes brain health, too, which is important for memory capacity and concentration, according to John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In particular, scientists think regular exercise may help stimulate the release of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor , which some research suggests helps rewire memory circuits to improve their functioning.

To-do lists not only help you prioritize what tasks you need to get done first, but they can also serve as a record of the loose ends.

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Cal Newport, a computer-science professor and author of the book " Deep Work ," which comes out in January, told Business Insider that having a recording of all the things you still need to do can help you stay focused on the upcoming task. If not, he said, that incomplete work could eat away at your concentration. This stems from something called the Zeigarnik Effect , which is the tendency to remember incomplete tasks instead of completed ones. If you're feeling groggy, grab a cup of joe or other caffeinated substance.

Studies suggest that caffeine may, in moderate doses , help to boost focus — particularly in those of us who are fatigued. But don't get overzealous with the coffee, or you might get the caffeine jitters , which typically reduce your ability to concentrate. You might have heard that watching cat videos on YouTube can improve productivity. Well, that's true Whether it's watching cat videos, taking a walk, or closing your eyes for a few minutes at a time, it is critical to take the occasional break from work.


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In one study , 84 subjects were asked to perform a simple computer task for one hour. Those who were allowed two brief breaks during that hour performed consistently for the entire time whereas those who weren't offered a break performed worse over time. Newport recommends completely separating yourself after leaving the office and having a "long separation" before the next work day. Apart from just giving your brain a break, some research suggests that having downtime away from a problem could help you solve it. According to the unconscious-thought theory , stepping away from a difficult situation can help you come to a better conclusion than trying to resolve it in one sitting.

But this theory is a bit disputed. A meta-analysis of unconscious-thought advantage studies came to the conclusion that a diversion from a decision doesn't necessarily lead to a better choice than a decision made in a deliberation period. Your brain is a mental muscle, and some studies have found that people who are easily distracted will benefit from "brain training" exercises, like those promoted by Lumosity or Cogmed.

But which exercises work — and for how well or long their effects last — is unclear. Therefore, the purported benefits of brain training need further examination, Susanne Jaeggi — who studies the brain and memory at the University of California — told New Scientist. Ambient noise, like cars honking or kids screaming, can stimulate the release of the stress hormone cortisol, Mark A.

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Too much cortisol can impair function and hinder focus. And, unfortunately, the more we're exposed to ambient noise, the worse our bodies respond, according to Andrews. Many of us spend most of our waking hours staring at a digital screen, which can strain our eyes and actually make it more difficult to focus on, and therefore process, what we're looking at. To refocus the eyes, just stare at a distant object for a few minutes. One doctor suggested the " rule" to a journalist at LifeHacker.

It goes like this: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at an object at least 20 feet away. One of the main symptoms of chronic sleep loss is poor concentration. Getting a solid seven to eight hours ahead of a busy work day could be the difference between being frazzled and being laser-focused.

If you can disconnect from the internet, there are fewer things to distract you from the work at hand.


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