Train your brain: staying focused 101

Hiya Islam | Published: 16:40, Jun 09,2018

Science for youth

FIDGETY and sweaty, you are struggling to focus on the task in hand, listening to a class lecture. But, your mind constantly wanders away to fantasy land. You have that miserable device throbbing in your pocket from time to time. Suddenly, your eyes are gawking at a glowing 5.2” screen. The pages of your notebook now only contain misshapen dragons blowing bubbles and itty-bitty steps of gluconeogenesis. You take in pride as you multi-task like a pro when indeed this is just one of a thousand ways to flunk the quiz next Monday.

Let’s face it. We all suffer from the pangs of distraction knowingly or unknowingly. There are way too many things vying for our attention. Here are five tips on how to maintain laser-focus and increase productivity.

Set the ambience: Find yourself a quiet place to work at, a place devoid of distractions like the comforts of library. If not possible, cut out all sources of disturbances. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get back on track after being distracted. So, turning off all the notifications on your phone (for a little while) really counts. Car honks, kids screaming, loud music and what not are often annoying as they induce the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body. Excess levels impair with reasoning and thinking skills and hinder focus.

Prioritise work and allocate time: Create a to-do list for each day. Having a plan helps to set out your priorities. Spending energy on menial activities first thing in the morning tires the body. Therefore, finish off important chores as soon as possible. The strength of focus varies throughout the day. Sometimes it is a good idea to save your toughest tasks or homework for the time when you can focus the best.

Take a break: Studies show that brief breaks improve overall performance. It is essential to have a break while working. This not only refreshes the mind but brings out creativity from within. This is why you can finally crack that sum or get over writer’s block after an hour of watching funny fail compilations on YouTube. Generally, it is suggested to take a 10-minute break every 30 minutes. Or, a 15-minute rest every 50-minute interval.

Learn to focus: Every time you catch yourself daydreaming, force yourself to resume. One cannot simply expect himself to miraculously focus on a single project for an hour. The ability to focus is like building muscles. It is a gradual process. Start out with 10 minutes of absolute attention and then increase this time span accordingly.

Meditate: A popular technique known for relaxation and stress relief, meditation is a sure-fire way to boost your concentration. Devote 20 minutes or so every day. Even the simplest form that concentrates on the swish of air flowing in and out of lungs can accomplish amazing results.

Hiya Islam is a student of BRAC University.



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