This ability allows you to deliberately ignore distractions while staying focussed on the task at hand. If you can't pay attention to a single task and ignore distractions around you then you should probably look into learning how to improve your focus.
Lucky for you, I have some hot tips right here...
1. GRADUALLY build your focus. Just like when you decide to do anything for the first time - the worst approach is to throw yourself into the deep end straight away. You’ll most likely just end up overwhelmed or discouraged, or both, and then you’ll quit.
Training your focus is similar to training your body. When you first start training for a marathon you don't just get up and run a marathon. You build up to it over time. Start with focussing on a task for 5-10 minutes and gradually build up to 30+ minutes over time as you naturally improve.
2. Create a "distraction to-do" list. This beautiful thing called the internet has made almost anything instantly accessible to us. Which has created the temptation and habit of always wanting to look something up the moment it crosses our mind e.g. “I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow?” “What year did that movie come out?” “I wonder what’s new on Facebook?” These distractions are a problem if we don't manage them right, because once we get distracted, it takes time (on average 25 minutes) to return to the original task. Plus, shifting our attention back and forth drains its strength. So that's why the next time you are working on a task and something pops into your mind - just note it down and look it up after you complete your task or when it's time for a break.
3. Meditate before you start your day. The benefits on doing this are too convincing - so trust me, just make the time for it if you are one of those "I don't have the time to meditate" types. Wake up 15 minutes earlier, leave the house 15 minutes later, procrastinate for 15 minutes less etc. Let's be real, there is absolutely no way you cannot afford 15 minutes out of your day.
In a study where 140 subjects took part in an eight-week meditation course training - ALL subjects showed measurable improvements in their attention span.
Don't worry - you don’t have to spend all day meditating in a monastery to take advantage of its attention-boosting power. Only 10 - 20 minutes of meditation per day will do the trick. And you’ll see improvements after only 4 days.
So! If you want the power to focus more intensely - start your mornings off just focusing on your breath for a few minutes.
4. Practice mindfulness throughout the day. In addition to dedicating 10 - 20 minutes a day to mindfulness/meditation (whatever you want to call it) attention experts recommend finding opportunities to practice mindfulness during your day as well.
What is mindfulness? It's simply focusing completely on what you’re doing, by observing all of the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing in that moment. It is the practice of being highly present in the moment - AKA living completely in "the now".
How to practice it? Next time you’re working on a task and feel the itch to quickly do something else, think to yourself, “be here now.” In that moment, bring your awareness to your body and your breath. After a few seconds of focussing on your breath, you should notice that the distraction is no longer present or necessary and that you’re ready to get back to work.
5. Exercise your body. Earlier I compared exercising your mind to exercising your body (running a marathon) - however doing the opposite works too. People who engage in moderate (at least 20-30 minutes) of physical exercise each day show to have better performing attention spans. Research has found that exercise primarily helps our brain’s ability to ignore distractions, which creates a huge advantage when it comes to focus.
Did you manage to stay focussed on this article the whole time? Well done.