Maintaining focus is crucial to perform, no matter what the situation. Focus could be the deal breaker in a clutch round of Counter-Strike. It could determine whether you finish that work project with plenty of free time, or if you only barely meet the deadline.
Researchers from Simon Frasier University conducted studies that proved we have an ‘anti-distraction’ mechanism within our brain. What this means is that while the brain does have the capabilities of shutting out all sorts of distractions, to succeed in focusing requires the individual to play a significant role in narrowing down their attention to the necessary task.
Focus could be the difference between an efficient cram session of study, or finding your mind scattering all over the place and not making the most of your time. We at Shine+ have put together some strategies to help you maintain focus on the task at hand, whatever it may be.
A GPS and a radio walk into a bar...
In tasks even as simple as driving and navigating, studies have shown that while these technologies are helpful they are also ‘demanding’ and take away the user’s concentration (Shneiderman 2005, p.4). In the case of driving, a combination of a GPS and a radio could distract the focus of the driver, and they would not focus on the task of actually driving and being alert on the road.
Their focus, essentially, is not being placed in the right areas. The same could be said about doing work on a computer: how many times have Facebook or E-Mail notifications distracted you from studying or work? Social media is banned in some work places for a reason, because it reduces the focus of workers and makes them far less productive.
So if you’re studying, turn off the mobile phone. If possible, temporarily disable Facebook notifications on your computer too if you need to use it. Make sure your mind is on the task 100%, and minimise the technology around you which can cause distractions.
The reason why Rapunzel is at the top of her class
According to this 2005 interview with the New York Times, hacker Gloria Mark can take up to 25 minutes before an individual is completely focused on the task they are working at. These numbers came from testing she had done in workplaces on workers who would be distracted from their job by a web page, e-mail, or notification and then return to their task. While some of these distractions were clearly work-related, some were not.
While a similar tone to cutting out technology, creating a workspace free of distractions is more than just limiting technology. Ensure that you have ample food and a large water bottle before settling into a task, as having to go get refreshments will cause a break in your work and create a need to refocus.
Isolating yourself is also a great strategy. If you need to get study done, relocate from your home to the library, which often contain multiple ‘silent rooms’ where you can study distraction free. Studying in such rooms means you won’t have the distractions at home, such as video games and family, and you can focus on the task at hand. In a workplace, you can isolate yourself through ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs, or refusing conversations until the job is done.
If you are creating a workplace or study place at home, make sure it suits the tasks necessary. If you have multiple PC monitors, make sure none of them are being used for social media, YouTube, or any other distracting content. If you are a gamer and need to focus seriously on your match, make sure you aren’t watching or trying to read something while playing. You often see ‘Streamer Fails’ moments where a video game streamer will die in-game while reading their livestream chat, or being distracted by other elements. That could be you too, so make sure to set up the optimal environment so you can perform at your best.
It seems to be the golden rule for just about everything, but yet again treating your body well comes into play when we talk about focus. High caffeine and sugar products have been proven time and time again to only provide spurts of focus and energy, before leading to a major crash, so what do you consume to sustain focus? Scientific studies have shown that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine provide long term focus benefits (Haskell 2008, p. 113-122). This duo is commonly found in green tea, but recently has become a staple in nootropics – particularly Shine+ itself.
Eating well, specifically breakfast, keeps your body fit and healthy, and this further contributes to a healthy mind. A prime example of healthy mineral found in food is potassium, which provides strength to your body through bones and muscles. While it is predominantly physical benefits that come with potassium, having a healthy body means you are strong and have more energy for mental focus. Having a weaker body would result in more of your focus being directed towards its struggles, and therefore becoming far less productive.
As the ancient saying goes, “you can’t work on an empty stomach.” Even just a single banana a day, by itself or accompanied by a bigger breakfast, could be the difference maker in maintaining focus throughout the day or having a full-blown shutdown midway through.
Are you looking for something a little different to help maintain your focus? Try Shine+, Australia’s first scientifically formulated drink to help you maintain concentration and energy throughout the day.
WORDS BY HAYDEN FITZGERALD
- Haskell, C.F., et al., The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biological psychology, 2008. 77(2): p. 113-122.
- Shneiderman, B, et al., Maintaining Concentration to Achieve Task Completion. University of Maryland 2005, p. 2-7