How to Improve Your Focus: Tips and Tricks

Focus has been linked with general success in life. Is it possible to “hack your brain” so you get better at focusing at work? Research suggests that there are ways that actually work for sharpening your ability to focus. Try these tips for improving your focus throughout the day.

Calm Yourself.
Before starting a new task, take 1-2 minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply. This prepares your mind to focus on the new task.

Don’t Just Have Long-Term Goals, Have Daily Goals.
It’s fine to have long-term goals, but to help keep yourself focused on the task at hand, you should also set small, daily goals. Achieving your daily goals has a cumulative effect; by accomplishing small goals every day, you gain confidence in yourself as you work toward your big-picture goals.

Drink Coffee.
Caffeine has been shown to help improve focus.

Eat More Good Fats.
The kinds of healthy fats found in avocados, coconut oil, eggs, and nuts – polyunsaturated fats – are the kinds of fats that make up 60 percent of the brain. Eating at least 30 grams of “good” fats per day helps improve cognitive function.

Eliminate Distractions.
This is probably the most obvious tip, but to improve your focus, put away all unnecessary distractions such as your phone and the e-mail tab on your computer.

Exercise Each Morning.
Taking 20 minutes to get your heart pumping first thing in the morning has been shown to improve focus throughout the day. Yoga exercises are good for this purpose, and so are running, swimming, and racquetball.

Make a List of Your Critical Tasks.
At the top of each hour, make a brief list of the most critical tasks you’ll need to accomplish in the coming hour. Cross each item off the list as you accomplish it. The simply act of writing it down helps you remember the task better, the hour itself serves as a timer to motivate you, and seeing all your crossed-off items at the end of the day serves as a reward.

Play Some Music You Like.
Music you don’t personally care for acts as a distraction, but studies show that listening to music you like actually helps you focus.

Sleep Seven Hours Each Night.
No less than seven hours of good-quality sleep each night has been shown to improve cognitive functioning.

Try Licorice Root Tea.
A compound found in licorice root tea, glycyrrhizin, has been found to help with afternoon fatigue, “brain fog,” and sleep disruptions. It’s thought to act by breaking down cortisol and other hormones in the brain.

Other herbs that have been suggested for increasing focus are gingko biloba and schizandra. Consult your health care provider before adding a new herbal supplement to your daily routine, since all herbal supplements have some risk of side effects and interactions with other substances.

If you’re having trouble focusing, don’t be too hard on yourself. The human brain wasn’t designed to function in a modern, urban society with distractions vying for our attention in seemingly every inch of available space. We can, however, teach ourselves to improve our focus if we consistently practice these simple tips.