Ways to improve your focus

December 28, 2022

We've all been there. You're staring at your long to-do list but aren't making any progress checking items off. Or you're out on the green, ready to sink that putt, but your concentration is broken by wandering thoughts. Our lives are busier than ever, and with so many things competing for our attention, staying focused is becoming increasingly difficult.  

While it may seem impossible to get back to the task at hand, there are simple ways you can try to improve your focus and boost concentration.  

Common causes

It's common to think that completing multiple tasks at once will get the job done quicker, but this isn't the case. Our brains aren't wired for multitasking. Studies show that attempting to juggle too many things at once divides our attention and impacts our ability to complete tasks efficiently and effectively. This may not seem like a big deal if you are folding laundry while your dinner is cooking, but there can be serious consequences to distractions caused by multitasking - texting while driving being a common example.

Technology plays a significant role in dividing our attention. Have you ever started a movie and then opened your phone to scroll social media while the movie was playing? This is called media multitasking. Media multitasking can make it difficult for the brain to fully process and retain information and has been shown to negatively impact cognitive function and our overall attention span.

But multitasking isn't the only culprit. There are a variety of reasons our ability to focus may be diminished, such as:

  • poor diet or hunger
  • insufficient sleep  
  • stress or anxiety
  • lack of exercise
  • lack of motivation
  • additional health reasons such as mental health issues, chronic illness, certain medications

Creating good habits

It may sound simple, but the key to improving your focus is to build good habits. Here are a few ways to get started:  

  • Remove distractions: In our constantly connected world, it is far too easy to reach for your phone without even realizing it. If you can't put the phone away altogether, turn off notifications and close apps. Find a quiet, tidy workspace where you can concentrate on your task.
  • Improve your sleep: Sleep is essential to maintaining focus and cognitive function. Getting a good night's sleep makes performing any task that much easier.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness helps calm us by turning our focus away from our racing thoughts and turning them towards where we are and what we're doing at any given moment. Try making mindfulness a daily practice.
  • Exercise: Add exercise to your routine. Whether it's a daily walk or a more intense workout, exercise will help reduce stress, improve sleep, increase energy,  and improve overall brain function.  
  • Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients and low in added sugars and unhealthy fats, benefits your brain.  
  • Spend time in nature: Studies have shown that spending time outside not only improves your ability to focus but can also improve your mental health.
  • Play brain games: Just like we exercise to improve our physical health, we need to exercise our brains. Try completing a puzzle or playing a memory game.  
  • Set goals: Having a clear sense of what you need to accomplish can help you stay focused. Make a list of your priorities and detail the actions necessary to complete them.

We all get distracted from time to time, but making lifestyle changes to improve your focus can go a long way in upping your game - from out on the links to everyday life!

Counselling support from Manitoba Blue Cross

If you're struggling, reach out for help.

Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get counselling support.Begin the process here.

Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.

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