About a month ago, my LinkedIn profile was accidentally suspended. Shamefully, for the good part of an entire afternoon, I found myself constantly checking my phone to see if the issue had been resolved —to see if I was re-connected with the world. FOMO entered my brain, and I felt completely hijacked.
Then a week later, I found my 15 and 18 year-old daughters telling me to put down my phone during dinner. How funny is it that my daughters —who grew up in the social media revolution and who are constantly on their phones— were telling me to take a break.
Now, I’m not one to freak out when technology has a glitch, and I do my best to make a conscious effort to separate family and work time … but these two experiences were good reminders that I need to practice the art of undivided attention. I think we’re all losing that skill. We get distracted too easily and we forget that it takes practice to give our undivided attention to anything these days.
Technology is probably the number one culprit that’s stealing our attention. In fact, a recent Deloitte study says that the average American checks their phone 46 times per day. Of course, that varies depending on the users’ age group. Those between 18 and 24 look at their phones most often, with an average of 74 checks per day. I know that personally, checking my phone can quickly get me off course.
Here are a few of my thoughts on how to practice concentration … to teach our brains to be more focused:
#1. Let Technology Help
Counterintuitive? Sounds like it, but it’s not. We’re glued to our technology, why not let it help us focus? Check out the Onward app, for example. It helps you find tech-life balance by helping you reshape your relationship with technology. What’s amazing? It uses the latest artificial intelligence and brain science to do so.
Of course there are other apps out there, too. Freedom lets you block apps, social media and certain websites during certain times to keep your focus. Brain.fm provides AI-generated music that dramatically improves focus, relaxation, and sleep. You get the idea.
#2. Get Important Stuff Out of the Way
Whether you’re a to-do list writer or not, make sure you consciously make an effort to get your most important tasks completed first. We’re often less distracted at the beginning of the day and knocking out the most important tasks (or those that require the most focus) first can help ensure we’re able to stay focused on what’s really important.
#3. Create a Routine
Our brains recognize routine. Maybe you check your email over coffee and then don’t look at it again until lunch. Perhaps your social media time is scheduled in 10-minute intervals at specific times of day. When we create a routine, it’s easier to stay focused because our brains recognize the patterns.
#4. Stop Multitasking
We all want to be good at multitasking, but in reality —it might not be as great a characteristic as we think. Studies show that multitasking actually makes us less productive and efficient. It’s better for us to focus on one task at a time —until fully executed— before moving on to the next. This might mean locking your cell phone in a drawer … but apparently, it will be worth it.
How Do YOU Stay Focused?
I know I’m not alone. How do you train your brain to stay focused? Do you make a conscious effort to practice concentration? Or, do you find it easy to turn off the technology? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s move this conversation to the comments below!