Special to The PREVIEW
Distractions have never been harder to resist.
According to Deloitte’s “2022 Connectivity and Mobile Trends Survey” (third edition), the average household in the United States now has a total of 22 connected devices. Things are a little less connected in Canada, where a J.D. Power survey of television service subscribers found that the average household has about 10 devices.
The prevalence and accessibility of devices can make it difficult to focus, but tablets, smartphones and other technologies are not the only culprits that can compromise the ability to concentrate. Harvard Medical School notes that underlying medical conditions, the side effects of medication and excessive alcohol consumption can each make it harder to focus. That’s a significant detriment, as an ability to focus can help individuals be more efficient and perform better at work and in school.
Each individual is different, so efforts to improve focus might require a little trial and error until a person finds what works for them. In the meantime, the following are some effective strategies that can help people sharpen their focus and reap all the rewards that a heightened ability to concentrate has to offer.
• Turn notifications off. Notifications are a bigger distraction than people may realize. A 2015 study from researchers at Florida State University found that simply hearing the ping of a notification was as distracting as taking a phone call. Individuals may find the idea of answering as little as 20 or more phone calls per day unrealistic, but researchers have found that the average smartphone user receives around 80 push notifications per day. Such constant inflow of notifications is detrimental to smartphone users’ ability to focus. Turning notifications off while in school or during the workday can help people avoid this seemingly endless stream of distractions, thus improving focus.
• Establish a distraction-free workspace. A survey from McKinsey & Company found that, after the acute phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, 58 percent of employed respondents have the option to work from home for all or part of the week. Remote working may be more convenient, but it also can compromise workers’ focus in ways that are unique to working from home. For example, professionals’ children cannot stroll into their offices when they aren’t working from home, nor are distractions like television within arm’s length in a traditional office setting. Professionals who are finding it hard to focus when working from home can do more to make their home offices distraction-free. Make your home a television-free zone during traditional working hours and remove a television or nonwork tablet from your office so you aren’t tempted to watch a show or a sporting event when you’re supposed to be working.
• Adopt a healthier lifestyle. The experts at Harvard Medical School note that many aspects of a healthy lifestyle can help people focus better. Researchers have discovered a direct link between exercise and a person’s ability to pay attention, noting that exercise increases the availability of brain chemicals that reduce stress and improve sleep, among other things. Less stress and a good night’s rest can make it easier to focus.
An ability to focus pays myriad dividends. Individuals can try various strategies to improve their concentration skills and reap the rewards that such improvement provides.