When you first start to work on improving your mental focus, it’s hard.
You can only fully concentrate for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. You’re easily distracted and when you force yourself to focus for extended periods of time (with the help of a kitchen timer for example), it feels exhausting. That’s ok and it will get easier with practice.
Think of mental focus as a muscle that you need to work out regularly to get better.
That’s why using lists and timers can be so helpful. They are the training tools that help you push a little harder, stay focused a little longer, and go a little further each time you “work out”.
They also help you measure your progress. Without a timer and a record of what you’ve accomplished it’s hard to see those small changes and improvements, you’re making. It’s hard to measure how much and how long you’ve concentrated and how much you’ve gotten done.
But when you’re using a timer, you’ll start to notice that you can set it for 25 minutes instead of 15-minute increments and stay focused. You’ll also notice that it gets easier and easier to concentrate and work hard for 30 minutes at a time before you’re ready for a break.
As with physical exercise, mental exercise is something you need to do regularly, or you’ll start to slip back.
Does that mean you have to work on mental focus for 8 hours a day? Of course not.
You don’t have to work out that long to stay fit and healthy either. Aim for one or two focused sessions of 30 to 45 minutes a day.
That will be enough to keep you sharp and will help you throughout the rest of your day as well.
First though, you need to get your brain into shape. Grab a timer, set it for 15 or 20 minutes do what you can to stay focused during this time.
Shut the office door, take the phone off the hook, and cut out any distractions you can.
Then work concentrated and focused until that timer goes off.
How hard was it? Did you struggle towards the end? If so, make it a goal to do a few of these shorter sessions throughout the day.
If you find working focused for 20 minutes easy, bump it up to 30 minutes. Then get to a point where you can work back to back 30-minute sessions with just a short three to five-minute break in-between.
Keep pushing yourself and you’ll be amazed how quickly this mental training starts to pay off.