How to stay focused: 10 best tips
Maintaining an all-day focus can be hard. Some people however seem to have the ability to sit for hours without losing focus. Are they born with superpowers? Or are there techniques that we can learn from them?
I have talked to entrepreneurs, freelancers and Indie Hackers to find out why. Some of them use well-renowned techniques and some of their own techniques. Not very surprisingly, they don’t do as Jordan Belfort in "The Wolf of Wall Street". There are better (and safer) ways.
Below are the best tips on how to stay focused. Enjoy!
1. TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS
Mobile notifications can destroy focus, so try to keep them away as much as possible. This can be turning off all notifications in the morning. Some even suggest that you switch off all notifications until the end of the day when your work is over.
What I do: I have my phone in another room when I work, and only check it on certain times during the day. This way, I won’t even think of all the stuff happening on my phone.
2. START WORKING ONCE YOU WAKE UP
Get up early and start working right away. This gives you a good start of the day and helps to stay focused. Scrolling through Instagram or watching a short episode on Netflix, it is a lot harder to start working and maintaining focus during that day.
Fun fact: An important reason behind this is the dopamine hormone which plays a huge role in motivation and attention. This means that if you start your day by doing things that give high dopamine (Instagram, Youtube, Netflix), you will find it much harder to get back to lower dopamine stuff (like work).
What I do: My alarm rings at 6:00. 6:05 I start working from home. 9:00 I eat breakfast. Just by starting working early, I have done three hours of focused work before 9 o’clock, great! I often find those hours the most productive too.
3. TAKE WEEKENDS OFF
Do other things than work during the weekends. Do things that make you happy - like being with family and friends, enjoying nature, playing football, reading a book, or taking a bath. This will let you forget about work for some time and enable you to come back full with energy to work.
What I do: Work Monday to Friday. Weekends Saturday to Sunday.
4. STAY FOCUSED WITH A TO-DO LIST
A to-do list is one of the best ways to increase productivity. It makes it easy to manage and structure tasks during the day. And in the morning you mostly have some to-do’s left from yesterday that you can start working on right away.
Things is a well-designed to-do list app for Mac and iPhone. It has all the features that you will need while remaining simple. A good alternative is Todoist for Windows and Android.
What I do: I add and complete to-do’s to Things during the day. If there is something that I need to do next Monday, I add it and it automatically shows up in my list on Monday. This is a great way to stay productive and organized!
5. DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE
This is probably an obvious one, but yet so important! If you love what you do, everything is so much easier. What if I don’t love my work? Try to remember the bigger picture and why you started it in the first place. This is key on how to stay focused.
What I do: Making sure I always do what I love. If I don’t like what I do, it is time to move on to something else.
6. DAILY GOAL
Focus increases a lot by setting a goal of daily work hours. Your brain will automatically get motivated by seeing how much work is left. Start by setting a weekly goal. Let’s say your weekly goal is 30 hours and you work five days a week, your daily goal will be six hours.
Simple is a simple free tool for tracking your daily time and tasks. With time tracking you also get interesting data of what you spend most of your time on.
What I do: I use Simple daily to track my tasks and time. This motivates me to work all the hours of my goal (which currently is six hours of focused work per day).
7. DON’T STRESS OVER STAYING FOCUSED
Don't obsess over staying focused for the entire day. You can only do your best - like learning your own tips and the ones on this list. But if it simply doesn’t work, there is no point in stressing over it.
What I do: Changing my attitude from “I have to stay focused” to “it is okay if I lose focus sometimes”. That is a more healthy approach that brings me good energy in the long run.
8. GET ENOUGH SLEEP EVERY DAY
Everyone works differently here, find the sweet spot for your daily sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 7-9 hours every day is what most of us need. A sign that you don’t get enough sleep is when you are feeling very sluggish/sleepy in the afternoon.
What I do: My sweet spot is 8 1/2 hours of sleep every night. If I do one hour less one night I try to sleep an extra one the night after. Good sleep has a huge impact on my afternoon-focus.
9. BE ACTIVE
Research has found that exercise and being active increases focus a lot, both short- and long term. Losing focus right now? Go for a short walk.
What I do: I find it easier to stay focused if I exercise or go for a walk during the day. I usually try to do at least one of those things.
10. POMODORO TECHNIQUE
The Pomodoro technique is simple. Start working focused for 25 minutes. Then reward yourself with a 5-minute break. Repeat during the day. This technique has been used for 40 years now and is proven to help people stay focused.
Tomato Timer is a great free tool if you want to try the Pomodoro technique.
What I do: Currently I use Simple to set a daily worktime goal (number 5 in this list), therefore the Pomodoro technique is not as relevant for me. However, many have found the technique very helpful, so I will try it out!
Staying focused can be a challenge for all of us, but I hope that you found some good tips to try on yourself!😊
Written by Rasmus Myhrberg, Founder of Simple