First thing first — you’re not alone in feeling distracted. Everyone feels more distracted these days. Twenty years ago, no social media existed, there was no smartphone, there were no constant likes, shares, and all the rest. Rest assured, it’s not unique to feel distracted today, but there are steps you can take to regain your focus and attention.
How many webpages do you have saved in bookmarks that you won’t ever read? How many movies are in your Netflix queue that you won’t ever watch? There are thousands of movies, books, websites, and a lot of them are good.
You have more “friends” today than anyone really has in real life, and they all are showing you what they ate five minutes ago on Instagram. You have more “followers” than a medieval warlord, and they want to see what you ate five minutes ago on Instagram, too.
You have to decide first on what you care about before you can extend your attention. You need to have a focus before you can focus on something.
Meditation can help you restore a calmer mind. Just a few minutes, breathing deeply away from noise and distraction. It’s not hard to do, it just seems daunting if you never attempted it. Just breathe.
Caffeine can work to increase your attention in the short-term. We’ve all drank coffee so we could study all night, or get through a long shift. That shakey crash that makes you more unproductive than your pre-caffeine state is no fun, though.
Ancient Eastern scholars knew the value of tea to keep them awake but not hyper on too much caffeine. Tea has less caffeine than most coffee, though black tea can be strong. Try tea instead of coffee when you need a boost of attention.
Make Your Space Calmer
Take a second and try this.
Look around and see how many machines surround you that ask for your attention and increase distraction. Your computer, your phone, your television, your gaming console, an alarm clock, an app…
Just go around and turn them all off. Just once and only for a few minutes to feel what it’s like in a place where no one and no algorithm can bother you. Turn your phone off. Put it in another room. Give yourself ten minutes to be truly alone without the machines that ask for your constant attention.
Take a Walk
When was the last time you took a plain old walk? If you can, go take a walk in a park or by some water. Studies have found only five minutes surrounded in nature can make you much calmer and more focused. Just try it, and you’ll see the difference, but put away the music and phone while you experience the natural world.