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Elevate the Power of Focus

Jun 17, 2024

Efficiency depends greatly on your ability to focus. If you can focus on doing the task at hand, you will finish it quicker. When there are many things on your mind, it is difficult to concentrate or to do a good job.

There are ways we can enhance our focus and concentration. It is more than just trying to pay attention to the task while you are doing it.

How you live and your daily routine affect your focus. Taking care of yourself is the first step to enhancing your focus. Eat a balanced diet and eat regularly. Avoid processed foods and minimize added sugar. A healthy diet promotes a healthy brain. This enhances your ability to think, process and concentrate.

Sleeping is a time for your brain to rest and recharge. Many studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to decreased concentration and memory. As physicians, or it even starts as medical students, many of us think that sleeping is one thing we can decrease to spare more time to work. This logic of thinking is based on the assumption that your focus and your efficiency does not change over hours of non-stop working. As we get more tired, or more hours away from the last time we sleep, the brain gradually slows down. The ability to focus also goes down. You will end up taking more time to study or to do the same job if you are lack of sleep.  

Exercise is good for you and your focus. Exercising, especially the aerobic type of exercising, promotes blood circulation, including blood flow to the brain. Exercising increases the circulating norepinephrine levels, which promotes focus and concentration. Exercise can also reduce stress in general.

This brings us to the next topic which affects our focus – stress. When you feel stressed, in the short term, you may transiently have a better ability to concentrate. You may have enough ability to memorize last minute for a big final exam. However, chronic stress, over time, can negatively impact your memory, your ability to focus and process information. When you feel stressed about several things, your mind is likely scattered, jumping from one thing to the next. Stress makes you feel irritable easily. Stress may also have a negative impact on your physical health, such as insomnia, poor appetite, and may increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, headache and gastrointestinal complaints, to name a few. In other words, if you can manage your stress better, you will have better focus and be more efficient.

It is helpful to start your day to remind yourself to stay calm and stay focused on one thing at a time.

When you are doing a task, there are several things you can do to improve your focus. The first is the environment you are working in. It is easier to focus and concentrate if you are working in a quiet office rather than with loud construction noise in the background. Some people may prefer to listen to some background music that is calming and soothing. Keep your workspace simple and organized. Set up in a way that is easy for you to locate things. That way, you will less likely be flustered or stressed about where something is. There is more mental energy for you to focus.

If your work environment is usually busy and people are in a hurry, such as in the emergency department, then see if there is a corner or a location that is a little quieter. Sometimes it may be charting in a patient’s room. The ability of your brain to dial down the volume of the noise around you comes with practice.

To keep your focus as sharp as possible, work in blocks. Remember in your school days you had different subjects, different lessons at school. There was a recess. There was a lunch break. It is important to allow your brain to rest and recharge on a regular basis, so you can continue to work at the best of your ability. This also means that taking breaks are very important. Set time blocks and take regular breaks. Even just a few minutes is helpful.

Focus on doing one thing at a time. When you see that your mind is wandering off, bring it back. Remind yourself to pay attention to one thing only, then move on to the next thing. It is impossible to have 100% focus on two things simultaneously. Prioritize what you plan to do first. When you are organized, you have more energy to focus better.

Minimizing distractions enhances your focus. Minimize interruptions from other people. Minimize your own distractions by turning off notifications or alerts from your phone or from your email.

Just like exercising to build up your muscle and strength, there are activities which may enhance your ability to focus. Doing puzzles, crossword puzzles, sudoku and chess are some examples. Practice mindfulness and meditation also can stimulate your brain to focus better.

The ability to focus directly affects our efficiency. Our lifestyle matters. When you adhere to a healthy diet, exercise regularly and have adequate sleep, you enhance your brain health and the power to concentrate. Activities which decrease stress may also increase your focus. While you are working, if possible, ensure you are in an environment that is free of loud noise. Design your work day in time blocks and take breaks in between. Train your brain regularly by doing some thinking games, such as crossword puzzles and chess. All these will increase your ability to focus and you will go home sooner from work.

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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