We’ve all been there before. We’re in a conversation when mid-sentence something briefly crosses our mind, and suddenly we’ve lost our train of thought.
While it might be comical at first or even slightly embarrassing—over time, distraction can impact far more serious areas of our lives. In many ways, a lack of focus has a compounding effect: not just in terms of the forgotten conversation plot, but also in bigger areas, impacting our ability to reach our goals, or accomplish those things that we’ve been meaning to.
While there are a number of potential factors that contribute to inattention, these top five common culprits are responsible for much of our lack of focus.
1. Lost Passion
We often find ourselves lost and unfocused when our passion starts to cool or we lose our love for something. When we lose our passion and desire to do something, regardless of what it is, we begin to lose focus rather quickly as well. If you find yourself disinterested and distracted, it may be time to remind yourself of what it was that first drew you to your interest in the first place. Then get out there and rekindle that love!
2. Getting Distracted
Let’s face it—we could distract ourselves all day long if we wanted to. From social media to entertainment options, distractions abound! Unfortunately, all of this hyper-connection will eventually lead to attention fragmentation, where we find ourselves unable to focus on a single project. At this stage, it’s natural to feel detached from the project at hand. In these situations, it’s important to rein in those distractions and enable yourself to accomplish your work. Set limits and rewards—and remind yourself of the outcomes you desire.
3. Overloaded and Overworked
There comes a point when you just need to take a step back, breathe, and focus on yourself. While there is nothing wrong with working hard, if you find yourself so busy that you’re not able to unwind and you’ve lost sight of things that are important in your life, then it is time to take a break and readjust.
4. We’ve Trained Ourselves Wrong
It’s just as important to exercise your mind as it is to exercise your body. Unfortunately, though, the truth is that most of us have trained our brains to be distracted and without focus. We have so much going that our brains are accustomed to function in multiple places at once. Instead of devoting ourselves to one task, we force ourselves to perform three tasks at the same time, all in the name of productivity. As a result, we’re teaching our brains to be unfocused. The good news is that you can practice and improve concentration. Turn off all distractions and try committing yourself fully to one task. You can start small, with five minutes a day, and work up to longer segments from there. If your mind starts to wander, return to the task. “It’s just like getting fit,” says David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009). “You have to build the muscle to be focused.”
5. Bad Habits
Finally, bad habits, such as not getting enough sleep, a poor diet, and not getting routine exercise can also leave us feeling unfocused and distracted. A bad diet can do more than just impact your physical health; not eating properly can also fog your mind and slow down your train of thought. Taking control of your lifestyle can help improve brain function and your ability to focus on tasks.
If you find yourself losing interest in things that you once loved, being stressed out all the time, or simply wishing for a break, it may be time to take a step back and look to pinpoint the cause of your distractions. Whether it’s a new workout routine, a healthy diet, proper planning, or the simple fact that you need to retrain your mind to focus again, by taking the time to identify exactly what’s causing it, you’ll be able to take steps toward finding your focus once again.
How do you improve your focus?