Do you consider yourself easily distracted? Or perhaps even lazy? Although you may not be lazy, your BRAIN definitely is.
It is your brain’s first priority to be efficient. In order to be efficient it wants to take the easy route. ALWAYS. It will choose naps over exercise. Staying home over a party. Netflix over work. It’s all your brain trying to preserve its resources. For the same reason, our brains prefer to REACT instead of PLAN. But when you are in ‘reaction mode’, you do not make the best decisions. You will let your environment determine your behavior. You will go into town for groceries but come home with a new shirt. You will meet a friend for a low key drink (‘just ONE drink, i swear!’) but meet new people and stay out until 3 AM. Sounds like you?
In order to resist distraction you need a strategy. Here are three ways in which you can BOOST your focus:
1. Have a plan (and stick to it)
‘Reaction’ is the opposite of ‘control’ so in order to stop reacting to your environment, you need to take back control. You need a plan. And stick to it. Why is this improtant? Well, when you have a clear plan in mind (‘eat healthy’) it becomes easier to resist distraction (‘chocolate cake for desert’). All you have to do is remember your goal and make a decision in line with your goal.
2. Control your environment
You can help your brain a little by controlling your surroundings. When you don’t pass that ice-cream shop, you also don’t have to resist getting ice-cream. When you mute your phone, you will not be triggered to check your notifications.
Brian Wansik, Professor and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, shows how much our environment influences us by studying eating behavior. He showed that people eat more when they have easier access to food. When a candy dish was moved off of people’s desk they would eat half as much, just because it was harder to reach.
3. Delay your reaction
There are two reasons why a delayed response will help you to stay focused. By not replying straight away you create some time to make a deliberate decision. We have time to remember our goal. Making a deliberate decision helps us to make the RIGHT decision. When we decide to do ‘the right thing’ while facing a temptation, it increases the sense of control we experience. Our brain is rewarded by rising dopamine levels and we feel GREAT as a result.
Furthermore, stress causes your prefrontal cortex to shut down. This is due to the fact that we need to react quickly and instinctively to (potentially dangerous) stimuli. But this also happens in ‘heat of the moment’ situations. You may say ‘yes’ to something and regret it a few minutes later.
You can delay your reaction by saying ‘maybe’ or ‘let me get back to you’ more often.