How many times have you said, "I have it on the tip of my tongue but I can't remember"?
Or "I suck at names but I still remember a face"?
Or you lost your focus for a moment and ended up losing an important game of chess or baseball. Or you want to be able to land the winning free throw and silence all the crowd noise around you.
Check out these tips to help you increase your mental focus and improve whatever you're doing in life right now.
TIP #1: READ
I often suggest it. And that's because one of the easiest ways to develop mental focus is to read daily.
Put away your cell phone, turn off the TV and read 5 minutes a day. When you read and engage with the book, you are focused.
For some of us, it may be the only time of day when we aren't bombarded with phone conversations, traffic jams and the hustle and bustle of everyday city life.
What you choose to read doesn't have to be geared towards personal growth - find something you enjoy. It can be any gender. If you say you "hate to read", ask yourself why. Is it because something was forced upon you and it now has a negative association?
If so, tell yourself that you are going to create a new association.
Audiobooks are another option. But if you go this route, set aside a specific time in your day to sit and listen, not do anything else, like drive or play sports. It's about learning to focus. You can't focus and multi-task (which I discuss below).
TIP #2: EAT WELL
Research shows that the omega 3s found in fish oil can lower cholesterol levels, improve your sleep and increase your IQ (allowing the brain to learn 6 times faster). Blueberries are perhaps the most powerful food in the world to preserve the brain.
Research has shown that blueberries also help cleanse the mental pathways of the brain.
TIP #3: BRAIN GAMES LIKE CROSSWORDS AND SUDOKO
Don't roll your eyes. Research has shown that mental exercises (crosswords, Sudoko) create new neural pathways in your brain. It is these pathways that create greater mental capacity and allow for better mental retention.
This is also a benefit that has been seen with meditation and reading. Creating new neural pathways is like adding a bigger and bigger hard drive to your computer; the more storage space you have, the more information you are able to retain.
TIP #4: FIND THE FLOW
Kayaking, surfing, yoga, jiu-jitsu, scuba diving, all of these allow your mind to be in the moment and not think about your cell phone. These activities obviously keep you physically active, which in turn stimulates the mind.
Lack of focus can mean we lack calm in our day. It's easy in our busy days to think that we have to go, do, create, move, produce every minute we're awake.
But that's why we end up feeling scattered, distracted and exhausted. It's like what a friend once said: There's action in the quiet.
It means you are always doing something and being productive. Think about it for a moment and what it means.
When people like Elon Musk are asked what they do to feel productive and focused, one of the most common responses is "meditation."
TIP #5: FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS
The Magic Seven Theory refers to the fact that our short-term memory can only hold about seven pieces of information. If there are more than seven pieces of information, our conscious mind has to narrow them down to seven pieces.
You can use this theory in your daily life by taking complex tasks with more than seven elements and breaking them down into more manageable ones. It will also reduce your anxiety and stress levels and help you complete your task faster and more efficiently.
TIP #6: OBSERVATION
It's almost impossible to completely stop your brain from thinking. But you can slow down your overactive brain processes by withdrawing from your thoughts and becoming an outside observer.
This process is used in yoga to calm the mind and focus on the breath. This method of self-awareness (with deep breathing) will increase your focus and mental clarity in many other aspects of your life.
TIP #7: STOP DOING MULTIPLE THINGS AT ONCE
The more you try to do everything at once, the less you will do. Productivity is not a question of quantity, it is a question of quality.
In today's modern society, we are all guilty of multitasking (doing several things at the same time). But according to the researchers, multitasking doesn't really exist.
Neuroscientists point out that the part of the brain called "Broadman's area 10" can only perform one process at a time. So when you think you're multitasking, you're actually switching between tasks multiple times with a 0.7 second lag.
This lag not only makes you less efficient than if you were just doing a single task without a mental break (think texting while driving).
TIP #8: RELAX
Think of your mind as a blank canvas or a flat, open ocean. Thoughts will filter through your head, but let them go easily. Your brain will slow down as you relax with less pressure.
A mind that is constantly thinking and trying to analyze multiple thoughts will never be able to focus effectively on just one. Slow down the mind and focus better on the unique.
“My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I say to myself: Get out of the starting blocks, do your race, stay relaxed. If you do your race, you will win... channel your energy. Focus.” - Carl Lewis (gold medalist in athletics)
TIP #9: BREATHING EXERCISES
Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down on the floor. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Purse your lips together and blow out a small circle as if trying to balance a feather above you.
This will reduce the many thoughts in your mind and help you focus only on your breathing.
If your mind is flooded with thoughts, don't force them to stop. You cannot totally stop your brain from thinking and producing thoughts. But what you can do is stop how you react to those thoughts.
If your mind is agitated while you are doing a breathing exercise (a form of meditation), imagine stepping back from them and somehow letting them go - like leaves. caught in an eddy of a stream, which break off and flow away.
TIP #10: BE OPEN
Your mind should be constantly looking for new challenges to improve. If you just do the same thing day after day, week after week, your spirit will weaken.
Try a new sport like jiu-jitsu or kickboxing. Learn a new skill like computer programming or sewing. Flex your mind like you would a bicep and increase it by 1% per day.
It will improve your mind's ability to focus and be sharp as a knife, ready to use at any time.
BONUS TIP: DIVIDE YOUR DAY INTO SPECIFIC TASKS.
This tip is related to tip #7.
Our need for instant gratification may explain why we feel so scattered. We feel the need to check Facebook, our emails, Instagram, Twitter or respond to a text immediately. The more "noise" we have in our lives and in our heads, the harder it is to feel settled and focused.
Create time periods during the day when you turn off notifications. Or, at the very least, set your phone to disable badges and sound alerts. Then, set specific times of the day when you check.
Productivity experts like Tim Ferriss suggest devoting part of the day to answering emails and even texting. Lack of focus leads to lack of productivity.
Sometimes a text or voicemail requires immediate attention, but most of the time we are the ones who have decided that all text messages, emails and voicemails require immediate response. If someone gets mad at you for not responding to a text right away, explain (later) that you're setting aside time to respond.