In our speeded up world where distractions can come from every direction, it’s more important than ever to learn how to focus. And that’s especially true if you’re looking for a job.
A job search requires intense focus and concentration, which can be difficult for many people.
The temptation to check email and Facebook, worries about finances, and/or being overwhelmed by tiredness and other diversions can play havoc with your ability to focus.
But how can you learn to focus?
Here are 15 tips that will help you develop this essential skill.
- Create a clean physical place in which to work. And make sure it is quiet and free from distractions. This could be a desk in your home, the kitchen table or a space in your favorite coffee shop or local library (once the Covid pandemic is under control).
- Make a daily to-do list. You may want to do this the night before so you’ll be ready to go in the morning. Choose a handful of tasks – maybe two or three – that are most pressing, and concentrate on them.
- Initiate longer term planning. Create an overall plan, incorporating all the things you have to do to get from where you are now to your end goal – a job.
- Set deadlines. Creating deadlines will force you to focus to make sure you get things done on time. For example, set a deadline of making 20 cold calls to hiring managers tomorrow. Or put together your resume and JIST card by the end of the week.
- Get enough sleep. You should get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Prepare for bed by turning off digital devices an hour before bedtime and relaxing by reading a book, meditating or taking a warm bath. Make sure you go to sleep and get up at about the same time each night, so your body gets into a good sleep rhythm.
- Drink caffeinated beverages. But do so sparingly. Although coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages can give you a lift, too much can make you jittery. Stick to one or two cups a day.
- Eat healthy. Begin your day with a breakfast that includes protein, like eggs, and complex carbohydrates, like whole wheat bread or oatmeal. These will give you the energy you need for a good start and fill you up so you can focus. When you’re hungry, make sure you eat healthy snacks: nuts, fruit and veggies.
- Tune out social media. Sites like Facebook and Instagram can be the biggest distraction of all. If you can’t keep from checking out your favorite sites, download a social media app to block them – and even the entire internet if necessary. There are several of these apps, but Freedom is one of the most popular. After a free trial period, the basic service is just $2.50 per month – and well worth it, if it helps you focus better.
- Put your cell phone away. Unless your tasks for the day include making phone calls, put your cell phone in a drawer or in another room, thus eliminating a potential distraction.
- Forget multi-tasking. Concentrate on one thing at a time. According to academic studies, multi-tasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.
- Include a break. For every hour you work, take a 10-minute break. Grab a snack, get something to drink, do some stretching exercises or take a walk outside. You will feel refreshed and better able to focus when you come back to your workspace.
- Make sure to exercise. Studies have shown that regular exercise – especially running and walking – helps to improve concentration and focus among both children and adults.
- Take time to meditate. If you’ve never experienced mindfulness meditation, you might want to give it a try. Practicing this form of meditation, which concentrates on breathing techniques, can help you focus better and be more relaxed.
- Listen to music. Several studies indicate that listening to music – especially classical music, it seems – can improve people’s focus.
- Set disturbing thoughts aside. If you have worries or are stressed out about something, write whatever is bothering you in a notebook or on a word doc on your computer. Set it aside and deal with it later.