The human brain uses several techniques, skills, and strategies to help us manage our day to day tasks. These cognitive abilities, referred to as “executive functions,” are incredibly important to the human experience, as they dictate how we interact not only with society as a whole, but also within our own minds.
Of all the different executive functions, one of the most important ones is our ability to focus. Consistent and sustained focus is essential to not only complete tasks but also to switch between different tasks with effectiveness throughout the day.
What Does a Lack of Focus Look Like?
Within the world of executive functions, focus is primarily discussed when someone is struggling with paying attention to a single task. Mental health conditions like ADHD are most commonly associated with challenges associated with focus, and many with ADHD have minds that find focus extremely difficult.
It can be a huge challenge for those with executive function disorder to sustain their attention for any period of time without getting distracted, and shifting our attention from one project to the next can often be a source of difficulty or frustration. A lack of focus can present itself in many different ways; whether it is “tuning out” others during a conversation, an inability to finish a project quickly, or even the simple act of bringing up unrelated topics when attempting to stay on track. Some other examples of a lack of focus can look like:
- Being unable to stay focused on a single conversation topic.
- An inability to pay attention to something if it doesn’t interest you.
- An inability to pay attention to something even if it does interest you.
- Getting easily distracted regardless of the project are currently working on.
- Not been able to “tune out” your environment, or quiet your mind.
- The difficulty switching between different projects quickly and efficiently.
- A hyper fixation, or extreme focus on one project, to the detriment of our other priorities.
It can often feel like focus is something everyone should be able to do easily, but it also needs to be acknowledged that consistent focus is difficult no matter who you are. It can be a massive challenge for anybody to pay attention and stay on task without getting distracted for a significant period of time. It also can be difficult for somebody to divert or shift their attention from one topic to another without any loss of momentum or effectiveness.
When a person struggles with executive function disorder, their minds may not have the ability to focus naturally. Learning to focus may require skills training, coaching, and techniques to help make up for any deficiencies.
How Can I Improve My Focus?
Whether you are a professional, a student, or just trying to get things done around the house, developing consistent methods for focus can be incredibly advantageous for anybody, whether they have executive function disorder or not. Some of the potential techniques for developing and increasing that attention span are:
- Tidy Your Desk – It’s important to keep your space organized an ready for productivity. Because focus is going to be your main struggle, you want to make sure there are no other obstacles. If it isn’t related to what you’re trying to accomplish, it should not be on your desk until you’re done with your current projects. This will help you and stay on task and not get distracted by other options.
- Silence Your Notifications – While it can be difficult to cut yourself off from communication if you’re working or studying for something, limiting disruptions is a great way to keep your focus consistent over time. If you can let your coworkers or fellow classmates know that you’re not going to be available for questions or conversations, then this is a great technique to implement for affective productivity.
- Block Out Appropriate Time Limits – Breaking up your projects into blocks is a great way to set realistic expectations. You are not going to stay attentive and focused on one project for 2 hours straight, let alone and an 8-hour workday. Give yourself 25-minute blocks, and take 5-minute breaks as you complete them. This breaks up your productivity into 30-minute increments, rather than an unsustainable expectation.
- Stay Engaged in Conversation – Focus is not always just about work though. If you have trouble paying attention during a conversation, or find yourself bringing up topics that are not related to what everyone else is talking about, then it is important to develop methods for staying attentive during a conversation. Maintaining eye contact is a great way to focus on someone else’s words. Presenting yourself so you are up visually paying attention is a great way mentally pay attention as well.
When we struggle with the ability to focus, it can impact the quality of our lives significantly. Self-regulation, the core feature of executive functions, exists to make our life easier to handle. Whether your issues are social, academic, or professional, it is important to invest time in your executive functions. Developing consistent focus is a great way to not only benefit your actual projects, but also build a strong foundation for other self-regulating skills you wish to develop.
For those that are neuro-atypical, who may struggle with executive function disorder, you may want to consider coaching. ADHD and executive function coaching allow an expert to show you techniques and strategies that can help you manage and maintain better focus. Learn more at ADHD Training Center.