boost focusConcentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” (Alexander Graham Bell)

Whether it is writing a report for a project at work or trying to study for a big exam, many people have the same issues: focusing on the task at hand. These days, we are constantly distracted by pings and dings from our cell phones, texts and calls, the availability of YouTube and Nextflix videos, and a host of other things demanding our attention. So, how do you go about boosting your focus and getting the job done? The key is doing what it takes to shape your environment into one that supports the focus you seek. Here are 5 simple strategies that can help with boosting your focus right now.

Clear Your Visual Site Line

Whether you now it or not, everything that enters your line of sight affects you. If you are working at a desk filled with clutter and a space with clothes, books and other random things lying around, your mind sees and recognizes them. Your productivity is affected by the chaos, whether you wish to admit it or not. A study completed by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute revealed through functional magnetic resonance imaging and other physiological measurement tools that the mind focuses better when the clutter is cleared. There are those who have claimed that their depression and anxiety are amplified in cluttered and messy environments. Clear the mess and watch your productivity spike!

Close Your Email

There are some of us who cringe at the thought of unanswered emails and an inbox with any more than 5 of them being unread. But the ever-open email program can constantly pull your attention away from whatever you are working on at the time. Did you know that the average business person received 68 legitimate emails per day in 2014 (per The Raticati Group, Inc.)? If those emails were evenly distributed across a 10-hour work day, that would mean a distracting email every 8 minutes and 49 seconds. How in the world would you get anything done if you felt the need to read, answer and act on each email as soon as they came in at such a rate? To support boosting your focus, limit the number of times per day that you check your email. The frequency would of course depend upon your particular circumstances, but you are definitely better off working on critical projects with without the ping of an incoming honey-do.

Add While Noise to The Mix

For some, the words and conversations around you can pull your attention away just long enough to throw you off track. Perhaps it is the two ladies talking loudly in the booth behind you at the coffee shop. Maybe it is the television your spouse is watching in the other room where you can hear the muffled conversation. In times like these, a little white noise can do the trick to move you forward. What works for some is water sounds, such as a flowing stream or waves hitting the beach. Perhaps it is classical or new age music that can work for you. Find the “white noise” that best drowns out the distractions for you and either throw on some noise-canceling headphones or play it on speakers to help you get back to on track.

Take a Break to Reset

You’ve been at it for hours and you find that your mind is wandering and your eyes are tired, meaning your productivity level is dropping. Nothing resets the batteries better than an active break. When you’re on a roll, it is sometimes hard to convince yourself that a break is in your best interest. But these “productive pauses” can be of more long-term benefit than fighting through the weariness. A study done by the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Leeds School of Business revealed that stepping away from the office truly helps entrepreneurs by improving their psychological well-being. The break from the stressful existence actually helps prevent burnout. Stepping away from the task helps to relieve your brain of the monotonous processing.

But remember that some ways of “stepping away” are better than others. For example, using break time to scroll through Twitter or Facebook is what is called a “low-efficiency diversion”. To re-energize, take a walk and get the blood flowing to aid in boosting your focus.

Ignore the Big Picture-Focus on the “Next Thing”

We can sometimes be a bit discouraged when we try to wrap our minds around a large project while executing the tasks necessary to get to its conclusion. As a result, your energy and enthusiasm can be sapped and your subconscious mind can might resign itself to the hopelessness it perceives as being a mountain that you cannot climb. Once the monumental task has been accepted, try not to think of the whole picture while moving toward the goal. Instead, keep your thoughts on the very next step. If writing a paper, it is only about the very next sentence. And then the next one, and the next one. If you are studying, nothing exists beyond the one chapter you are studying. Before you know it, that monster has been slain and you’re done.