Focus is the ability to direct your attention towards a specific task or goal, while filtering out distractions and irrelevant information. It allows you to fully engage with your work and make progress towards your objectives. Distractions are the enemy of focus, despite being everywhere. Luckily, there’s a neuroscience-backed hack that can help you focus like a laser beam whenever you need to.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique and it’s a time management method backed by neuroscience. It was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. He ran a series of experiments using a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (hence the name ‘Pomodoro’). These involved breaking his work into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks. He found this approach improved productivity and focus significantly.
That’s because your brain is not designed to focus for long periods. Your attention span naturally wanes after 20-25 minutes, which helps your brain conserve energy. By taking short breaks, you allow your brain to rest and recharge before diving back into work. Daydreaming or relaxing is one of the best ways to fully recharge your neural circuitry, so resist the temptation to check social media, surf the web or read your emails during rest times.
- Instead, try one of these downtime activities, which shift your brainwaves into a restorative state:
- Take a short walk outside
- Listen to calming music
- Meditate or do some mindfulness exercises
- Listen to the Energise Now audio session and spend 20 minutes in a relaxing trance state
- Have a quick tea break
These activities will help you relax and reset your brain, making it easier for you to focus again when your break is over. The key is to keep the breaks short – between ten and fifteen minutes duration each time. Most importantly, avoid any mentally stimulating tasks during this time.
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Steps for success
Here’s how to get the most from this evidence-based focus hack.
- Choose a task. This could be anything – an assignment, a project, or even cleaning your desk.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes. Use your phone, a physical timer, or a Pomodoro app.
- Work on the task until the timer goes off. Don’t let distractions derail you. If something pops into your mind, jot it down and return to it later.
- Take a short break. Choose one of the options listed above and switch off for 10 minutes
- Repeat the process. After four ‘Pomodoros,’ take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
Remember, it’s all about working with your brain’s natural rhythm, not against it. By incorporating this technique into your daily routine, you’re not just improving your focus. You’re also reducing your risk of burnout, increasing your mental agility and making your workday more enjoyable. So, are you ready to hack your brain for better focus? Set your timer now and get started on your first Pomodoro of the day!
This article summary was created by Eleanor Shakiba
Eleanor is a leadership trainer, success coach and people skills expert. She helps managers and business owners build thriving teams and organisations, using tools from Positive Psychology. She's trained more than 60,000 people during her career as a corporate trainer and professional development consultant. Her mission is inspiring talented people to become leaders who make a difference.