What is Your Focus
What is your focus?. Where do you place your mind and the power of your thoughts? Do you feel fulfilled or depleted by what your daily activity demands of your attention? Do you engage in concentrated work or multitask? The object of your focus and strength of focus can be related to your overall state of health.
Focus on Age
Focusing you attention is a valuable skill. Have you ever wondered why in college you could study while listening to music but now you need quiet to concentrate or read? You might have guessed that our ability to focus declines with age.
But you don’t have to be over-the-hill to notice a difference. In fact, according to a study at Simon Frazer University in British Columbia, the processing speed of our brains begins to decline at an earlier age, about 24. Along with this processing decline comes a a reduced ability to mange disruptions and switch from one task or focus to another. (see, multi-tasking can make you less productive!)
In the Focus Zone
The ability to perform deep work, without losing focus, even amidst distractions is a skill of great value for the future. The distracting world we live in with beeps and buzzes, chirps and jingles, music and motion is likely to demand more of our attention as technology expands into more areas of our lives. In contrast, engaging in a cognitively demanding task can be more satisfying than jumping from task to task such as answering the phone and doing emails, according to Cal Newport a computer science professor at Georgetown University and author of Deep Work. People seem happier when they are engaged in sustained focus. This used to be called “in the zone”. Likewise, Newport says, “A life defined by fragmented attention can produce exhaustion and anxiety.”
Focus on Health
It is a possibility that constantly taking in small bits of information at a time can make it harder to consume large pieces of information. With the prospects of an even more distracting future quite high, it is up to you to be aware of your lifestyle, environment and what you do with your attention. You might consider living a bit more analog.
What goes up must come down according to an age old adage. After the expansive growth of rock, metal, industrial, rap and other electric music, the concept of “unplugged’ acoustic music rose in popularity. After to boom of cell phones and texts the concept of a vacation from technology became vogue. After generations of children becoming more engaged in techno gadgets and devices, Silicon Valley mothers began raising their children low tech. This trend continues as Silicon Valley parents now say, The Future Is Experiences First, Screens Second. Even Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their children tech-free.
Focus on You
Because the ability to maintain focus declines with age, you may wonder if there is something you can do to keep your mind in shape. There is good news for folks currently in their 50’s and 60’s. In general they are motivated to keep their brains working well and staying focused. For most of their lives they engaged in deep focus and they can regain their ability to focus quicker than those who are younger and grew up in environments with constant distraction. This is good news for those who want to keep on working in a business world that can be age sensitive.
Improve Your Focus
There are six suggestions that an article in the December 2017 AARP Bulletin provides.
- Read a novel– According to a study at Emory University in Atlanta, the MRI scans of subject who read at night, reavealed increased connectivity in the language area of the brain. These changes persisted for 5 days after completing the book!
- Play an instrument or meditate or write uninterrupted for 30 minutes –According to Harvard professor Joe DeGutis, “Focusing on a single, complex task improves your ability to focus on other tasks.” Making this a habit can help you get into a “relaxed focused state for other activities.”
- 3. Work in the morning –Participants age 60-82 performed better in the morning than afternoon, according to a study at Rotman Research Institute.
- Learn a language –Bilingual speakers are able to maintain focus and attention than monolinguals, according to research at University of Birmingham in England
- Chew gum — A test of randomly recalled numbers revealed that those who chewed gum responded more quickly and accurately than tose who did not chew gum, according to a study in Cardiff University in Wales.
- Volunteer –In a volunteer program where older adults mentored children, age-related brain shrinkage stopped and in fact some brains grew slightly according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research.