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The feeling of true productivity is unlike anything else. You get to lose yourself in what you’re doing, and that sense of flow and purpose can be so empowering.
But do you ever feel like your concentration is slipping away from what’s important?
We all have a certain amount of focus we can give to a task at any given time. We often find ourselves being pulled in different directions and it is hard to stay on track with the projects that matter most.
And you might find yourself losing focus with age.
Not to worry, though. We break down the science behind losing focus with age, so you can understand how to combat it. Stay tuned if you struggle with a lack of concentration.
Start With Clarity
A lot has changed since the days when retirement meant sitting on the porch and rocking away your golden years.
Today’s retirees are redefining old age by embracing new passions, reaching for dreams that were never possible before, and finding fulfillment in activities they never thought they would enjoy.
That’s our dedicated mission, anyway – to help shift our culture’s stereotypes of older adults by providing you with the right tools to achieve all your retirement goals.
So how can you make a robust and vibrant retirement work for you?
It starts with finding clarity: defining what matters most to your authentic self, and setting matching goals based on your true passions and purpose, so that your future is as fulfilling as it can be.
Without clarity, lack of focus thrives. Once you know where you want to go, you can clearly understand where to put your energy next. It becomes very obvious where to place more of your energy and it’s a reliable way to focus on your priorities first.
In order to find clarity, try reflecting on these questions:
So let’s dive right into the seven science-backed secrets of better mental focus and steadfast concentration.
#1 Rediscover Your Passions
Do you ever find yourself lost and distracted when you lose interest in something? When you no longer feel the initial excitement that first drew you in, it can be difficult to focus.
According to a review article that summarized the most important studies on motivation in older adults, losing focus with age is common, but you can improve it by being motivated.
One of the best ways to keep your passion alive is by reminding yourself why you started.
When you lose focus or get bored, oftentimes it’s time for a little reminder and inspiration to see what’s happening at a deeper level. More specifically, the reason for your growth. Find out where the initial spark came into play and regain that initial motivation.
Typically, the answer lies in your natural passions and your “why” – the reason why you’re compelled to do your project or activity. When you think of the outcome and end result, how does that make you feel?
If energized, then continue while remembering to enjoy the process and not just the outcome.
When you focus on the outcome, you start to dread the gap that exists between your current stage and the end goal.
This is a gap, by the way, that exists in all creative processes. Successful entrepreneur, author, and star photographer, Chase Jarvis, calls this the creative gap.
By focusing on your current stage, it puts your focus immediately in the present and on your deeper passion and reason for starting in the first place, rather than the missing space between now and the end outcome.
#2 Avoid Multitasking
Most of us are guilty of multitasking at some point in our lives. Whether it’s paying attention to the TV while checking email or scrolling Facebook while researching, you might find yourself doing two things at once.
But what many people don’t realize is that multitasking is detrimental to your focus and productivity. Even though baby boomers multitask less than younger adults, being able to multitask successfully is a myth.
While multitasking everyday activities won’t lead to negative consequences, when you need to focus on an important task, just take it one thing at a time.
For instance, you’ll likely manage cooking, talking, and listening to music. But trying to pay the bills while talking and listening to music might be a bit harder.
It’s much more effective to single-task. Especially when you consider the fact that multitasking makes things 40% more timely to complete.
Even if you’re among the 2.5% of “supertaskers” — the few that are able to multitask successfully — it’s still worth trying to tackle one thing at a time.
So if you want to get more done in less time, try focusing on one task at a time instead. Sounds counterintuitive, but by doing less, you will actually accomplish more.
#3 Stress (The Good Kind)
You know how sometimes when you’re all stressed out and things seem like they can’t get any worse, but then suddenly they do? This is called distress, and it can make you lose your focus.
When the task you need to do seems insurmountable, the stress and anxiety become overwhelming, and you abandon the task at hand. That’s not to say a little bit of pressure is a bad thing, though.
Eustress, or stress that impacts you positively, can help improve your mood and increase performance. This happens when the task at hand is challenging but still achievable.
So the best thing you can do to achieve your goals and maintain laser-sharp focus is to divide your tasks into micro-steps.
Think of it this way, if you had to climb a mountain, is it better to think that you have to take 30,000 steps to get to the top or take it a thousand at a time? Or at the risk of sounding cliche – one step at a time?
Thirty thousand sounds like an unimaginable feat, but break it down into immediate next steps and it’s more doable.
This magic formula of dividing your goal into micro-steps and mini-goals is applicable to any goal or project. And it works literal magic in goal setting.
#4 Move More
What does physical exercise have to do with not losing focus with age? The benefits of physical activity go beyond an improved mood and increased energy.
Research has shown that it can help with concentration, ultimately leading to a better ability to allocate cognitive resources like focus or attention span when you’re struggling.
Even light aerobic exercises, such as a 20-minute walk or jog, are linked to an increase in your ability to concentrate on tasks at hand for up to an hour.
Moreover, physical activity leads to reduced cognitive decline in older adults.
Simply put: get moving. It’ll help you focus and refocus when you get bogged down by a task at hand.
#5 Avoid Distractions
Distractions are everywhere. They come in the form of social media, television, Netflix, word games, or just about anything more interesting than what you’re supposed to be doing.
Unfortunately, distractions can lead to attention fragmentation, where we find ourselves unable or unwilling to focus on any single project.
A brain-scan study at the University of Toronto found that older adults are distracted more easily, compared to young adults. Older adults have decreased brain activity in areas that enable concentration.
In other words, you’re more prone to being distracted and losing focus with age. Which means it’s essential not only to set limits but also to create rewards for yourself.
Remind yourself about what you want out of this undertaking and get things done.
#6 Take Breaks
You know you’re not going to be able to give your best if you’re too tired. Fatigue can be more than physical — it can also be emotional or mental. Sometimes, taking care of yourself means taking a break (without feeling guilty about it).
Studies have shown that due to natural variations in our cycle of alertness, we can concentrate for no longer than 90 minutes before needing a 15-minute break and breaks actually improve performance.
Remembering that you have control over what you spend your energy on can help put things in perspective.
Ultimately, you have to find what works best for you and take your well-deserved breaks without hesitation because they are vital to being productive.
Bonus tip: Be intentional about your productive time and your relaxation time (aka your breaks). This way, you won’t feel guilty about your downtime.
Take it a step further and try writing down your break time or putting it into your calendar as you do your other scheduled activities. It’ll make your breaks more official, giving them the attention and commitment they deserve.
#7 Sleep Better
The older you get, the more important sleep becomes. Sleep is crucial for maintaining focus and concentration.
A study on the neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation showed a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and impaired cognitive function. Without enough sleep, your brain will not be able to process new information quickly or effectively.
If you are struggling with these symptoms on a regular basis, it may be time to start working on your sleeping habits. Some reliable ways to catch your z’s include:
- Decreasing your exposure to blue light in the evening
- Optimizing the comfort of your bed
- Practicing mindfulness and clearing your mind
For more ideas, you can follow these 11 sleep tips to get your beauty sleep.
The Choice is Yours: Gaining Focus or Losing Focus with Age
You might think that as you age, your memory will naturally decline and you’ll start losing focus with age. But that doesn’t have to be the case with a bit of proactive effort and focus on building the right habits.
Just because you’re not as young as you used to be doesn’t mean your brain has lost its ability to focus on what matters most in life. In fact, choosing what’s important is a skill we all get better at with age.
So whether it’s your kids or grandkids, friends, or hobbies, you can stay focused on the things that matter most to you.
Try to implement these seven tips into your daily retirement routine, start noticing an improvement in attention span, and show that losing focus with age is a myth.