Which habits drain focus?

ONE. Keeping your cell phone volume setting to “on.” No matter how much work you’re doing, or if you’re driving, or having a face to face conversation with someone, it’s hard to focus when you’re getting distracted with every email, text message, phone call, and social media update.

Tip: When you need to focus, switch to Airplane mode. Unless you are an ER doctor or doing other life-saving work, you should be able to implement this.

TWO. Not looking someone in the eye when having a conversation with them. You’ve had meetings like these – the person in front of you is facing you, but they’re looking at everyone who passes by, they’re staring out the window, they’re looking at the ceiling.

Tip: Train yourself to keep a steady gaze at the person you’re talking to. It doesn’t have to be a stare, and yes, of course you should blink, and look away at times. Make sure to give them your full attention. Bonus: your demeanor shows confidence in yourself and respect for the person you’re talking to.

THREE. Checking email throughout the day. This habit doesn’t only keep you distracted; according to the Harvard Business Review it can lower your IQ by up to 10 points. Unless you’re waiting for an email that will change the course of your life (and these are rare), leave checking your inbox for later.

Tip: Take a look at your schedule for the day instead, so that you can strategize how to do your deep work early when your brain is well rested and you can do more complex problem-solving. Bonus: you’ll be able to get more work done in a shorter period of time.

FOUR. Letting your radio take over your morning commute. Yes – it is important to hear the news of the day, and some radio shows can be highly entertaining. But everything else in between (especially commercials) can be a huge waste of time.

Tip: Feed your brain with targeted listening; select podcasts to get informed, learn new things, acquire a new skill, develop your critical thinking muscle, feed your imagination, or find new ways to improve your daily life. Bonus: you will likely feel less stressed and overwhelmed by the time you get to your destination.

FIVE. Robbing yourself of sleep. If you’re trying to make up for time lost during the day to work late at night, this habit can be destructive to your brain. Chronic sleep deprivation can reduce your cognitive abilities, negatively impact your concentration, and can even reduce your IQ.

Tip: Train your brain to wind down at the same time each evening to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep, by setting a bedtime alarm on your phone about 30 minutes before bedtime, and by following a simple nighttime routine that can help you unwind better.

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