in Productivity

9 Ways to Improve your Ability to Focus with Nootropics

concentratinI’ve been obsessed with focus lately, the onnit labs alpha brain I have been using have helped me out so much.

It’s a highly valuable skill in an era characterized by multitasking, smart phones and constant distraction.

Your ability to succeed and make an impact in this world is likely going to be very closely tied with your ability to focus.

But focusing is tough. Really tough.

I can’t call myself an expert, but I have taken steps to try to improve my own ability to focus and have researched the topic pretty heavily.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Be purposefully unfocused

It’s okay to be unfocused as long as you plan for it. Being unfocused is only a problem when you want to be focused.

So make time to be unfocused. Allow yourself 30 minutes to browse twitter and facebook. Take a break and kill some time on youtube.

2. Create routines that allow you to focus


If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you had to expect to hear about routines here. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of them.

When you have a routine it gives you a baseline to work with and you can adapt your routine based on what works for you.

So I’ve been adapting my routine to make sure that I can focus during parts of the day, when I’m most alert and have a good amount of energy. Right after breakfast has become a great 2 hour work. Around 1 I usually need to take a break or have meetings. 4-7 I’m really productive again.

When you have a routine, you can choose when you want to be focused and when you want to be unfocused.

You can also work on changing bad habits. For example, I had a bad habit of keeping a lot tabs open. I still struggle with it, but I know one thing for sure, when I have less tabs open, I’m less distracted.

3. Meditate to build your focus muscle


One of my new habits is to meditate every day for at least 10 minutes.

I used to think meditation was some hippy dippy thing and avoided it. It’s quickly become one of the most valuable assets I have as a person and an entrepreneur. Its benefits have an impact for me every day.

Not only does it help me keep a level head during the majors ups and downs of building my startup, it’s also my focus training regimen.

Focus isn’t something that you just have or you don’t. It’s a muscle and you have to work it out. You can train your brain to focus (that buffer article is super helpful for beginners).

A common form of meditation is about focusing on one thing, maybe your breath or your body. If you catch your mind wandering, you recognize the thought and then you bring you focus back to that one thing.

It’s the same exact process that you’ll use when you’re writing an article and you feel the urge to go to facebook. Today, maybe it just happens automatically and you don’t even realize it. With meditation, you’ll learn to recognize the though, acknowledge it, and bring your focus back to what you’re doing.

I use calm for guided meditatation.

4. Write to get emotions out of your head


Our ability to focus can be highly affected by our emotions. If we’re worried, stressed or depressed it can be very hard to keep our mind on task.

The thing is most of our thoughts are irrational. If you get lost in the present or past, you’re letting your perception of events affect your emotions, not reality. Writing is how you can get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can see how irrational they really are.  If you can get it out of your head, it won’t be there to distract you.

5. Exercise to focus on your body and increase dopamine levels


Exercising, if you’re fully focused on what you’re doing, is a form of “moving meditation” and will help you build your focus muscle. You have the option to take steroid pills at as well if you want an immediate body enhancement effect.

Exercising also releases dopamine which is a neurotransmitter associated with concentration. Concentration occurs when the brain’s prefrontal cortex is awash in dopamine.

Improving my mind is actually the primary reason I run.

6. Eat food that slowly releases energy and use coffee sparingly


Sensing a theme here? Focus is very much about making sure your mind and body are properly cared for. Your brain controls your ability to focus so make sure it’s well fed.

Eat snacks that slowly release energy throughout the day, instead of things that quickly release a lot of energy. Nuts, some fruits (berries, melons, cherries, apples, plums and pears), quinoa, oatmeal and some vegetables (spinach, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, onions and asparagus) are all good for slowly releasing energy throughout the day. Fruit juices are all quick release.

Coffee can provide a short burst of focus so if you need to power through something, it can help. But you don’t want to become reliant on it every time you need to focus. That means you’re not actually strengthening your focus muscle.

7. Use clutter for creativity, not focus


Scientists have found that clutter negatively affects your brains ability to focus. That said, if you need to be creative, it’s also been found that having a messy desk can help with the creative process.

8. Control your environment

Photo cred: Dima Mirkin

Your environment can be a really important factor in your ability to focus. As your focus muscle gets stronger, it will matter less. But make sure you go somewhere that helps you focus. If you’re struggling to focus, move.

Random or sudden noise is said to be distracting. But some noise (like music) can help you focus by tuning out distracting noises.

I like to listen to classical music when I really need to focus because it’s easy to keep on in the background without having to pay attention to words.


9. Pick your battles

Sometimes you’re in the zone and you can crank out a lot of work. When you’re feelin it, clear your schedule and rock out.

Sometimes you just can get into your rhythm. You feel your brain wandering, you try with all your might to stay focused but it just ain’t happening. That’s okay, you’re human. There’s no point in trying to be focused when your mind isn’t having it, you’ll just stress yourself out.

So get up out of your seat and take a walk to clear your mind. Just take a stroll around the block, or go talk with a friend about something other than work.

When you come back, you should have better perspective on your thoughts and be able to focus.


Your turn. What helps you focus?

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If you think being able to focus is pretty cool, share this post with your friends. They’ll see it because they’re probably being distracted on facebook as we speak (=


  • TonySheng

    All great tips, Spinks. Particularly love Pick Your Battles… a winning mindset shift I found was giving myself permission to 1) drop things and dive in when I felt a surge and 2) not stress when I wasn’t feeling the flow and consider doing less creative things.

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