This Is What You Really Need to Focus

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It's not even that your deadlines are bearing down on you, although that may be the case. It's that everything is always happening at once, and there's nowhere to go to escape it. Working from home during a global pandemic, possible financial collapse, presidential election, and any number of other stressful realities is just too much for our brains to handle all of the time. Your boss still expects your productivity, though, much like your family still expects food on the table.

The New York Times' Caren Osten Gerszberg has collected some wisdom from attention experts to help us get through this hump. First, it's important to set expectations: Things are harder and weirder and worse, and even if you hold yourself to high standards, it's important to acknowledge what you're up against. After that, give yourself structure and set boundaries. You're already competing with a brain that itself wanders nearly half the time (there's research to back that up). If you can "create a situation where it's just harder to be distracted," as Grit author Angela Duckworth puts it, you're on the right track.

Turn off notifications, use software to block social media during set times, and set timers that constrain your tasks to discrete periods and easily conquered blocks. If you live with kids, a partner, or roommates, set up a system that visually marks that you're not to be disturbed (expert Nir Eyal wears a funny hat). Finally, give yourself real breaks. It's hardest of all to focus if you're totally burned out.