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6 Ways to Improve Your Focus: NPR

Too Much Focusing Is Draining. Here's A Better Strategy

Getting and staying focused can be a challenge in the best of times. But with everything going on in the world, concentrating can often feel down-right impossible.

Testament to that challenge is the burgeoning self-help industry bursting with books, blogs, videos and TED Talks on the topic. There's even a site called Caveday where the focus-challenged gather together on Zoom — computer cameras switched on for accountability, all other technology put away — for deep-focus work sessions. Among other things, it requires that participants "monotask," because multitasking distracts our brains and prevents us from entering true focus and flow.

What happens instead when we try to multitask, says Gloria Mark, Ph.D., is that our brains switch among tasks, requiring more brain fuel than staying with one task at a time.

"Every activity we do uses a different set of cognitive resources," says Mark, an informatics professor at the University of California, Irvine. "If I do email, I'm using one set of cognitive resources. If I'm reading a report, I'm using a different set of resources. "

The more tasks you try to do at any given time, the more cognitive energy you burn.


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