Let’s set the scene: You pull into the parking garage at work, only to realize it’s Saturday and you meant to go to the mall – and you made the drive without even thinking. It’s not unusual to zone out. A study at Harvard University found that when your mind’s at rest – or you’re doing something you do all the time - the part of the brain responsible for daydreaming is highly active. It is possible to filter out distractions, and boost your focus. Here’s how, courtesy of Prevention magazine.
- The first issue: You can’t concentrate at work. Studies show that our minds wander 30% of the time, even during crucial tasks. Especially if we’re bored, stressed, or tired. The fix: “Out of sight, out of mind!” Choose your top priority – and clear all other projects off your desk and computer screen. Go easy on your cube décor. Even family photos can trigger worries. When your mind wanders, take a walk outside, or down the hall. Bottom line: If you don’t take regular breaks, your brain will take them for you.
- Another zone-out issue: Driving on autopilot. You’re headed home – but your mind is elsewhere, and you’re not paying attention to the road. It’s dangerous, because it drastically reduces your reaction time and when you think about the same things during every commute – say, your day’s workload, or your lunchtime errands - your brain begins to associate the car with zoning out. The fix: Put something “out of place”. A colored string tied to your steering wheel, or a new dashboard sticker will help keep your brain focused on the here and now.
- One final zone-out issue: You keep re-reading the same passage in a book. It’s so common it’s actually got a name: “Mindless reading.” In fact, 20% of the time, your eyes move across the page, but you’re not absorbing the text. The fix: Mentally recap the plot points. Which will also improve your comprehension. You can also try reading backwards for awhile. Studies show that putting small packets of information in a different order helps you focus and absorb it better. There’s another reason you could be zoning out on your book: It’s boring! So, try reading something else.