Type “how to focus” into a search bar you’ll get well over a billion results; strongly indicating that there are a lot of people who are looking for help concentrating and focusing on work, school, or whatever the task at hand may be. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we had gotten a jump on this problem?
It’s never too late. You can start improving your time management, focus and overall potential today by learning to improve your real-world and digital habits. Children, of course, naturally pick-up skills much faster and teaching kids to implement better productivity and time management in their everyday lives will yield huge rewards down the road.
Step one is to take control of your screen time and remove distractions. Among the simplest ways to do this is by downloading an app that blocks websites and apps from your life at times you need to stay focused and productive.
No need to worry about self-control! -The app does it for you. These days, too many kids have smartphones or tablets, so seek out the best stay focused app that allows you to – at the click of a button – decide how to control your child’s time. An added benefit is that most productivity apps also block adult content, an extra layer of protection.
Step two is to start teaching children to do one thing at a time. By tackling one mission at a time, a child can learn to focus on a target, complete it, and then move on. Coupled with the “doing one thing at a time rule” is to break apart problems. An assignment from school or even cleaning a room may seem overwhelming or insurmountable.
But, if it is separated into individual parts, it suddenly becomes manageable. For example: first gather your clothes, then move on to toys…after the toys, vacuum the floor, etc.
Teaching children to list their goals in a “to-do list” style can’t start early enough. If a child is getting ready for a study session or homework assignment, first create an outline or guide for how they intend to approach the work. Like many adults, children need to develop self-control and it’s not human nature to accept that you gotta do what you gotta do…rather than simply what you want to do.
Children also need to work on strengthening their working memory; the short-term information that they need to remember in order to be able to complete a list of tasks. If your child is more of a rambunctious, creative wildling, they are unlikely to suddenly reincarnate themselves as some Zen Master of concentration.
Parents, teachers and guardians can, however, promote the idea of practicing focusing on single activities. And the key word in that sentence is “practice.” No skill comes without practice. As the well-worn, yet true adage goes: practice makes perfect.
Find games and activities that are actually fun and specially designed to improve a child’s focus – things like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, or even the all-time favorite, ‘Uno,’ which for very young children could help them focus on specific colors, numbers and patterns.
Remember that frustrating game your parents might have tried on you? – “Let’s see who can stay quiet the longest? Or, “let’s see who can sit still for the longest?” Playing what some people call “statue,” challenges a kid’s brain to stop and focus on not moving; which is a rudimentary requirement for concentration.
Block out distractions! Adults set the environment for children and too many parents or caregivers do things that are, to put it bluntly, stupid. The TV is on, while someone talks on a cell phone – plus the dog is yapping. How on earth is a kid supposed to concentrate in such an environment? Some parents go as far as creating “quiet rooms” that include using soft instrumental music and lighting for the perfect study mood.
But if you’re not interested in going that far, simply bear in mind that removing distractions is a no-brainer. Turn off devices – the best way is by blocking them with an app – and make any learning environment as calm and focus-friendly as possible.
Finally, there is meditation. Now, there will be some out there who are shaking their heads and mumbling about ‘New Age gobble-gook,’ but this is simply the idea of teaching them to close their eyes for, say two or three minutes, breathe deeply and relax.
By starting this practice early, by the time they reach adulthood they could have developed some of the skills that are collectively termed “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is a booming trend. (The mindfulness app “Calm” is now worth several billion US dollars, and it has dozens of competitors.)
Large corporations are of late beginning to focus more on employees’ mental health, and noting that short meditation exercises or the practice some sort of “mindfulness” is beneficial to employees and the firm’s bottom line.
In summary, it’s never too early to start training your child to begin learning to focus. Even toddlers can begin the long journey towards learning to concentrate. And it’s a good bet you will learn a whole lot about concentration and focus yourself as you train your little ones.