By Marie Miguel
Staying focused can be difficult for anyone, but it’s particularly challenging when the task at hand is one you’d perhaps rather not be doing.
Keeping your mind on track to complete a task can be exhausting, and your attention span can feel incredibly fleeting, especially in the teenage years.
If you think you might have trouble with your ability to pay attention, you might find it useful to consider seeking the guidance of professional counselors like those over at BetterHelp. Many mental health conditions can influence focus, so it’s possible that your struggles are the result of something that may require specific, deliberate treatment.
Until then, consider these general tips and tricks for staying focused through your teen years.
What’s the Trouble?
If there is a particular task that you have an especially difficult time staying focused for, take note of that.
For example, is there a particular subject in school that you just cannot pay attention to? Is there an activity that gives you trouble?
Sometimes a lack of focus comes from a lack of understanding. When you don’t understand the benefit of the task at hand, or you don’t understand how it is supposed to turn out, it can be difficult to stay focused.
The more you understand what you’re doing, the more you might be able to hunker down and get it done.
If you’re having trouble in school with a particular subject or activity, consider asking a teacher or counselor for help. Asking for help can be scary, but it’s what these professionals are there for.
Dealing with Normal Distractions
Aside from a lack of understanding, sometimes a particular distraction can be the problem when it comes to paying attention.
In the teen years especially, social or personal drama can be a huge distraction. Whether you’re experiencing it in school or after school, getting wrapped up in teenage drama can pull your focus completely for a few reasons.
In some cases, you might just find it more interesting than the task at hand. That tends to be a priority or discipline issue.
In other cases, you might find yourself worrying about the drama. That’s totally normal as well. In those circumstances, you might try taking 5 minutes to write in a journal what your concerns are, and then go back to the task at hand.
When you give your worry a place to live, it tends not to nag you as much.
Even if drama, gossip, or other normal parts of teenage life aren’t on your mind, it’s helpful to have skills to turn to whenever you’re having a hard time keeping your mind engaged.
Tips For Staying Focused
Utilize these tips whereve you see fit. Some tips will be easier to implement in the classroom, some on the field, and some at home.
Don’t be afraid to try them all and do what works best for you!
- Limit screen use: When you’re trying to complete a task, it’s likely that you have to use a device to do so. If you frequently work from your laptop, it can be tempting to pull up other tabs, surf the web, check social media, or message friends. Put your phone and your computer on “do not disturb” and try to keep your screens limited to the necessary information needed to complete the task. Likewise, try to stay off your phone in between tasks. It can rope you in very quickly and suddenly you’ve lost an hour of your time to your cell phone.
- Set up break times: To ease the mind, make sure to establish specific break times. They can be value based or time based. For example, if you’re writing an essay, you can decide to give yourself a break every 300 words, or you can decide to give yourself a break every 30 minutes. A break only needs to be 5-10 minutes long, but it will help keep you on task knowing that you will get to stop temporarily at some point.
- Ask for help: If there’s something you really can’t figure out, don’t procrastinate. Ask a friend or parent for help. You’ll be able to get it done faster and won’t need to worry about it looming over you for the rest of the day.
No matter what, remember that you don’t have to manage these challenges alone. Trusted adults in your life, friends, and school professionals can all help you navigate your teen years, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of what resources are available to you.