15 Ways to Improve Concentration
It’s not always easy to focus when there are so much things to do and so many distractions! Here are 15 ways to help improve concentration.
1. Eat Well
Good nourishment is good for your overall wellbeing and your brain. Avoid skipping meals and take the time to savour your food. Also, hydrate and limit or avoid alcohol intake.
2. Exercise Regularly
The benefits of physical activity are endless. It improves quality of life by gazillions. You get more energy, you feel more relaxed, you have better mood, better sleep, better digestion, better posture and balance, you have stronger muscles and bones, you dramatically lower stress and anxiety levels, as well as risks of high blood pressure, high (bad) cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, falls and injuries, depression, and even types cancer such as colon, breast, uterine and lung cancer. And, of course, physical exercise improves your concentration as it sharpens thinking and learning skills. 20 minutes a day of stretching, cardio and muscular endurance exercises, and you will feel refreshed, invigorated and ready for the day ahead!
3. Get A Good Night Sleep
Try going to bed at reasonable hours and keep a regular sleep schedule. Make sure your caffeine intake (found in coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate) are not too late in the day as it could disturb your sleep. Keep a comfortable temperature and low lighting before bedtime. Stay away from devices because the light and sound can make it difficult to fall asleep. Find ways to relax like reading or listening to soothing music.
4. Practise Mindfulness Every Day
Mindfulness is a form of meditative practise which aims to increase a sense of being in the present moment. It is also a state of mind which can help control emotions, mental distractions and focus on the here and now. Many studies have shown how mindful meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety, and also improve attention and memory. An example from Harvard Medical School here. How to practise mindfulness? According to Mindful.org, start with 5 minutes. Find a place to sit where it is comfortable and calm for you. Breathe, and notice your breath, your body, let your mind wander and return your attention to your breathing. Be kind to yourself and don’t judge.
5. Work In A Work Space
If you get easily distracted, if you work remotely or from home, having a work space conducive of work is essential. It should be a space without distractions but also one that makes you want to work. Invest in an ergonomic chair for better focus and posture. Have proper lighting. Purify the air and increase your creativity by getting live plants. They are also pleasant to look at! Have a few personal items, like a stress ball, or an inspiring poster, or a vibrant and colourful artwork.
6. What Do You Have To Get Done?
Whether it is about work, studying or errands, figuring out exactly what you need to do and planning your work accordingly can make you realize how manageable your workload actually is. It helps you visualize and prioritize your tasks. For some, the good old pen and paper is effective to write down the tasks one by one. Also, it is satisfying to cross one item off the to-do list once it’s done! Others might prefer their phones to plan their work, agendas, calendars or other effective applications.
7. Baby Steps
Break down your assignments into smaller steps to make them less daunting. Slow and steady wins the race!
8. Just Start
Pick one task and dive right into it. Think of nothing else but the task at hand.
9. Do It Non-Stop For 5 Minutes
As you are about to start, tell yourself that you’ll do the task for just five minutes. By the time you think of looking at the time, you will already have spent more than five minutes completely absorbed by what you were doing! Keep going!
10. One At A Time
If you want concentration to get easier, it is better to do one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth, especially when your tasks require a lot of mental power. According to the American Psychological Association, switching between tasks is taxing on the brain, prone to considerable productivity loss and more error. It takes more time for the brain to adjust itself to get back to a task and competes with the carry-over of the mental ‘control settings’ from the other task.
11. Take A Break
Sometimes, getting work done in one sitting is not realistic. Have a banana. Share a few laughs with your coworkers (with proper social distancing, of course). Stretch your legs and arms. Shut your eyes and take a deep breath for a few seconds. Go out for some fresh air. Do a little dance with upbeat music.
12. Have A Messy Desk
As this article shows, if you have a messy desk, you might be a genius, a risk-taker or have a creative mind! While being untidy might spark some valuable insights, a clean and organized work station could also help to declutter your mind and allow more focus, up to you!
13. Pat Yourself On The Back
Stop for a moment and take stock at what you have accomplished since you started. Feel good about your progress! It will encourage you to keep going.
14. Understand And Manage Your Stress
It might be difficult to accept, but stress is part of life, and it can be a good and a bad thing. Stress also varies from one person to another. Learn to identify stressful situations (is it something new, unpredictable, threatening, or something out of your control? think NUTS) and how your body reacts to them. When all else fails, remember to take deep breaths and stretch.
15. Do It More
The more we do, the easier it gets! We can train ourselves to concentrate on any particular task more often and for longer periods of time with practice and consistency.
Shirley is a Vacation Tracker occasional contributor. She’s held a few positions in communications, marketing and copywriting. When she’s not at her laptop, you can find her daydreaming about her laptop and chasing the sun while people watching.