How many times have you tried working, but can’t finish anything because of your wandering thoughts? Despite all the effort, you don’t seem to progress. This frustrating situation, no matter how motivated you are, happens because you can’t concentrate effectively.
Concentration refers to the mental effort you give to whatever task you are working on at the moment. There are many factors that can affect your ability to concentrate. It could be due to distractions around you. Because of technology, distractions are just a click away. Research says that seeing your phone already affects your concentration. It could also be due to lack of sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to lower alertness and slower thought processing. It could also be the environment you are working in. If there is too much noise and clutter, it can affect your ability to focus on the task at hand.
There are many ways to harness your brain at its best and improve your mental focus. We’ve listed some tactics you can implement to help improve your concentration.
- Eliminate all distractions. How well do you focus if every minute you are checking your phone? Studies say that cognitive capacity is better when your phone is out of sight. There are multiple distractions that can prevent you from fully concentrating. One way to deal with this is to set a time and place to be left alone. You can also seek a place where you are unlikely to be disturbed. It can be the library, a coffee shop, or a private room in your house.
- Train your brain. According to research, problem-solving exercises, puzzles, crosswords, chess, and brain-stimulating video games help to develop your memory and focus. Another way to train your brain is through memorization. Memorization not only increases your skill sets, it can help you stay focused on a task because you are used to working out your brain.
- Get more sleep. Sleep deprivation does not just affect your concentration, it can also lead to problems with your cognitive function and memory. Lack of sleep affects your ability to focus and pay attention, leaving you easily confused. This also affects any tasks that require logical or complex thinking. The recommended amount of sleep needed to function normally is 7-9 hours. However, people with demanding tasks or health issues may find it difficult to get the recommended sleeping time, but try to get as much sleep as possible.
- Practice Mindfulness and Meditation. Meditating and practicing mindfulness can offer many benefits. It can improve your focus, strengthen your well-being and mental fitness. In meditation, we focus on reconnecting with our breath to achieve a calm mind. With continuous practice, we can use our breath to bring our attention back to our task. By meditating, our body becomes more relaxed and our brain is calmer. There are other ways meditation can help your productivity. See here: Ways Meditation Improves Productivity
- Limit your focus. While we feel that we are more accomplished by doing multiple tasks at once, multitasking actually limits our focus and decreases productivity. When we do multiple things at the same time, we are moving our focus from one thing to another. This can be tiring and we lose energy in the process. Yes, it may seem like we are doing a lot, but it can interfere with completing tasks successfully, since it does not allow us to focus on one task long and intently enough.
- Exercise. Regular exercise releases chemicals that are key to improving your memory and concentration. Exercise can boost the brain's dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. Exercise relaxes the muscles and relieves the tension in the body. And since the body and mind are linked, when the body is relaxed, your mind is too.
- Work when you are most productive. If the task is not urgent, it is best to work on it at a time when you feel more productive. Some people work at best in the morning, some at night, and some after lunch. It is best to know what time you are most alert. Learn to work with your body’s natural biorhythm. Take note of the times when you are at your peak productivity and work on important tasks during these times.
- Take a break. Have you tried working on a task for a long time, then after a while, your concentration and focus start to drop? Even if you try to keep your mind on the task, you can’t seem to make progress. According to psychology, it is due to attention resources being depleted. Next time it happens, take a short mental break. You can take a quick walk, or have some refreshments and once you’re back, you can concentrate on the task more efficiently.
Improving your concentration and focus does not happen overnight. It takes time, just like mastering a new skill set. The first step to strengthen your concentration is to check how it affects your life. If you feel like you can’t finish anything, are constantly distracted, or are not moving forward toward your aspirations, then it is time to improve your concentration so you can focus on things that matter the most.