8 Proven Tricks To Stay Focused And Improve Concentration
Do you ever feel like you are doing a lot of things at once, but you're not getting much accomplished?
With pervasive distractions like social media, smartphones, and never ending emails, it's far too easy to get pulled away from the task at hand.
By the end of the day, you have very little to show for the exhaustion you feel and the time you've put in.
How can you focus on just one thing when there are constant interruptions that feel equally pressing, interesting, or important?
Technology has streamlined and simplified many tasks, but it has also mushroomed into a time-suck that has an addictive quality by providing small “rewards” every time we engage.
It reinforces the sense that you'll miss out on something life-changing if you don't pay attention to several things at one time.
No wonder we feel stressed and overwhelmed, unable to concentrate long enough to complete a task or finish a project.
It takes self-control and willpower to manage all of the distractions that pull you away from what you should be doing. And it takes practice to strengthen your “focus muscle” so you don't feel agitated as you detach from these distractions.
Digital distractions won't spontaneously leave you alone. You have to be proactive in your efforts to minimize them and manage the mental clutter.
Once you set the stage for better concentration and focus, there are some skills you can employ to help clear your mind and zero in on the task at hand.
Here are 8 proven ways on how to focus and improve your concentration.
1. Choose Cardio Over Caffeine
If you don't know how to stay focused without drinking doubles lattes throughout the day, you are likely dependent on caffeine for motivation. Your brain can actually begin to require caffeine to be alert.
However, exercise is a healthier, more effective stimulant. Getting physical activity every day has been proven to sharpen focus because it helps release chemicals in the brain that affect your attention, learning, and memory.
Research shows that aerobic exercise in particular can help improve both immediate and long-term functioning in the parts of the brain that control our attention.
2. Wiggle Your Toes
Have you ever found yourself absentmindedly sitting in a meeting while your brain is focused on everything but the meeting?
The information overload we experience daily, with constant updates from our phones and computers, provides some sort of excitement or reward every few minutes to the extent that our brains have become trained to expect those rewards.
Without frequent stimulation, we start to look around for other things that will do the job.
So how are you supposed to stay focused on the task at hand when your brain is trolling for another shot of excitement?
To be more attentive, take a moment to stop and focus on your toes. This simple mindfulness trick will help you to instantly refocus on the present, which is where you are supposed to be.
This trick serves as a reset button for your brain, interrupting your mind-wandering so you can refocus on your priorities.
3. Find a Sound Environment That Works for You
Everyone responds to sound differently. While some people need silence to concentrate, others can focus better with the background noise of their favorite coffee house.
Some people listen to classical music, especially Baroque and Mozart, to boost their brain's ability to focus.
Figure out what background sounds work best for you, and make sure that your environment is conducive to that when you are trying to accomplish your tasks.
If you can't focus and concentrate when there is noise or music playing around you, consider getting some noise cancelling headphones to wear when you need to be productive.
You may believe that working under a time crunch improves your concentration for short periods of time because of the burst of adrenaline that you get by being under pressure.
However, relying on last-minute stress to get work done is actually damaging to your brain in the long term.
Chronic stress leads to anxiety, depression, poor decision-making skills, insomnia, and impaired memory. During these times, your body goes through biochemical changes that lead to the premature aging and shrinking of your brain.
The best way to improve concentration is to reduce stress and strengthen your brain's ability to focus, and a great way to do this is through meditation.
A meditation practice can also boost your mood, increase your intelligence, and make you more resilient to getting back on track if you do get interrupted.
If you are trying to learn how to stay focused during the times when it is most needed, commit to a daily meditation practice of fifteen to thirty minutes to help de-stress and recenter your brain.
5. Drink Black Tea
Rather than reaching for the coffee at 2:00 pm when you feel tired and distracted, choose black tea to help you regain focus.
Studies have reported that the theanine content, which is an amino acid found only in tea, can help give you laser focus.
Theanine helps to increase relaxation and feelings of calm. It works with caffeine to synchronize brain activity related to information processing and attention.
Compared to coffee, tea gives you more consistent alertness for the duration of the day, even when it has the same amount of caffeine.
Other teas such as green tea and matcha also contain theanine, but studies indicate that black tea contains the most of this amino acid.
6. Get Outside
If you are feeling tired, distracted, and unable to focus, spending some time out in nature can restore your attention span and reduce mental fatigue.
Nature has a huge impact on attention, and “green time” has been a recommended treatment for children who are suffering from ADHD.
Studies even suggest that looking at trees, flowers, grass, and greenery from your office window can help give your ability to focus a huge boost.
If you are not able to get a view of nature from your workspace, buy some potted plants and put them in your office. Plants have been proven to boost motivation and productivity, as well as add some office morale.
7. Practice Pomodoro
The Pomodoro Technique is a system for improving your productivity and focus by breaking down your work efforts into short, timed intervals.
It was invented by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo who named the system after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work.
This method is a cyclical system in which you work in short sprints , ensuring you're consistently productive. You take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.
Here's how to use it:
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the timer rings.
- Take a short break (of about five minutes).
- After every four timed sessions, take a longer break of fifteen to twenty minutes.
8. Keep Work at Work
Are the lines between work and home often blurred?
In order to stay focused on what you are doing, make a habit out of designating your home to only personal tasks, while your office can be set aside for strictly work-related activities.
This will help train your brain to focus on what it needs to depending on the surroundings.
You will get used to only thinking about professional tasks when you are in your office and giving yourself a bit of a break when you are at home with your family.
Getting focused on improving your focus and concentration will take a bit of effort and commitment. By practicing these methods, you can set yourself up for improved productivity and success.
Life will only get more complicated and overwhelming as technology continues to overwhelm us. You must be in charge of what you allow to occupy your time and mental energy.
Protect yourself and create the environment and mindset for accomplishment — rather than allowing distractions to manage your life.