We’ve all been there: sitting at your desk with an urgent deadline and a wandering mind. Despite your best efforts, things are not progressing. You need to focus on the task in front of you. You’re motivated to do it. But you just can't concentrate.
In this digital world, we are easily distracted. Information is everywhere and we feel the need to deal with increasing and multiple forms of information. It drags on our time and our attention.
The inability to concentrate on the task at hand is one of the maladies of our time--everyone wants to know how to focus better, how to concentrate. Yet, the benefits of improving concentration and focus make it an issue worth addressing.
15 Ways to improve your concentration
What can help you to focus better? There’s no one answer for how to improve focus, but the following tips can help.
Eliminate distractions. How do we focus better if we are always bombarded with information? Make a practice to block time in your schedule to do a specific task or activity. During this time, request that you be left alone or go to a place where others are unlikely to disturb you: a library, a coffee shop, a private room.
Close social media and other apps, silence notifications, and keep your phone hidden from sight in a bag or backpack. As described in HBR, researchers found that cognitive capacity was significantly better when the phone was out of sight, not just turned off. Keep Your primary focus is to complete what you need to do. Shutting off both internal and external disturbances can help you to concentrate.
Reduce multitasking. Attempting to perform multiple activities at the same time makes us feel productive. It’s also a recipe for lower focus, poor concentration, and lower productivity. And lower productivity can lead to burnout. Examples of multitasking include listening to a podcast while responding to an email or talking to someone over the phone while writing your report. Such multitasking not only hampers your ability to focus but compromises your work quality.
Practice mindfulness and meditation. Meditating or practicing mindfulness activities can strengthen well-being and mental fitness and improve focus. During the meditation process, our brain becomes calmer and our whole body becomes more relaxed. We focus on our breath during the process so that we will not be distracted by our minds. With practice, we can learn to use our breath to bring our attention back to a particular task so that it can be done well even if we get interrupted.
Get more sleep. Many factors affect your sleep. One of the most common is reading from an electronic device like a computer, phone, or tablet or watching your favorite movie or TV show on an LED TV just before bedtime. Research has shown that such devices emit light towards the blue end of the spectrum. Such light will stimulate your eye retina and prevent the secretion of melatonin that promotes sleep anticipation in the brain. Use a filter or "blue light" glasses to minimize such blue light or avoid all electronic devices before bed. Other ways to improve sleep include avoiding exercise late in the day, staying hydrated throughout the day, using journaling or breathing exercises to quiet the mind, and creating a predictable bedtime routine and schedule.
Choose to focus on the moment. It might feel counterintuitive when you feel unable to concentrate, but remember that you choose where you focus. It's tough to concentrate when your mind is always in the past and worrying about the future. While it isn’t easy, make an effort to let go of past events. Acknowledge the impact, what you felt, and what you learned from it, then let it go. Similarly, acknowledge your concerns about the future, consider how you are experiencing that anxiety in your body, then choose to let it go. We want to train our mental resources to focus on the details of what matters at the moment. Our minds go in the direction we choose to focus.
Take a short break. This also might seem counterintuitive, but when you focus on something for a long time, your focus may begin to die down. You may feel more and more difficulty devoting your attention to the task.
Researchers have found that our brains tend to ignore sources of constant stimulation. Taking very small breaks by refocusing your attention elsewhere can dramatically improve mental concentration after that. The next time you are working on a project, take a break when you begin to feel stuck. Move around, talk to someone, or even switch to a different type of task. You will come back with a more focused mind to keep your performance high.
Connect with nature. Research has found that even having plants in office spaces can help increase concentration and productivity, as well as workplace satisfaction and better air quality. Finding time to take a walk in the park or appreciating the plants or flowers in your garden can boost your concentration and help you feel refreshed.
Train your brain. Scientific research is starting to amass evidence on the ability of brain training activities to enhance cognitive abilities, including concentration, in adults. Such brain training games can also help you develop your working and short-term memory, as well as your processing and problem-solving skills. Examples of such games include jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, chess, and brain-stimulating video games.
Exercise. Start your day with simple exercise and get your body moving. According to the May 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch, regular exercise releases chemicals key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness. Other research found that exercise can boost the brain's dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels and all these will affect focus and attention. Individuals who do some form of exercise or sports perform better on cognitive tasks when compared with those who have poor physical health. Physical movement helps relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
Listen to music. Music has been shown to have therapeutic effects on our brains. Light music may help you to concentrate better, but some music may distract you. Experts generally agree that classical music and nature sounds, such as water flowing, are good choices for concentration while music with lyrics and human voices may be distracting. Multiple apps and services offer background music and soundscapes designed for different types of focus and work needs.
Tarikh Input: 31/01/2022 | Kemaskini: 04/10/2022 | aslamiah
Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang ,Selangor