Everyone wishes they could develop a sharp focus and do their daily tasks with minimum interruption. There are plenty of practical benefits of good concentration, with the baseline being that you can get your goals done.
It becomes hard to focus on your daily work in a world full of distractions from electronic gadgets, social media, and events around you. When you add the mental turmoil most people experience, you have a considerable challenge meeting your objectives and life goals.
Concentration vs. Focus
Having concentration vs. focus seems to imply they are against each other, but they are not. Concentration and focus are related and, when used to refer to mental activity, are often interchanged. Yet, they are not entirely the same. Focus can serve as both a noun and a verb in this regard. As a noun, it refers to a center of activity or interest or close attention. As a verb, it simply implies paying attention to an object or subject.
Concentration, on the other hand, is only a noun, and when referring to the mental process, it is simply maintaining your focus on something. So, they are interdependent in the accomplishing of tasks. Focus directs your attention to the specific work, while concentration maintains your focus on the work. So, for you to execute the task, you need both. If your focus keeps shifting, it implies you are struggling with your concentration.
Concentration psychology looks at the way your brain maintains concentration along with factors that impede concentration. Concentration is an ability that allows you to allocate your mental resources to one subject, object, or thought. It also involves an exclusion aspect since while focusing on one thing, you are also tuning out everything else. It also contains an element of control since you must control your attention, fixing it on the task at hand until it is finished or for the intended period.
Concentration not only applies to your tasks but also in everyday activities when you do not realize concentration is at play. For example, when watching an engrossing movie or reading a captivating book. The same happens when playing your favorite games. These activities make you oblivious to anything else, and that is how concentration works. They also show that extended concentration is possible.
The challenge is having the same concentration level on things that are not necessarily equally interesting, like work. You can build your conscious concentration ability by tracing your source of distractions or why you are procrastinating. Often, lack of concentration can be a symptom of lack of motivation, poor planning, or perceptions about the task. In unfortunate circumstances, it can be from a health condition.
Fortunately, unless it is in the latter case, you can build your ability to control your attention. Without exercising conscious control of attention, your life breaks apart, and it can be equally exhausting.
How to Improve Concentration
Your strategy to improve your concentration should concentrate on three main areas. These are; environment, nutrition, and your mindset. Here is how to improve concentration by working around these three areas.
The environment has a significant impact on your comfort, which in turn affects how long you will stay there and concentrate on the task at hand.
1. Ensure you are comfortable
Your chair should be comfy and at the right height with your table. You do not want to keep fidgeting or pace strains on your body while working. The lighting should be comfortable to your eyes. Finally, get every resource you will need to avoid keeping moving around. Avoid noisy areas, but you can have background music to serve as white noise if necessary and works for you.
2. Use natural décor
A couple of studies have shown that viewing a natural scene can help you improve your concentration. Decorate your office or work area with pictures of wildlife and landscapes as well as potted plants. They will help settle your mind and improve your focus.
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3. Remove distractions
An essential part of setting up your environment is controlling distractions. You know beforehand items and things that usually take your mind away from your task. Things like your phone, television and radio, magazines, games, outside noise, and even people’s company are distractions.
If it is necessary, you can even disconnect from the internet if you are using your computer. Make it extra hard to get to your common distractions. You can also use white noise apps to filter out internal and external noise.
Your diet plays a crucial role in how well you can concentrate. Eat foods that boost your brain’s health and function. These include eggs, fatty fish, blueberries, spinach, and other brain-friendly foods.
Start your day off with a healthy breakfast that will sustain you through most of the day without leaving you feeling lethargic. You can also have healthy snacks like almonds and fresh fruit on your desk to power you up when you feel down.
On the other hand, you want to avoid processed foods, sugars, and very greasy or fatty foods. Taking too much sugar will lead to sugar crashes which affect your concentration besides your general body health.
You can also consider taking caffeine should you find your concentration dropping. Studies show that you can improve concentration by taking a cup of coffee or green tea. You can also opt for a serving of dark chocolate if coffee gets you on edge.
Finally, you should stay hydrated throughout the day. If your brain suffers from dehydration, it will not deliver an optimum performance while affecting your concentration. Dehydration also affects your moods, leaving you irritable, and you also experience weariness.
Your mindset as you approach the tasks is essential. First, you should appreciate their importance in the long run. You also must recognize the importance of doing the task at present. It is why it is vital to prioritize before starting your day. Train your mind by prioritizing a list of tasks for the next day before you sleep.
It will help in getting your mind to become an ally and be motivated to finish the tasks. Connect the tasks with positive feelings by imagining in your mind what a successful time would constitute for the next day.
Practice mindfulness which is being in the present moment. It allows you to focus on your present tasks and avoid your mind wandering to other thoughts or be distracted by other tasks. You can practice mindfulness regularly to build your ability to control your attention on one thing for a more extended period.
Ensure you get enough sleep daily, aiming for 8 hours a day and 150 hours every week. Good sleep allows your brain to recharge and internalize your goals from the subconscious mind. You also get enough time to relax, and you wake up fresh ready to spend more hours in concentration without burnout.
Stretch techniques like yoga also help with your mindset, helping you to stretch and remove body stiffness which can be a major distraction. More importantly, though, it allows you to be comfortable with quiet time, and you learn to control your thoughts without getting carried away by them. Yoga is also useful to build up your mindfulness. (Read more: Yoga Meditation for Beginners)
Your brain is a muscle, and like your other body muscles, you can train it to perform in the manner you want. Concentration exercises allow you to establish this control, building it a day at a time until you can focus for longer on a single object or activity. You will need a private place you can practice without any distractions.
Start with one exercise every week and move to the next one only when you can spend ten minutes or more on the preceding one without fail. Herein are some exercises to start on
- Count words in a page of a book. Pick any book and count the words of any paragraph and then count backward to be sure you have the right number. Move to two paragraphs and then the whole page. The counting should be mental and without any breaks or interruption.
- Count mentally from 100 backward to one without stopping.
- Do number two only this time skip every three numbers so 100, 97, 94, etc.
- Pick a motivating word or soothing sound and repeat it quietly in your mind for five minutes without breaking concentration. Once you master this, you can move to ten minutes.
- Take any fruit and hold it in your hands. Focus on it entirely without any irrelevant thoughts, just the fruit, its shape, taste, and smell, and the sensation it gives you.
- You repeat the above exercise, but this time you visualize the fruit in your mind. You can start by holding it for two minutes and the next three mentally visualizing it as if you were holding it.
- Find a simple item and hold it, focusing on it without having any words and thoughts in your mind regarding it or anything else.
- Once you can perform the above exercises proficiently, take a piece of paper and draw any shape about three inches in size. Color the shape and then focus on it and nothing else while having no unrelated thoughts or distractions.
- Using the shape in number 8, visualize it in your mind with your eyes closed. Once you can do this uninterrupted, proceed to visualize it with your eyes open.
- The final exercise will be possible if you have completed the ones above successfully. Try for at least five minutes to stay without any thoughts in your mind.
Tips for Better Focus and Concentration
Handle complex work when you are most alert
As the concentration psychology section correctly points out, your brain state affects your concentration significantly. Therefore, it is easier to concentrate on the hard tasks when you are still fresh. According to the Pareto Principle, this approach also leads to high productivity and allows you to get more from your time. Therefore, use this time when you can easily concentrate.
Take short breaks
Use the Pomodoro Technique, which requires you to split your work hours with short breaks in between. You have short periods where you focus intensely on the task at hand and set a timer for breaks. You can start with five minutes of work and two minutes of break or 25 minutes of work and five minutes break. Keep adding five minutes of work daily until you can work 45 minutes straight and then take 15 minutes break.
Make the difficult tasks more appealing by rewarding yourself once you have finished them. The reward can be a snack, a walk, a simple game, or a video clip.
Train your brain
Cognitive training using concentration exercises above or games like chess and video games effectively boost your focus and concentration. They also promote your general brain health.
A healthy lifestyle leads to a healthy brain. Eat right, exercise a lot, and hydrate and your brain will handle rigorous mental tasks for longer. It is also essential you get enough rest and sleep between projects.
Spend time in nature
Spending time in the wild and with nature is not only relaxing but will boost your concentration too. Try to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes daily walking in the garden, parks, or anywhere else with nature.
Create a distraction to-do list
This hack will help you control those urges to digress from what you are doing presently. Whenever you feel the urge to check on social media, make a call to a friend, search for something online, etc., write it down for doing later after the task. In doing so, you satisfy the thought instead of wrestling it, and more importantly, you are not taken from your current work. It usually takes about 25 minutes for someone to resume their work after such a distraction.
Read long articles and books.
Thanks to technology, there has been an increase in the amount of online content read. However, fewer people are reading these articles to the end. Also, fewer people are reading books in adapting a Too Long, Didn’t Read attitude. This state affects your focus and concentration ability. Try reading books and long-form articles regularly to improve your concentration.
Concentration and focus are vital for your success in everything you do in life. If you lack control of your attention, it leads to despair and plenty of frustrations. With concentration exercises and improvements to your mindset, work environment, and mindset, you can gain this control. It is a gradual process, but you will see results each week you put in the work.
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