Are you facing difficulties in studying for an important exam?
Do you find yourself unable to focus on the task at hand?
Do you wish you could increase your ability to focus?
But, how to improve focus and concentration?
The ability to concentrate and focus on a particular task and to direct your mental efforts towards it is critical for learning new things. To achieve your goals, and to progress in your life the ability to concentrate is paramount. Whether you are trying to study for an exam. Or, you are competing in a marathon, your ability to focus on the task can be the difference between success and failure. So, how to improve focus and increase productivity?
Concentration refers to the mental effort that you direct towards a specific task. It is the most precious resource that we can leverage to actually get things done. The ability to focus is undoubtedly essential in your life. Without being able to focus, you can never achieve what you initially intended to. However, remaining focused on a particular task is what is required to complete your work and achieve your goals.
You live in a world full of distractions. Here everything demands, rather compete with one another to gain your attention. Your brain can not deal with all these distractions all alone. Instead, you end up losing focus on the task at hand. Therefore, you need to be a master of your brain. It is easier said than done though. However, improving your mental focus is achievable but it requires your constant effort and a change in your daily habits. Here are some tips from psychology that will help you develop exceptional mental focus and concentration.
1. Organize your day’s task
The first thing you need to do is to plan and visualize the tasks you want to complete in a day. The first thing that you should do when you wake up is to make a to-do list. This list should include all the tasks that you want to achieve on that day. This will help you take control of your day. Once everything is laid out, you can easily focus on each task and you can complete them easily.
Planning and organizing your day will boost your focus. You will concentrate on the task that needs to be done at that particular time. Rather than focusing on multiple tasks because you didn’t schedule them beforehand. Making a schedule will add structure to your day. This way your mind will be able to focus much more.
Organizing your day’s tasks and visualizing them will help you improve your attention span. You will be able to focus on each individual task. If you truly think about your day’s success, your subconscious will do everything it can to turn it into reality. With such practice, you will definitely improve your focus.
2. Find your peak hours to improve your focus
You may have noticed that you work at your maximum at certain times of the day. However, there are times when you are not able to do anything. There are certain hours in your day where your activity is at the peak. You achieve what you intended to much more easily than if you were to perform them at another time of the day. You need to find your peak hours i.e the time of the day where you are the most productive.
Some people are early birds, they get the most done in the mornings. While others tend to be night owls. They get their creative burst of energy in the evenings. Think about when you work best and schedule your day accordingly.
Figure out your energy levels throughout the day. Pay attention to your concentration pattern, focus, energy levels, motivation, and mood while you are working at different times of the day. Once you figure out your peak hours, you need to do your tasks according to them because they directly affect your focus and concentration.
3. Train your brain
Studies have shown that spending 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, on brain training activities has a big impact on your focus and concentration. Playing certain types of games can help you improve your focus. Jigsaw puzzles, video games, and even coloring in a coloring book can help you get better at concentrating.
Research has shown that doing jigsaw puzzles recruit multiple cognitive abilities. It is a protective factor for visuospatial cognitive aging. Piecing together a jigsaw puzzle helps you to challenge and exercise your brain.
Some games that can help you improve your focus include:
Word searches or scramble
4. Get a good sleep to improve your focus
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your mental health. Sleep deprivation can easily disrupt concentration. Sleeplessness also affects other cognitive functions such as memory and attention. It is scientifically proven that sleep deprivation leads to lower mental alertness and concentration. It is more difficult to pay attention and so you tend to be easily confused.
To improve your focus you need to get up to 7-8 hours of sleep every night. To do that you need to set up some rules. Turn off the tv and your mobile phone an hour before going to bed. You can also read a book or listen to some soft music. A warm bath may also help. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, this will help create a routine and a sleep pattern.
Getting a good night’s sleep is primal for improving your focus. With the above simple steps, you are surely going to improve your sleep schedule. Good sleep will, in turn, improve your focus and concentration on the task that you are up to.
Related; How to Get Better Sleep at Night
5. Meditate daily
Meditation can have many benefits, one of which is to improve your focus. Daily meditation can calm your body, soothe your soul, and can reduce anxiety and stress. Moreover, it can help you improve your focus and concentration. It can fine-tune your memory and can increase your brain’s ability to process information.
Studies reveal that meditation improves your performance on visual tasks. It also states that people who regularly meditate were more focused and attentive during the task than those who did not meditate. Also, one study even suggested that meditation can even improve your brain power by dealing with mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and worrying. Along with that it also helps your mind stop wondering so often.
Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and spend 5-10 minutes meditating daily. It will build your ability to redirect and maintain attention. Moreover, you will have improved focus and attention span by practicing meditation daily.
6. Listen to music to improve focus
Listening to music can improve focus. But how does music help you focus? Music offers a lot of benefits. It improves your mood and increases motivation. It also improves your memory and brain stimulation. Moreover, music helps you deal with pain and fatigue. Certain types of music can improve concentration and alertness also. If you do not enjoy listening to music, try listening to sounds related to nature. You can also listen to white noises to cancel out any background sound to improve your concentration.
According to a 2007 study from the Stanford university school of medicine, music, classical music, especially can help your brain absorb new information and focus more. The researchers also found evidence to suggest that music can train your brain to pay better attention to events and predict the outcome. For example, while studying you are unable to make sense of new material. Listening to music could help you process this information easily
So, in conclusion, listening to slow instrumental music can improve your mood. It can help you tackle important tasks. It can improve your focus and concentration span. However, it is important to avoid music that you have strong feelings for since it can end up distracting you.
7. Take a break
Have you noticed that when you work for a longer period of time, you start to lose focus? It becomes quite difficult to focus on the same task throughout. Ultimately, your performance suffers a lot. It becomes quite difficult to devote your mental energy to the task. You start to feel anxious about the task that you are unable to complete.
A research from the University of Illinois came to the conclusion that participants who frequently took breaks, 2-3 minutes, during a 50-minute long activity performed better than those who worked the entire time. The study revolved around the phenomenon of ‘vigilance decrement’. In simpler words, it examined how a person loses concentration over time. It was evident that people who didn’t take any breaks were less efficient during the task. Therefore, frequent short breaks during work are necessary to reenergize your brain. You can perform much better than if you were to take no breaks in between a long project.
Taking a break from homework or work can increase your focus. The idea might seem counterintuitive but it actually works. Taking short breaks will relax and refresh focus. It reenergizes your brain and your memory. Ultimately, it will boost your brain.
8. Change your diet to improve focus
The food you eat affects your brain and your mental activity. It affects your cognitive functions like memory and concentration. A good diet will support good focus and concentration whereas a diet full of processed food and sugar will definitely have an impact on your mental activity in a negative way.
To boost your concentration you need to avoid processed foods. Too much sugar and fatty or greasy food. The human brain is made up of about 60 % of fat. Our brain needs a lot of good fat to function properly. So you need to avoid low-fat diets and increase the intake of good fat. Foods such as nuts, eggs, avocados, and coconut oil are a source of good fat that can boost your cognitive functions by many folds. Moreover, fatty fish such as thick salmon or trout, spinach, and blueberries are also foods that may help your brain run more smoothly.
Staying hydrated is also important to improve your focus. Even mild dehydration can affect your brain’s function. Eating breakfast is also very important in maintaining your brain’s activity. Skipping breakfast can affect your mental health quite strongly. So, having a good diet is primal in improving your focus.
Research also suggests that including caffeine in your diet can greatly improve your cognitive abilities. It stimulates your body’s nervous system to produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical mainly responsible for your ability to focus and maintain concentration. A serving of dark chocolate (70% of cacao or higher) has similar benefits.
9. Exercise regularly
To improve focus you need to start exercising. Start every morning with exercise. You do not need to go to the gym and spend 2 hours on strenuous workouts. Rather 20 minutes of mild exercise will help. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain and can help you develop a stronger focus throughout the day.
There are countless benefits of exercise. Improved focus and improved mental thinking are one of these. It can also improve your mood, decrease depression and anxiety. Additionally, it lowers feelings of stress. Regular exercise ultimately improves your thinking and concentration abilities.
A 2018 study on 116 5th graders shows evidence that daily physical activity could improve attention and concentration after just 4 weeks. Exercise is said to boost your memory and improve your thinking too. The direct effect comes from its tendency to taper inflammation and aid in insulin resistance. It also stimulates the release of growth hormones. While indirectly exercise improves your sleep cycle and mood. It reduces stress and anxiety saving you from any cognitive damage in the longer term.
Moreover, regular exercise not only helps in reducing symptoms of ADHD but also improves your concentration. Also, exercise helps in increasing your motivation, and energy along with improving your mood. Another research done on older adults suggests that just a year of moderate physical activity can stop or even reverse memory loss that occurs due to brain atrophy with age.
10. Avoid multitasking to improve focus
Multitasking is not good to improve your focus. Multitasking may seem a great way to get a lot done in a short period of time. But the reality is quite opposite to it. Multitasking cuts down on your productivity by a huge margin. It reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time.
So, can multitasking make you lose focus? Multitasking has been proven to be detrimental to your brain. Jumping from one task to another may give you a false sense of accomplishment. But, the reality is human brains are not build to multi-task. Your brain is actually dumbed down while multitasking.
Research at the University of London also indicates that multitasking affects your IQ more than compared to missing a night of sleep. Multitasking may seem to be beneficial in some situations. But, you should avoid it while doing important tasks. Give your full attention to the task at hand to improve your focus and the quality of your work.
11. Rule out any medical problem
You start to lose your focus mainly because of distractions around you. Stress and anxiety are other major factors of losing focus. However, it is also possible that you have an underlying medical problem that may be contributing to your concentration difficulties.
The most common medical problem that can cause you to lose focus is mental depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety affect your mood and emotional feelings. It can make it hard to focus, concentrate, learn and process new information. Another medical condition that can affect your focus and concentration is ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). It is characterized by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD affects both children and adults and causes a great deal of difficulty in concentration.
Some other medical conditions that can decrease your focus include cognitive dysfunction which affects concentration and memory. Concussion and other head injuries can also affect your concentration and attention span. Farsightedness and other vision problems can also cause problems with focus and attention. So you need to visit a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions that might be affecting your cognitive abilities.
12. Practice mindfulness
What exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a form of meditation. During mindfulness meditation, you focus intensely on your thoughts and feelings. But without interpreting or analyzing them. It helps you to achieve a state of alertness. You become focused and start to pay attention to your thoughts and sensations.
Mindfulness simply implies self-awareness. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain. Increased density of gray matter in the brain is responsible for the learning and memory process, emotional salience, the ability to take on different perspectives, and emotional regulation.
Mindfulness practice can be done at any time. While reading, take in the meaning of every word, or while taking a walk outside, notice your surroundings. Deep breathing exercises can also help you become mindful of your surroundings.
Building your focus is not something that will happen overnight. Take smaller initiatives and you will see yourself gradually progressing forward. Mastering your focus is not an easy task. Human brains are not evolved to cope with the massive number of distractions that you face in your daily lives. However, you can certainly improve your focus by making sure that you are properly fueling and stimulating your brain in the right direction. Eliminate any distractions that are hindering your path. By following the above simple and effective tips you are surely going to master your brain and increase your focus.