Welcome to how to Improve your Focus and Concentration!
It’s almost the end of the school week and you are yet to start the essay that’s due tomorrow. Feeling the pressure build up inside your head, you start stressing out about if you will be able to complete it in time or not. Deciding whether or not to ask the teacher for an extension for the fifth time this month, your brain tells you not to as you are imagining the disappointed look on your teacher’s face.
You have less than 24 hours to start, finish, and check a whole essay. As soon as you get home, you drop your backpack on the floor and hurry. You quickly make a cup of coffee and take out your laptop. However, even though you have everything you need to start, a fresh mind and an open document, you can’t think of anything to write and your mind is completely blank.
One hour later. It’s been a whole 60 minutes of your time, yet only a tiny part of the page is filled with words. You wrote one sentence, but that doesn’t even relate to the topic of your essay. Thinking caffeine will fix your situation, you gulp it down in seconds. But, the only effect is that you are more active and energetic, not more focused and concentrated. Your mind is still wandering, thinking of 10 different things at the same time. The grade you will get on this essay, your teacher’s let-down face, your parents’ reactions, your G.P.A, your college, your future, and everything in between.
Time is running out now and you don’t know what to do. This is when the ice breaks. You wished that you had asked your teacher for an extension so you would have more time to complete it. However, even if you had 1 extra day or 10, that won’t help you complete it. If you had all the time in the world, but you weren’t focused or concentrated, you wouldn’t be able to get even the smallest task done. It takes focus and dedication to complete something to the best of your ability.
So, instead of wishing for more time, wish for more focus and concentration on your work. But, in reality, making a wish is not going to make a difference. You have to take action. There is no coffee that will make you more concentrated, nor is there a magic wand that will make you sit and write an essay with ultimate focus. However, there is one thing you can do to help with that. Read this blog!
There are many people, including me, that find it hard to focus and concentrate on tasks that take a lot of our brainpower. Of course you would get bored writing an informational essay on animals. Of course you would get more studying math for hours and hours. It’s not your fault if you can’t concentrate on certain things, but it is up to you to change that. If you are one of those people who can relate to the story above, this blog is for you. This blog will inform you on tips and tricks to improve your concentration focus so that you never have to go through or relate to the story above. So, without further ado, continue reading to learn more about how to improve your focus and concentration!
1. Take breaks
For me, it is impossible to study or work on something for at least a straight two hours. Even though it may seem like it decreases focus and distracts you from something, that’s exactly the point! If you are focused on something for a long time, your brain may get overused to a point where you can’t make decisions and attain information. However, if you take a break, your brain gives you a chance to rest and recover, so that it gives you boosts in your productivity and happiness! (collegeadmissions.uchicago)
According to onlineschools.org, “While many believe cram sessions and all-night study groups will ultimately help them earn their college degree, the fact is that not taking regular breaks can lead to a significant decrease in academic performance and, in some cases, serious health concerns like anxiety, insomnia, and depression.”
Check out this website for a study led by The University of Illinois psychology professor, Alejandro Lleras, in 2011 to “determine the effectiveness of prolonged work or study periods without a break.”
Now that you know why taking breaks is effective to improve your focus and concentrate, it is also important to choose an effective length of time you are working for and taking a break for. There are many different results, so here are a couple you can choose from:
- The University of Illinois study cited before suggest taking a break once every hour.
- Inc. Magazine suggests a break every 60-90 minutes.
- Time-tracking app Desktime says it’s best to take a break every 52 minutes (followed by a 17-minute break).
- Based on the study of professional musicians, Robert Pozen of the MIT Sloan School of Management suggests taking a break every 75 to 90 minutes.
- The popular Pomodoro Technique promotes taking a break every 25 minutes (followed by a 3-5 minute break and then a 15-30 minute break every 90 minutes or so)
Again, it also depends on the type of work you are doing, so pick whatever you think works best for you!
Meditation is a known way to calm down and relax. However, meditating can also help with improving focus and concentration! According to a 2011 Review of 23 studies stated, “Overall, reviewed studies suggested that early phases of mindfulness training, which are more concerned with the development of focused attention, could be associated with significant improvements in selective and executive attention whereas the following phases, which are characterized by an open monitoring of internal and external stimuli, could be mainly associated with improved unfocused sustained attention abilities.”
We are all well aware of the many health benefits meditating has on one’s self, and now you are aware of one more!
3. Don’t multitask
One common thing most people mistake for being efficient is multi-tasking. We think that since we are doing multiple things at once, we are saving time and getting more things done. However, since our mind is doing multiple things at once, it actually makes us less focused, causing us to waste time trying to do multiple things, and not even get them done.
According to Forbes, “Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.”
Remember, if you want to improve focus, then don’t focus on multiple things at once!
4. Set small, daily goals
In many of my previous blogs, I have emphasized how important it is to set goals. However, there is a difference between setting small goals and setting big goals. Everyone should have long-term goals so that they can become better versions of themselves in the future. However, it is also important to set small, daily goals so that you know what you have to do for the day, and you have enough will-power to complete small tasks one at a time.
By setting small, daily goals, you are setting yourself up for success because you are focused on what you need to do. “Achieving small daily goals will wire your brain for success and trigger the reward mechanism, releasing dopamine when you accomplish your goal. This will help you stay more focused and increase the odds of you achieving tomorrow’s goal.” (Forbes)
5. Do things slowly and deliberately
If you’re like me, you rush to complete your tasks so that you can be done with them as soon as possible. However, by rushing something, you are lacking focus and concentration on that task.
If you are hurrying to complete something, your brain is not completely focused on that task. Your brain is thinking about completing it as soon as possible, not completing it to the best of your ability. According to psychologycompass.com, “We rely on two systems of thought – one that’s automatic and fast (activating your “sympathetic” nervous system), the other is slow and more logical (activating your “parasympathetic” nervous system). Doing tasks more slowly and deliberately can help us shut down our mental autopilot. When we slow down, we allow the more logical part of our brain to step into the driver’s seat.”
6. Improve sleep
Sleeping is a crucial part of our life! It reduces stress, improves memory, lowers blood pressure, helps your body fight against infections, maintains weight, improves mood, reduces the chance of diabetes, keeps your heart healthy, acts as a painkiller, makes you smarter, and much more! (dreams.co.uk)
However, the benefits of sleeping include those 10 and one more important one- improving focus and concentration. As said in many of my previous blogs, many successful people have a habit of going to bed and sleeping early. Bill Gates gets 7 hours of sleep every day, but that’s just his routine. Some may get from 5 to 9 hours of sleep per night- it just depends on the person’s preference.
According to Forbes, “You need to sleep more if you want to achieve maximum focus. This is true for everyone ranging from jet-lagged digital workers to corporate executives.”
Exercising is not only good for your physical health, but it is also beneficial for your mental health. The physical benefits of exercising are obvious for some, but they may not know that one way to improve focus and concentration is by exercising.
Now, you don’t have to do a full vigorous 3-hour workout to help improve focus. You may just do 20 minutes of yoga, play a sport, or take a walk around your neighborhood. “Simply getting the blood flowing for 20 minutes will sufficiently spark your mind and help you develop stronger focus throughout the day.” (Forbes)
According to helpguide.org, “Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention.”
8. Chew gum
This may seem odd, but another way to improve focus is by chewing gum. Many teenagers already chew gum often, so if you’re one of those, you are already one step closer to improving your focus and concentration. However, if you don’t normally chew gum, don’t worry- you can start anytime and anywhere.
Many teachers in school offer their students gum or a hard candy right before an important test or quiz. I always wondered why, only to realize that it helps improve focus and concentration. If you were like me when I was a student, you were unable to focus and would often get bored in the middle of a test. However, after chewing gum, I was able to concentrate on that test and complete it to the best of my ability.
Check out Wired for a more detailed explanation of the cognitive benefits of chewing gum!
9. Listen to music
Many teenagers love listening to music when going for a run, a walk, or even just relaxing. But, you should also listen to music when trying to focus on a task!
According to study.com, there are three benefits of listening to music while studying, which include:
- Music that is soothing and relaxing can help students to beat stress or anxiety while studying.
- Background music may improve focus on a task by providing motivation and improving mood. During long study sessions, music can aid endurance.
- In some cases, students have found that music helps them with memorization, likely by creating a positive mood, which indirectly boosts memory formation.
Even though listening to music helps improve focus and concentration, it also depends on what type of music you are listening to. Try listening to songs with a peaceful effect, without lyrics, and without loud noises!
10. Train your brain
Our brains are like a muscle. Just like when one exercises for a long period of time and our muscles get tired, our brains also works the same way. Our muscles get stronger by repeating the same exercises and not stopping, so our brains also gets stronger the same way. By repeating brain exercises, we can train our brains to improve our focus and concentration. Here are some of the exercises you can do:
- crossword puzzles
- jigsaw puzzles
- word searches or scrambles
- memory games
Check out this article for a well-explained explanation of how to improve focus by retraining your attention muscle!
Improving focus and concentration is not a one-time thing, it will go on for how short or long as you want. Many people, including myself, have trouble focusing and concentration on certain tasks. You may have even have had trouble focusing while reading this article. If that’s true, don’t worry! Hopefully, these tips will help:
- Take breaks
- Don’t multitask
- Set small, daily goals
- Do things slowly and deliberately
- Improve sleep
- Chew gum
- Listen to music
- Train your brain
Of course, these are just 10 ways out of many to help improve focus and concentration. Check out this TED Video on how to get your brain to focus! Furthermore, check out this book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Focus is used in almost everything we do, from watching TV to writing an essay. In order to succeed in life, we must be focused on our tasks and goals. Otherwise, there is no way we can get things done to the best of our ability.
Let us know in the comments below if these tips and tricks to improve your focus and concentration have helped you!
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