It is totally normal to experience lapses in concentration or having difficulty focusing – we live in a world of distractions, after all. However, the ability to concentrate and focus is one of the cornerstones of success.
It helps you to learn new skills, achieve your goals and perform both at work and at home.
Developing your ability to concentrate and your mental clarity is like exercising a muscle – the more work you put in, the more you can build it up.
All this is simply to say that you can improve your focus, and we have put together the following tips to help you. So, if you're constantly asking why can't I focus, this is the article for you.
Assess Where You Are Currently
Before you can begin to improve your mental processes, you first need to get a base level. Without assessing where you are now, you will have no idea if you are making progress or not.
For example, if you find yourself daydreaming a lot, or if you struggle to ignore distractions, then your focus could definitely use some work.
However, if you find it easy to concentrate and achieve tasks, then your focus is likely already pretty good.
Try to measure how long you can concentrate for, how often you get distracted and how long it takes you to finish tasks.
Try to make a record of this, as it can give you a better idea of your starting point. Then, when you check in with yourself, you can see if the following tips are having an effect.
It can also act as a motivator for you to keep going when you can see your progress in front of you.
Mindfulness is a buzzword today; it is a hot topic. Some people dismiss it as the newest hippy-dippy fad, but it does have its benefits.
Practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation can improve your concentration and focus. As a result, you can better tackle your tasks and increase your efficiency.
Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as trying some deep breathing exercises.
Before you approach a task, take some deep breaths. If your mind begins to wander off course, then retrain your focus back to your breathing.
This might seem like a simple exercise, but it can be deceptively difficult.
However, one of the best things about these breathing exercises is that you can do them anywhere at any time.
In time you will find that it becomes easier to block out the distractions and intrusive thoughts to return your focus where it needs to be.
Try to Remove Distractions
This step may seem obvious, but some people underestimate the power of distractions.
These distractions can vary from person to person.
For some, it might be the background noise of the office like a radio or electronic equipment; for others, it might be their co-workers.
Trying to minimize these distractions won't necessarily be easy, but it can be done.
You could get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or simply ask to be left alone for a certain period of time every day.
You might even need to reassess where you work. Is there another location that is more conducive to ensuring your concentration?
Of course, not all distractions will be easily controlled, such as internal disturbances.
Still, you can minimize them by ensuring that you are getting enough sleep and reducing your stress where possible.
Get Enough Sleep
As touched on above, getting enough sleep is important. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect all cognitive functions, including your ability to concentrate and focus.
By regularly depriving yourself of sleep, whether knowingly or not, can severely impact your ability to perform both at work and at home.
Getting enough sleep better prepares you to deal with the tasks at hand and helps to quiet the internal disturbances.
Realistically, you should be aiming for between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. However, this may be easier said than done.
If you struggle to sleep at night, then there are a few things that you can do.
Firstly, stop looking at screens at least an hour before you go to bed.
Next, try winding down with a warm bath, calming music or a book.
Finally, try to keep to a consistent bedtime if possible and ensure that your room is at a comfortable but cool temperature.
Try to be Present
It is incredibly difficult to remain focused on the tasks at hand when you spend all of your time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Being present is important; remove distractions and do your best to stay mentally engaged with what is going on in the here and now.
This helps you to better direct your attention and keep your mental resources reserved for when you need them.
Practicing being present can take some time; it is not a skill that you can master overnight.
Truly living in the moment represents a relinquishing of control. You cannot change the past, so why dwell on it or overthink it?
The future is just that, the future. It hasn't happened yet.
Working on yourself today can help you to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and help you to work towards success in the future.
Make Sure You Get Enough Exercise
Making the time to exercise regularly can clear the mental cobwebs and improve your concentration.
In addition, exercise can boost the level of different hormones in the body, including endorphins which can positively impact your cognitive ability.
Ideally, you should be aiming to do more aerobic exercise, but realistically anything that you can do is better than nothing at all.
It will entirely depend on your fitness levels and your personal capabilities.
Try to build exercise into your daily routine. For example, walk when you can, try cycling instead of driving, or do some yoga to wind down before bed.
Think About Taking Some Supplements
There are some supplements out there that may be able to improve your concentration and overall brain function.
Before you begin taking any supplements, it is worth checking with your healthcare provider first.
Your doctor knows your medical history, including any conditions or allergies that you have.
They can advise you on the best course of action.
Making sure that you are getting the right amount of vitamins can improve your cognitive abilities, but sometimes it is hard to meet your nutritional needs in your diet alone; this is where supplements come in.
There are a number of supplements that could help your brain health and improve your concentration and focus.
For example, you might want to try folate, vitamin K, choline, flavonoids or omega-3 fatty acids. These vitamins are known to have links with brain function, and they could help you.
But, again, your doctor should be able to recommend which ones would work the best for you.
Take Regular Breaks
Trying to keep your focus on the same thing for an extended period of time is incredibly difficult, and in doing so, you could be setting yourself up for failure.
After a while, it becomes difficult to keep your concentration, and ultimately your performance begins to suffer.
The tasks at hand usually aren't captivating enough; everything loses its interest after a while.
Think about films, they should be enjoyable, but if you've ever sat through a long film, then you would have likely found yourself drifting in and out of concentration after a while.
Taking brief breaks can help. By temporarily shifting your attention to something else, you are able to return to the task with a renewed sense of concentration.
So next time you find yourself working on a long task, try to give yourself short regular mental breaks. These moments off respite can help to keep your mental focus sharp.
Do Not Expect Miracles
Improving your concentration and building your mental focus takes some time. It is not something that happens quickly.
It takes time and practice. One of the first steps is to truly understand the value of your time by recognizing the impact that distractions have.
You will find that you can completely overhaul your approach to life by building up your concentration skills and improving your focus.
You will have more time to devote to the things in life that bring you joy, success and satisfaction.
In the End
Trying to build your concentration and focus is a personal process. Some of the ways listed above might not work for you, but some will.
Consider trying a range of the tips mentioned above so that you can find what works best for you and your working style.
Trying the tips won't hinder your current concentration levels; in the worst-case scenario, they will simply be ineffective, so you won't lose anything by trying them.
However, it is important to point out that if your ability to concentrate – or lack thereof – is having detrimental effects on your life, you should consult a doctor.
Your trouble focusing could be indicative of a larger health problem that needs addressing, so bear that in mind when trying the above tips out.