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Improve Your Concentration and Focus Despite Distractions

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

It is easy to get distracted, especially in today’s world, but learning how to improve your concentration and focus can make it easier to stay on task. There are several ways you can improve your concentration and limit the effects of distraction.

Some of them have to do with your environment. Others have to do with making mental shifts.

The rest are task-oriented. They will all become easier to do with practice.

We have all been there—a mountain of work to get through despite the distractions that surround us. These might be other tasks vying for your attention, your mind wandering to other thoughts, or a schedule that just doesn’t work.

Don’t worry, these simple fixes will help you navigate these distractions better and increase your mental clarity. The result will be more productivity and less stress!

You might be able to actually finish all the things on your to-do list with these tweaks.

Improving your concentration by managing your environment

Take a moment and look around your environment right now. Is your desk cluttered?

Do you have your phone sitting nearby? Are there things that are distracting you from the task at hand going on around you?

Let’s start with the clutter on your desk. Clutter increases stress and makes everything seem more overwhelming than it really is.

The first thing you can do to improve your ability to focus is simply clear off your desk! Throw away things you don’t need to save and file or put away the things you might need to keep for a later date.

Now, let’s talk about your phone. If it is sitting there on your desk, it is going to distract you.

The best thing you could do is put it in another room altogether.

However, if you need it by you because you are worried about missing an important work message or a call about your kids, at least turn off the unnecessary notifications.

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It isn’t a priority to see why Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram is dinging at you. Instead of being a slave to the sound of a notification, set a time in the morning and the afternoon to check in with your social media presence.

The things happening around your workspace can also distract you, and it is important to be aware of this. As I write this, my husband is watching the Bucs play the Rams in the playoff game.

I know Sunday is football day and this man will have the game on while yelling at my TV. The first way to fix this would have been to finish my work before Sunday, but we will get to time management…

I assumed that since I hate football, I could focus and not get easily distracted. It worked for nearly the entire game.

Then suddenly, the very boring 27 to 3 game took a turn. The only team I remotely care about was suddenly making an exciting comeback.

Now, there are two minutes left of this game and they just need a touchdown and a field goal to tie. I can’t stop looking over my shoulder or asking my husband what is happening.

Dang it!!!

The bottom line here is your environment can wreak havoc on your focus, so minimize whatever distraction you can!

Help improve your concentration with some mental shifts

Concentration is actually a learned skill and training your brain to be better at it will help more than you realize. You can do things like sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, and chess to keep your brain sharp.

These activities keep your brain engaged, and in observation and problem-solving mode.

Another mental shift you can make is prioritizing your self-care. Now, this doesn’t mean taking a break every hour to get lost reading the book on your phone.

It means actually devoting time and mental energy to regenerate.

This might be a power nap in the middle of the day. It could also be an afternoon walk.

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Whatever it is that refreshes your mind, take the time to do it.

Another tool that will make you feel refreshed is meditation. meditation is a great way to start your day and has many benefits.

Practicing mindfulness can increase your attention span and ability to focus. It has also been shown to improve memory and cognitive skills.

“If we know the divine art of concentration, if we know the divine art of meditation, if we know the divine art of contemplation, easily and consciously we can unite the inner world and the outer world.” — Sri Chinmoy

Task-oriented and specific things you can do to improve concentration

Now that you have minimized the distractions in your environment and are working on training your brain, it’s time to try these steps to improve your mental clarity. 

  1. Improve your sleep
  2. Develop a morning routine
  3. Rank your tasks
  4. Make time for exercise
  5. Stop multitasking

Sleep plays a massive role in how your brain functions, so make sure you are getting enough rest at night. When you wake up, establish a morning routine that helps you be as efficient as possible.

For instance, checking your email first thing in the morning may not be the best time because it is likely that little has come through overnight. Wait an hour and do some other tasks first.

This is also where ranking your tasks is helpful. As a general rule, you want to do your least favorite or hardest tasks first.

The term for this is called “eating the frog.” If you must eat a frog, it is better to do it and get it over with than to keep pushing it off to the side.

By saving it for later, it will stay on your mind and distract you from your other tasks.

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Exercise might be your frog, so if it is, make it part of your morning routine! It doesn’t really matter when you get it done.

However, make the time to fit it in because it will do wonders for helping you concentrate. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention.

You will earn some concentration bonus points if your exercise is done outside in nature too! Being outside is good for you in general but, it can also help boost your ability to concentrate.

As your lungs fill up with fresh air, the oxygen levels in your blood increase. Higher oxygen levels mean more of it circulates to your brain.

This will give you a mental boost, which helps you feel energized and improves your ability to focus and retain information.

Multitasking sounds like a good thing, right? Get multiple things off your list at one time—wrong!

If you’re trying to do two or three things at once, then you aren’t doing a good job focusing on any of them very well. You won’t be able to process the information well enough to store it, and you might make mistakes.

Improving your concentration is important

Limiting mistakes is just one reason to devote energy to improving your concentration. It will also improve your memory.

Remembering information easily, doing things right the first time, and managing your time will improve your life immensely.

It can make your work life better and less stressful. As a result, you will enjoy your time away from work even more.

You might even have some extra free time to do more things you enjoy.

Distractions won’t be erased from your life, but improving your ability to focus can help you manage them much more effectively! What other tips have worked to improve your concentration?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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