Ever found yourself knee-deep in a critical project, only to be derailed by the bleep of a smartphone notification or the addictive scroll of social media?
You're not alone. In our fast-paced digital world, maintaining concentration is becoming increasingly difficult. We're all trying to keep up with emails, notifications, and the latest tweets, but the more we juggle, the harder it gets to stay focused on one thing.
And here's the kicker - when our concentration is all over the place, we're not as productive, and it can get pretty stressful. Sounds familiar? Don’t sweat it, we've got your back. To help you out, we've put together seven top tips for cranking up your concentration and making your attention span the best it can be. Get ready to take notes!
Say goodbye to smartphone notifications
Our first tip might seem harsh but is based on scientific research. A study conducted by Professor Larry Rosen from California State University demonstrated that smartphone notifications can trigger stress and anxiety. It's tough for our brains to ignore these alerts, leading to distractions. The simple solution? Switch off notifications on your smartphone to create a peaceful, distraction-free space.
Harness the power of the Pomodoro technique
If you're prone to juggling tasks all at once, this technique is a game-changer. Multitasking can diminish productivity and hike stress levels. Using the Pomodoro technique can prevent this productivity nosedive.
Here's how to do it:
- Break down your tasks into four 25-minute chunks.
- Concentrate fully on the first task for 25 minutes, then enjoy a five-minute break.
- Repeat this for the remaining sections.
- After four 'pomodoros', take a lengthier break of around 15 to 20 minutes.
Prioritise exercise and meditation
Don't underestimate the power of taking a screen break. Our brains need time to recharge, and a bit of exercise or meditation during working hours can boost your concentration and productivity. Whether you decide to meditate for 10 minutes or take a brisk walk, you're providing your brain with much-needed downtime.
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Embrace regular tech breaks
While scrolling through Instagram or playing Candy Crush can be a fun distraction, it's vital not to overdo it. Dr Rosen recommends scheduling a "tech break".
- Before diving into a task, take a minute or two to enjoy your favourite apps.
- Then, set a timer for 15 minutes, mute your phone, and put it face-down.
- Once the alarm rings, take another minute or two to check your phone.
- Repeat this process three to four times, followed by a longer break.
Rekindle your relationship with printed books
In the era of screen overload, it's easy to skim-read and miss essential information. By contrast, reading printed books encourages deep, focused attention. Professor Maryanne Wolf of the University of California recommends reading a printed book for at least 20 minutes a day.
Think about your diet
Poor concentration can sometimes go hand in hand with poor nutrition. If you’re struggling to focus or feel you're procrastinating too much, then you might not be eating the right kinds of food. To help you keep your head in the game, try and eat more ‘brain foods’. These include unsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3, which is found in fish, nuts, and olive oil.
These healthy fats are essential for nerve cell functioning and keeping your mind sharp. Adequate intake of B vitamins and vitamin C also promotes concentration. In general, maintaining a varied and healthy diet is crucial. Don't forget to stay hydrated, too, aiming for about two to three litres of water per day.
Here are some good brain foods to start incorporating into your diet for improved concentration:
- Whole grains
- Red berries
Do some brain training exercises
To improve your concentration and enhance your focus, you can use brain training exercises. Like with any exercise, the benefits come from consistency, so try and make these a regular part of your routine. Here are two brain training exercises which can improve your concentration:
Do memory exercises regularly and try to do activities which present problems you need to puzzle over before working out. For example, you can play Sudoku, solve arithmetic problems or simply write words backwards. Such tricks train your receptiveness and are also a nice distraction in stressful everyday life. Reading and adult games also increase concentration as you train your brain not to be distracted.
To boost the brain's cognitive functions, it helps to quiet the mind. When we meditate, we learn to focus our attention on a single thing - for example, our breath. This trains the ability to focus on what is important and get into the flow of the day. If you’re new to meditation, check out our beginner’s guide to meditation: tips, tricks and techniques for meditating.
So there you have it – seven tips for better concentration. They'll take time to implement, but the reward of an improved attention span will make it all worthwhile. Start today and feel the benefits of a more focused, productive, and rewarding life.
If you want more expert tips and recommendations, check out our page on wellness, which includes guides on breathing exercises for better sleep, how to create a productive workspace, how to tackle tiredness and tips for better sleep, according to experts.