The magic of concentration
The magic of concentration
7 things you can do today to increase your concentration
In Plan your future we paid attention to your goals and how they often embody more than you anticipate. This can be frustrating! Especially when that means more work and a bigger time investment.
However, there’s also a POSITIVE SIDE. Sometimes they also unlock new opportunities like new ideas, new insights and new pathways. In other words, your goals can bring you outcomes you didn’t expect.
Now, I must warn you, this is not always a positive thing. It can also lead to distractions. And whether it does or doesn’t, depends on your capability to guide your attention.
Your attention is used when you are noticing something or someone. To guide this into the right direction, it is important to focus your attention so it doesn’t get scattered between different aspects. Focus, is the first step towards CONCENTRATION, in which you are fully committed to put your energy into one sub-goal.
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Resources: Castle, P. & Buckler, S. (2009). How to be a successful teacher. Strategies for personal and professional development. Retrieved from Sage Publishing
Harvard Health Publishing (2020). Focus on concentration: here’s what to do when your mind tends to wander. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing.
I get it, you want to work fast and get things done. Personally, I would also love to be able to do everything at the same time.
However, research shows that our brains are simply not build for that. In fact, we will take longer to finish something when we multi-task. And not only that, we also make more mistakes while doing so.
Focusing on one task will help us to be more efficient and to stimulate automatic behaviour that works much faster!
The less you multi-task, the more you train important networks in the brain involved in focus, concentration and behavioural control. Simply not switching between tasks, will already help you to strengthen your concentration.
Track your attention
When concentration is difficult, it means your attention is drifting of to something else. Probably more then ones.
Knowing what your attention tends to do and why, can help you make preparations to increase your focus even before you start.
It allows you to
- Remove distractions
- Be smart about your planning (does a task need good concentration? Plan it when your concentration is at its best)
- Learn to be observant and to adjust to your needs
- Create an environment that facilitates your concentration
Less caffeine and sugar
A good cup of coffee, some sugary snacks, sweet juices and candies. I love it all!
Too bad, it’s not very clever to base your complete diet on these products.
They boost your blood sugar levels and therefore boost your attention. But don’t be fooled! Too much stimulation will decrease your ability to stay focused and can even make you feel anxious.
Do your mind a favour and decrease your caffeine and sugar intake. Replace it with fruit, vegetables and high-fiber foods. Those will help you concentrate.
Some good news, In other posts I will explain more about the effect of food on the brain and will include some tips and recipes.
And some more good news, chocolate (the 70%+ type) is actually good for your brain! Read this post of Harvard Health Publishing. So, not all candy is bad!
sleep like a baby
And not the kind in which you wake up all the time with dirty pants!
No, I mean the type where you sleep for hours without being disturbed and after which you will wake up energized.
This type of quality sleep is important for numerous reasons. But, to stay focused, the main reason for this article, is the improvement of concentration.
when we don’t get enough sleep, our brain processes will be affected. These include attention, the ability to make decisions, using our memory and the ability to learn. All of which we might need during our tasks.
Do you remember the adults around you telling you you had to go to sleep early? Well, they told you in your best interest!
So, next time go to sleep a bit earlier and make sure you are relaxed before going to sleep. A warm shower could help you find that relaxation.
Most of us will have heard about some benefits of social interaction. It protects us from lonliness, increases our overal well-being and makes us more happy.
A good mood helps our ability to concentrate. When you feel depressed or stressed, the thinking part of your brain will decrease it’s function and will focus more on negative trails of thought. A disturbing effect when working on a task that requires your focus and full concentration.
Warwick University even explains in one of their articles that happiness makes us 12% more productive!
Another side effect of social interaction is the concentration we need for following conversations. It’s actually a fun way to train your concentration and focus!
Now, let’s have a look at something that connects to concentration more directly. The resources your tapping into to hold your concentration can be stretched the way you can stretch and strengthen your muscles. It just needs training.
How long can you generally concentrate on your task? Your first step might be to extend it with just 5 extra minutes by pushing yourself a little bit more this time.
You can keep stretching your concentration until you have found the right amount of time for you.
When concentration is hard, a great technique is the pomodoro technique. This technique helps you to focus for 20 minutes on your task, after which you let yourself take a 5 minute break to recharge your energy. Just set an alarm for both those 20 minutes and for your five minute break, so you don’t exceed them.
A great tip for a break is taking a short walk. It will help you refresh your mind.
Deal with distraction
At last, the distractions. Especially if stretching your concentration doesn’t work for you, it might be because your distractions are in the way.
When distraction is your pitfall, you could practice with getting to know your main distractions. Do they come from your environment? Make up a plan to remove those distractions. Do they come from within you? What do you need to at least lower those distractions?
The key for dealing with distractions is to first prevent what is possible to prevent. Do that even before you start!
And next is your reaction when distractions arise while you are working. In this case, you can practice with acknowledging the distraction first, and then gently swift your attention back to your task. Make sure you don’t push it too hard, because that will have the opposite effect.