Does your mind wander when you need to concentrate? Make focus work for you with these 7 simple steps for better concentration when you need it.
If you’re struggling with focus at work, school or in general, it can sap your motivation and get you down. In fact, the inability to remain closely focused on a single task is becoming an increasingly common issue. So now that you’re in the right place, let’s learn how to focus the mind and banish the procrastination blues….
In this blog you’ll learn:
- What attention is
- Why maintaining undivided attention has become more difficult
- How to stay focused
What is attention?
For the purposes of this blog, there are 3 main types of attention you’re likely to use:
- Sustained attention is the ability to consistently focus on one subject or activity over a period of time, e.g. during a meeting, a lesson, completing a task, or watching a film.
- Selective attention is the ability to focus on a specific activity in the presence of other distractions: e.g. reading a book in a noisy café, driving to work whilst listening to the radio.
- Divided attention is the kind of attention we use in multitasking: e.g. taking a phone call while we’re cooking or looking after a child. It can be difficult to sustain this type of attention and be productive at two things simultaneously. Usually, one task will suffer!
Why maintaining undivided attention is becoming more difficult:
A recent study found that around the world our ‘collective attention span’ is narrowing. This is because of the constant flow of electronic stimuli, social media, and 24-hour news coverage we’re exposed to. This increased flow of ‘digital traffic’ is driving the trend towards ‘divided attention’.
The Myth of the Multitasker
In addition, recent research has found that unrestricted access to technology is harming our sense of wellbeing. In other words when our attention is constantly being divided between tasks, we’re less focused, less productive, and more unhappy and stressed. It wastes time and energy: a phenomenon known as the ‘switching cost’.
How to stay focused
So how do you improve concentration when everything in our modern environment serves as a distraction? Luckily, with a few changes to your routine, you can learn to focus the mind on what’s important!
- Plan your time: Break your day up into achievable tasks and write them down. Include regular break times. Find your sweet spot of concentration and make that period count by removing all distractions:
- Set an alarm for your work phase
- Switch your phone onto silent
- Use an app like Freedom to block your access to the Internet
- Schedule when you check emails
- Break your task down into steps and focus on the process not the result
If you can only work in 15-minute bursts before you need a break, then that’s OK.
Did you know? Even the most productive people can only focus for around 52 minutes before their attention wanes.
2. Manage social media: If you find yourself getting easily distracted by social media it doesn’t mean you have no willpower, it’s an innate aspect of human nature. So don’t beat yourself up about it, just schedule it as a ‘reward’ for a period of uninterrupted concentration.
3. Take exercise: Getting out into the fresh air and walking the dog or going for a jog oxygenates the brain and increases blood flow. It boosts ‘executive function’ which controls time management, working memory, organisation, and other key skills.
4. Fuel your mind: If you want to focus more, up your nutrition game with nutrient-dense meals and snacks. Try making a protein-rich superfood trail mix for mental energy: nuts, roasted legumes, dried fruit such as goji berries and blueberries.
5. Perfect the power nap: Stick on an eye mask, play a soothing forest or oceans sounds podcast, and drop off for 15 minutes. Can’t sleep? Try an app like Sensate which plays binaural sounds and stimulates the vagus nerve for a time-out as good as a nap!
6. Many herbs and foods can boost focus and concentration such as gingko, gotu kola, green tea, brahmi, rhodiola and lion’s mane. Shop our specially designed Organic Fermented Natural Nootropic to support healthy focus here.
7. Play games which improve concentration and memory: crosswords, sudoku, even jigsaw puzzles can teach you how to focus more. There are useful brain training apps too, such as Peak, Lumosity and Elevate.
Did you Know? Lion’s mane mushroom contains special compounds that generate nerve growth factor: a type of protein that supports healthy brain cells.
 Technical University of Denmark, https://www.dtu.dk/english/news/nyhed?id=246BBED3-8683-4012-A294-20DB7F0015F4