“Ugh, can you send it in an email. I have the memory of a goldfish!”
Goldfish get a bad rap when it comes to memory, focus, and concentration. That’s why this little fact is going to sting so, prepare yourself. In 2015, Microsoft carried out a study that found humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish. ref.
Do you feel bad for wrongly maligning the majestic swimmers? You should, but more importantly, you should question your focus and concentration!
There are a lot of distractions. You don’t just have people interrupting your focus, now you have to contend with the ring of a phone, the ping of an email, notifications from social media, and breaking news. Our brains are constantly seeking what’s next, what’s new!
Yet, our ability to survive on this earth is dependent on our ability to focus! The need for this skill hasn’t changed, it’s merely evolved.
So, how do you proceed when you need to improve your focus, you need to concentrate on a single task and shut out the moving world around you? You should think about it in the same terms you do as a muscle.
A lot of our skills are skills that require exercise to grow and develop. Sadly, many people fall prey to the idea that the skill as it stands now is all it will ever be. Rarely is that the case. You can improve your focus. You can build on your concentration.
50 Ways To Boost Focus And Concentration
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about how you can do this, here are 50 ways!
1| No Multitasking
While the same referenced Microsoft study also found that we are getting better at multitasking, it isn’t recommended. Let’s be honest. What do you mean when you claim you’re an incredible multitasker? The reality of the matter is you aren’t completing multiple tasks all at once. You’re just switching between them. When you interrupt yourself to do something else, the only thing you achieve is a break in focus. It takes time to re-focus, so imagine doing that repeatedly as you attempt to finish tasks. It’s making you less productive and it’s sapping your concentration.
2| Regular Breaks
Your brain can only focus for so long. Cognition published a study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, found that a short break can improve focus (ref.). Your brain taps out after around 20 minutes. This is why the Pomodoro Technique has risen to prominence – focus for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. Concentrate for a period of time and then give your brain a break or a different task to focus on. It helps beat fatigue and improves concentration. It doesn’t have to be for as long as 5 minutes either! Just a 30-second deep-breathing exercise is great!
3| A Clutter-Free Environment
There’s a pile of clean laundry in the corner, magazines littering the coffee table, there are books stacked next to the couch, and just a mess in general. How do you feel when you’re in a room like this? Not good, right? It completely overloads the brain, and this makes it difficult to focus. How can your brain concentrate when your environment is against you? Clutter is your concentration’s natural enemy. Whether it’s in the home or at the office, you can create a clutter-free environment. Assign everything a home and ensure that everything is placed in that home unless it’s in use.
4| The Power of Music
While podcasts have become massively popular, not everyone works a job that allows them the luxury of listening as they work. Podcasts are distracting for anyone who needs to concentrate on the task at hand. What can help you improve your focus, though, is the power of (wordless) music.
5| Grab a Hot Beverage
This could be coffee or tea. Let me tell you why. These antioxidant-packed beverages also contain caffeine. Studies show that you can boost your attention with caffeine (ref.). Don’t fall into a caffeine trap – you shouldn’t both with it after 2 pm. It stays in your system for around six hours and that can impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
6| A Walk in the Park
According to a study from the University of Michigan, taking an hour-long walk in the park can improve your concentration and memory by as much as 20% (ref.). This suggests that a short walk in nature may be enough to provide you with a much-needed break and an immediate boost to your concentration levels.
7| Jumping Jack Flash
A quick exercise burst will increase circulation and provide you with two things – it provides your brain with a break and it helps improve your attention. Get away from your desk and count out 50 jumping jacks, try 25 pushups or sit-ups. If you’re feeling particularly bold, bang out some burpees (15-20).
8| Deep Breathing
We highlighted the numerous distractions we face in the modern world. It can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to pay attention when you are drowning in information. Sometimes, you just need a break to breathe. A deep breathing exercise is a perfect way to calm your mind and improve your focus and concentration.
9| Double Your Fun
… with chewing gum! One study found that chewing gum can increase concentration! Two groups of students were given puzzles to solve. Half of the group of 159 chewed gum, the other half did not. Over 80% of the time, the group who chewed gum performed better (ref.).
10| Yawn it Out
Have you ever noticed that when one person yawns, everyone else in the vicinity does, too? They are contagious. More importantly, a good yawn can help improve your concentration (ref.). Yawn at every opportunity, but especially when you need a boost in concentration. Andy Newberg and Mark Waldman cite over 30 studies to show how powerful yawning is. They list a dozen reasons in their book, but of those, the most important is that yawning stimulates concentration and alertness.
11| Take a Cat Nap
If you want to boost your focus and improve your concentration, then take a short nap. Give yourself a 30-minute catnap. You will feel fresher, sharper, more productive and energetic.
12| Brain Preparation
Before you tackle a task, give your brain a moment to calm. Ensure you’re sitting comfortably and take a couple of minutes to breathe and calm yourself.
13| Understanding Focus
Do you know what’s important about focus? Knowing what is (or isn’t) worth your attention (or distraction).
How connected are you when you’re trying to focus properly? Do you sit down to your laptop planning to concentrate and allow yourself to become distracted by social media and email notifications? Unplug! If you have work to do, don’t allow notifications to come through. Why are you making it harder on yourself?
Are you uncomfortable? If you can’t control the thermostat, then dress appropriately. There is nothing worse than being too warm or too cold as you try to concentrate. While the magic number is said to be 71 degrees, there probably isn’t a lot you can do about it unless you are the boss or work from home. Invest in a fan or a warm sweater.
You have probably gotten into trouble for doodling at some point, but doodling can improve focus and concentration. Don’t feel bad if you start doodling in your meetings instead of taking notes. It prevents boredom and helps you focus on the subject at hand.
17| Start with Exercise
Earlier, we suggested that you take an exercise break for an instant boost in focus. Now we’re addressing how exercise can set the tone for your day. Introduce exercise into your daily morning routine and get your brain off to the start it deserves. Low-impact exercise is ideal.
18| Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are brain food. So, if you want to boost your focus and concentration, then you can do so by ensuring you’re getting plenty of healthy fats. Avocado, coconut oil, nuts, oily fish, and eggs are all excellent examples. Bear that in mind as you make your lunch and snacks for the day.
Bear with me here. If you want to boost focus, then take a time out hourly. In your time out, make a note of your critical tasks. More specifically, the critical tasks that you plan to achieve in the next hour. By doing this, you’re forcing your brain to focus on the most important projects you have to concentrate on.
20| Goal Setting
is value in setting daily goals. When we talk about setting goals, most people focus on longer-term goals and who they will be in the future. To improve focus and concentration, have daily goals. You set yourself up to succeed when you learn to focus on what you can accomplish in a day.
21| Sleep Well
The quickest (or easiest) way to destroy your concentration and obliterate your focus is a lack of sleep. Know that when people brag about how amazingly they function on just a few hours of sleep a night, they are talking nonsense. They either sleep more than they admit or they’re not functioning at all. A lack of sleep saps your focus, jumbles your brain, and contributes to wild mood swings. Aim for seven hours a night.
22| Commune With Nature
So, we already highlighted the power of a nice walk in the park. Now, let’s focus on how nature can boost your concentration and focus. More specifically, capturing the outside in with greenery. Invest in indoor plants in your home and office. There are plenty of plants that improve indoor air quality so, you may as well kill two birds with one stone.
23| You’ve Got Mail
Set times to check your work email. Let your colleagues know that you only check and respond to emails during a certain period of time. Don’t underestimate how distracting emails can be.
24| Cell Phone
Turn your phone off if you need to, whatever it takes to ensure you eschew all the typical distractions, whether it’s a game or social media. If you know your phone presents a distraction, then keep it out of sight and out of mind.
25| Social Media
Even if you hide your phone, social media can still distract you on your computer. Either block the websites from your browser or log yourself out to make it more difficult to access it.
26| Brain Training
A crossword puzzle, a brain teaser, exercises focused on problem-solving, and even a video game. Any or all of these could help you boost your focus and concentration. Really, it’s down to the specific brain trainer. Anything that encourages you to use your memory, analyzing or reasoning skills is going to give you a boost.
27| Focus On Your Wellbeing
The food you eat, how active you are, your mental health… all of these are factors that contribute to your wellbeing. When you aim to improve your wellbeing, you will notice a difference in your focus and concentration.
Meditation is all about learning to be in the moment. What better way to boost your focus and concentration than by bringing your attention to the here and now.
You don’t have to be a good writer to enjoy the benefits of writing. When you write, it helps you clarify your thoughts, it tells your brain and memory what’s important, and it improves your ability to recall information later. It exercises your creativity, exercises your ability to analyze, and expands your brain. No one has to read your work for you to enjoy the benefit of it.
Do you know what laughter does for you? It helps you fight stress and stress is detrimental to the health of your brain. Don’t pride yourself on being a tough nut to crack, laugh easily and often.
31| A Healthy Diet
We already highlighted the importance of healthy fats, but there’s more to a healthy diet than that. Eat well – focus on fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Your brain, focus, and concentration will thank you.
Organize your day around your rhythm. For example, we tend to be incredibly alert around 10 am, whereas coordination and reaction times improve later in the afternoon. Bear that in mind as you schedule your day and get yourself in the rhythm of doing certain tasks at certain times to optimize your focus and concentration.
There is something to be said for the ability to organize and prioritize. When you know what tasks require the most focus and when your low points are, you can effectively organize your day to make the most of your concentration.
34| Improve your Willpower
Your attention is intimately intermingled with your willpower. When you build your willpower, you built your ability to focus and concentrate despite the distractions swirling around you.
35| Memorization Games
Not only is memorizing stuff a great way to show off to friends, but it’s also an excellent way to exercise your brain. You can memorize poetry, excerpts from books and speeches or, text from your holy book.
Too long; didn’t read. If any phrase sums up the modern world it’s that. Now, online magazines and newspapers tell you at the top exactly how long a read the upcoming post is. The majority of people balk at anything more than a four-minute read, yet there is nothing better for building concentration than reading it. Be honest, you opened the link because the subject matter interested you enough for you to do so. Now, follow through!
We’re also guilty of not reading enough. Set yourself a goal for book reading and stick to it! That’s not to say you should force yourself to finish an awful book. That’s time you will never get back and if you force yourself to finish, it may put you off picking up another book. Learn to cut and run at the right times.
37| Be Curious
The more you fuel your curiosity, the more stamina you will have to concentrate. If there’s something you’re interested in or curious about, go and learn more about it. This will help you build both your focus and your knowledge.
38| Be An Active Listener
How are your communication skills? Do you formulate your response as the other person speaks? If so, you’re not listening. Do you allow your attention to wander while the other person speaks? If so, you’re not listening. Your conversation skills tell you a lot about your ability to concentrate and practice active listening is a great way to improve on both counts. Active listening requires you to give the speaker your full attention and to concentrate on what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and what they’re body language tells you. Try it.
39| It’s Supplemental
There are plenty of supplements that will improve your brain function, therefore helping boost your focus and concentration. Vitamins like K, folate, and choline are all helpful.
40| Timed Goals
We already touched on the importance of setting short-term goals that allow you to focus your day. To take that a step further, you should time short-term goals. For example, you’re giving a presentation tomorrow. You want to prepare for it, but you’re dreading it because it makes it seem more real. Give yourself a timed period to fully focus on rehearsing your presentation.
41| The Reward System
When you think of a reward system, you probably relate it to bribing children. We tend to use this as a motivational tool for youth and then leave it behind us as we grow older. However, you can use it to your advantage, too! A reward doesn’t have to be a toy or even chocolate. It can be whatever you want it to be – like when you finish x, you can spring for that book you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy. As you strive to achieve this in order to obtain your reward, you’re building your concentration and focus as a result.
We spoke about meditation, but yoga can also boost your concentration. When you focus on bending and breathing through each pose and posture, you’re completely focused on the here and now. It works!
43| Use Technology to Your Advantage
The FocusCommit app sets you a challenge to focus for 25 minutes before taking five. It lets you input your daily tasks and tracks you as you work on them. Some apps will block you from using the apps that distract and waste your time.
44| The Power of No
How is exercising your ability to say no going to boost your focus and concentration? You have set your schedule for the week. You went out of your way to ensure that an hour a day is carved out for a specific side project you’re working on.
All of a sudden, you are faced with a tempting invitation. Then another and another. If you say yes to all of them, will you be focused on that side project or are you going to be distracted thinking about everything else that’s going on? You need to know when saying yes builds your opportunities and when it detracts from what you’re working toward.
45| Dark Chocolate
For real? Oh, yes! A square of dark chocolate might be exactly the stimulant you need to drill down into the task at hand. It’s a particularly helpful choice when you reach the afternoon slump. It’s also tasty, mix with walnuts and almonds for a healthy snack.
You would be surprised by how much the décor of a room can influence your focus. If you have the power to repaint your office, then consider doing so. Hues of blue, orange, and green are thought to be particularly helpful in stimulating focus and concentration (ref.). If you can’t repaint your office, try to incorporate those colors into the accessories around you.
47| I Don’t Speak French
…but you could, and you should. Yes, investing a bit of time into learning a new language will increase your ability to focus and concentrate on a variety of tasks. It isn’t about becoming fluent (although, that’s a fun aside), it’s about the mental agility it triggers.
48| A Quiet Place
This can be difficult to attain, especially if you work in a busy office. However, if you can escape to a quiet place, then it’s naturally going to improve your focus and concentration. If you can’t – consider investing in noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.
49| The Distraction List
As distractions come up, make a note of them. It’s any unrelated idea, thought or question that may crop up while you’re focused on something else. Scribble it down, make a voice note, and deal with it later. It ensures you won’t forget but frees your mind of the distraction infringing on your focus.
Drinking plenty of water improves your cognitive function, which is going to have a knock-on effect when it comes to your ability to focus and concentrate.
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