Concentration is a commodity in today’s world – stress, long hours at work, and other factors can have our minds wandering or reacting to the smallest distractions. A lack of concentration can affect our work, our interpersonal relationships, and even our hobbies. The condition can be distressing, but don’t worry – you can regain or increase your concentration using a few powerful, simple techniques.
Why Are You Losing Focus?
A loss of effective concentration can occur due to several different factors:
Physiological issues such as inflammation, abnormal proteins in the brain, or natural brain shrinkage associated with age
Side effects of certain medications, especially anticholinergics (drugs that block neurotransmitters that transfer messages between your cells)
Underlying medical conditions such as depression, sleep disorders, vision loss, or hearing loss
If you’re experiencing a consistent lack of focus alongside other symptoms, contact your doctor to check for underlying conditions or other issues.
Another common cause of attention loss is an overabundance of stimuli – we are constantly bombarded with information in this day and age, and our brains simply aren’t designed to handle it all. When our brains are feeling overwhelmed, things are going to slip through the cracks. Things overwhelm our mind’s filters, and we stop being able to sort the distractions from our real tasks.
“Mindfulness” may feel like a social media buzzword, but it’s a powerful technique for rewiring your brain. The practice of mindfulness is intentionally focusing on the present moment – your breathing and the input from your senses. We’re often preoccupied with plans, worries, and other racing thoughts that bring us out of the moment, but research has shown that practicing mindfulness for a few minutes every day can help you rewire your brain and help you focus on the moment more effectively.
Practicing mindfulness can also help manage your stress, which can greatly increase your available attention.
Train Your Brain
Your brain is always making new connections, so you can work it like you would work a muscle. Employing cognitive training games and focus exercises can help you progressively train your brain to pay attention for longer periods of time. While the research on these methods is still developing, early results suggest that these methods can lead to marginal improvement.
There’s a wide range of techniques available for improving attention – one popular exercise involves doing a single task, such as reading, for 30 minutes. Set a timer to go off every five minutes; when it does, ask yourself if your mind wandered from the task at hand. If it did, don’t feel discouraged. Just refocus on your task. This helps train your brain to monitor its own activity, making it a lot easier to prevent wandering and maintain attention on a single task.
A huge factor of staying focused is organisation – if we’re overwhelmed by a chaotic workspace or a noisy environment, it’s much harder to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. There are plenty of ways to organise your tasks – try a motivational journal planner. Some research says that writing tasks down at the beginning of every day can help you focus on what needs to be done in the moment, rather than worrying about what needs to be done for the entire week.
If you have trouble staying organised, there are a lot of different tools that you can try to see what works for you. Think about what part of organisation gives you the most trouble – are you having trouble finding objects you need, or remembering what needs to be done? Are you a visual learner, or would you benefit more from audio reminders? Knowing where your weaknesses are can help you find effective long-term solutions that can improve your productivity and attention span. Be prepared to try different things in order to find the best system for you.
In the end, we can’t control everything. Concentration can feel like a fleeting resource, and we tend to start noticing a decline as we age. But with the right habits and strategies, we can still make the most of our attention span. Keep these powerful techniques in mind to start increasing your concentration today!