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How to Improve Concentration

Trying to improve concentration? Whether life has sent you a curveball or you are looking for long term solutions, improving your concentration does not have to be hard. Great tips and research are here for you!

HOW TO IMPROVE CONCENTRATION

SOLUTION ONE

Schedule breaks before you start.

SOLUTION TWO

Exercise before you need to focus.

SOLUTION THREE

Get rid of common distractions .

SOLUTION ONE

Schedule breaks before you start.

Not having a defined schedule before you start a task can be detrimental to your concentration.  Instead of beginning with a vague intention to do as much work as you can, or for as long as possible, set a clear timeline for your project.  Be sure to allow ample time for breaks.  Having a roadmap for both your work and relaxation time will stop you from getting burnt out or distracted, and breaks will recharge your concentration.

            A 2011 study published in the Journal of Cognition explored the effects of briefly alternating between two tasks as opposed to finishing one task before starting the next one.  The study was composed of two groups, each engaged in concentration exercises.  Group 1 performed the same exercise throughout the duration of the trial, whereas Group 2 was given two brief mental breaks during which its participants performed a different activity.  The results?  Group 1’s concentration continually dropped off the longer they performed their exercises, while Group 2’s performance remained constant regardless of the amount of time that had passed. 

            Scheduled breaks don’t have to be that long either, the key lies in giving the mind a chance to switch tracks before it re-focuses on the task at hand.  Researchers concluded that, “even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus.”  Simply taking a minute to get a glass of water, or a few minutes to stand up and stretch, can boost your concentration. 

 

Reference: Atsunori Ariga, Alejandro Lleras. Brief and rare mental ‘breaks’ keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.007

 

SOLUTION TWO

Exercise before you need to focus.

Exercise does more than just improve physical fitness.  The increased blood flow and feel-good chemicals released during physical activity augment the brain’s ability to process, retain, and focus on information.  Studies on students, specifically, have found that exercise increases “cognitive control,” resulting in longer attention spans and better performance on exams. 

Why does exercise increase brain function?  For several reasons.  More blood flow to the brain increases the amount of oxygen it has available, and the hormones released during exercise help promote the growth of new brain cells.  These factors lead to increased brain plasticity and focus. 

Studies exploring the effects of exercise on neurological function have found that it is most effective to perform physical activity before you need to concentrate, so the oxygen and hormones released are present while you’re working.  5-10 minutes of exercise is all it takes to reap these concentration-boosting effects, and any kind of activity will suffice.  Good workouts to try are weightlifting, yoga, and running.  If you’re pressed for time, simply stand up and walk around your desk, or go get a glass of water, anything that gets your heart pumping is beneficial.

SOLUTION THREE

Get rid of common distractions .

Consciously restricting or eliminating distractions is one of the best, most direct ways to boost concentration.  Some common distractors in need of limitation are smartphones (and other visually engaging stimuli) and loud work environments.  Next time you need to focus, make sure your work environment is quiet enough to do so.  If it’s too loud, try moving to a coffee shop or library, anywhere that noise will be at a minimum.  If you can’t easily leave your work area, consider playing white noise through headphones to cover up any distracting ambient sounds.  This will allow you to take periodic breaks without thinking about what you’re missing out on while working.  If you’re someone who has trouble getting away from your phone, you may want to check out Flipd.  It’s a free app that functions like a phone lock screen with a timer.  You can set the amount of time you want to be away from your phone, and your screen will lock for the interval that you’ve chosen.  Apps like this make it extremely easy to be productive, since they get rid of the option to procrastinate.

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