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9 Ways to Increase Concentration and Focus

Posted Jun 16 2010 11:21am

As an adult, I often wonder if I may have a touch of ADD. This isn’t really anything new. Looking back to my days in school, reading was an extremely trying task. My mind would wonder to such a point that I’d often have to reread a paragraph several times before actually grasping the material. Today, I find that I need to make a concerted effort to pay attention during conversations that aren’t face-to-face, I’m always thinking about things other than my present situation and I multi-task to such an extreme that I’ll be on task number five before completing tasks one through four.

Whether I in fact have ADD or I’m just a product of this crazy-paced, technology ridden universe, my ability to focus is not what I’d like it to be. And, I get the impression I’m not alone. Many of us suffer from constant distractions and situations that make it far from easy to concentrate or focus. The good news, however, is that there are things you can do to help. If you suffer from focus and concentration issues, here are some tips that may help:

Tricks for In-the-Moment: These tricks can help you in-the-moment when you aren’t able to focus or concentrate.

  1. Computer Alerts. Working on a computer can be very distracting. Especially with the sounds and pop-ups that alert us to fresh emails, tweets, IMs, etc. Every time a “ding” goes off, I tend to stop what I’m doing and re-focus on the newest “ding.” Turn off your sound and pop-up features can help. To take it a step further, logging out of email, chat and twitter applications will allow you to fully focus on your current task.
  2. Phones. If you get a lot of phone calls and have trouble ignoring them, forward them to voicemail, turn off your phone or silence the ringer. Set aside a specific time during the day to get back to people via phone.
  3. Make Lists and Make Plans. Listing out what you want to accomplish and how you want to do so helps to keep you on track. Without a plan, however, it is easy to put things on hold to check email, clean or surf the web. Set time lines and “deadlines” to each of your tasks. This will hold you responsible to completing things on time.
  4. DeClutter and Organize. Clutter often equals distraction. If you have lots of papers and random items lying around your desk, they will constantly be a reminder of other things on which you could focus. Organize your work area so that you can focus during work time and deal with the “in box” in a timely way.
  5. Create Intermittent Active Time. When our bodies and environments are stagnant, it can cause our brains to drift or go on auto pilot. Further, we get easily distracted because we don’t give ourselves the time we need to release excess energy. Take breaks throughout the day that get you moving and into different areas of your home or office. It will help you to refocus more effectively when you come back to work.
  6. Get Away. If you are in an office environment and have trouble focusing at your desk, try booking a small conference room or work space that allows you to get away from the distractions. If you are doing a lot of computer work, see if you can “book” a laptop for the day and go somewhere that is quiet. If you are at home and your family is making it difficult to concentrate, go to a neighborhood coffee shop and spend a couple of hours there getting focused.

Lifestyle Choices for Long-term: These are lifestyle choices that help improve your focus and concentration over the long-term.

  1. Diet. Believe it or not, our diets can have a tremendous impact on our ability to focus. Eating very large, heavy meals can cause our digestive tract to “hoard” the blood that could be used by our brains. Eating lighter, more frequent meals sustains our energy levels and keeps blood flow stable to the brain.  Also, meals high in plant-based foods which are rich in vitamins and minerals, allow our brain to get the nourishment it needs. On the other hand, avoid processed foods which often contain preservatives, dyes and other artificial and synthetic ingredients. Research has shown that these ingredients promote hyperactivity in individuals who have ADD and ADHD, as well as those individuals who don’t.
  2. Exercise. Exercise allows us to release stress, clear our minds and think clearly. The best way to set the stage for the day is to exercise early in the morning. This will help you to think through your day and how you want to tackle your “to-dos.”
  3. Sleep. One of the biggest contributors to lack of concentration is lack of rest or, believe it or not, too much rest. Your mind depends on proper sleep to function optimally and concentrate. Aim to get seven to eight solid hours each night.

Do you have trouble focusing or concentrating? What do you do?


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