12 techniques to improve your concentration
Did you know that once we get distracted, it takes on average 25 minutes to return to our original task?
What’s more concerning, according to a Microsoft Corp study, humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Where a goldfish can hold their attention spans for 9 seconds, ours starts to decline after 8 seconds. This highlights the affects of an increasingly digitalised lifestyle on the brain.
With this in mind, let’s explore 12 techniques to help improve your concentration:
1. Practice meditation.
Multiple studies have shown that meditation can be a good brain training tool to improve attentional / concentration skills. In one study, 140 volunteers took part in an eight-week course in meditation training. After the eight weeks, all the volunteers showed measurable improvements in attention span, as well as other executive mental functions.
You don’t have to spend your days meditating in a monastery to take advantage of its attention-boosting power. Research has shown that just 10 to 20 minutes of meditation a day will do the trick. What’s more, you’ll even see improvements in your attention after just four days.
2. Be proactive, not passive.
If talking with someone: ask questions. If reading a book, ask yourself how you would summarise what you just read.
3. Don’t multi-task, this will divide your attention.
Attention is limited, so when you try to do several things at once, you concentrate less on each individual task and, worse, you waste some or your limited attention and processing power in switching from one thing to the next and then back.
In fact, research suggests that our brain can’t actually do multiple things at once, instead it just switches tasks quickly. This means that every time we switch tasks, the process stops and restarts in our brains.
4. Create a distraction to-do list.
Because the internet has made any bit of information instantly accessible, we tend to want to look something up the moment it crosses our mind. “I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow?” “What year did that movie come out?” “I wonder what’s new in my Facebook feed?” Consequently, we’ll toggle away from what we’re working on the instant these questions or thoughts pop into our minds.
5. Practice mindfulness throughout the day.
Mindfulness is simply focusing completely on what you’re doing, slowing down, and observing all of the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing in that moment.
You can practice mindfulness when you eat as you take time to really chew your food and concentrate on its flavours and texture. You can practice mindfulness when you shave; as you smell your shaving cream, note the pleasure of applying a warm lather to your face, and slowly drag the razor across your stubble.
Incorporating short sessions of mindfulness throughout your day will strengthen and expand your attention span for the times when you really need it. Mindfulness can also help you push back against distractions as they arise.
6. Conquer Procrastination.
Don’t feel like concentrating? Are you putting off a task or project you’re supposed to be working on? That’s a form of procrastination. R. D. Clyde said, “It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something we’re not working on.”
Next time you’re about to postpone a responsibility, ask yourself, “Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it’s not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?” Those three questions can give you the incentive to mentally apply yourself. They bring you face to face with the fact this task isn’t going away, and delaying will only add to your guilt and make this onerous task occupy more of your mind and time.
Not only can you compare exercising your mind to exercising your body, doing the latter actually directly benefits the former. Researchers have found that students who engaged in moderate physical exercise before taking a test that measured attention spans performed better than students who didn’t exercise. The researchers found that exercise primarily helps our brain’s ability to ignore distractions
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8. Memorise things.
Memorising stuff is an excellent way to exercise your mind muscles. Make it a goal to memorise a poem or a verse of scripture each week.
9. Practice attentive listening.
Focus isn’t just useful for intellectual endeavours. It’s also an essential interpersonal skill. The ability to be fully present with a loved one or friend builds your rapport, intimacy, and trust and with them. At the same time, making an effort to focus all your energy on someone else strengthens your concentration muscles overall. It’s a win-win.
10. Listen to music.
Listening to music can help drown out the noises from your surroundings and keep you concentrated on your tasks.
According to Dr Masha Godkin from Northcentral University, listening to music can activate both the left and right brain simultaneously, and the activation of both hemispheres can optimize learning and improve memory.
Genres such as classical, ambient, and new age electronic music are recommended as they don’t usually contain lyrics that can distract you.
11. Try the five-more rule.
The five-more rule is simple. Whenever you feel like quitting or losing concentration, tell yourself to do five more of whatever you were doing. If it’s math problems, do five more problems. If it’s reading, do five more pages. If it’s concentrating, do five more minutes. Find the energy deep within to do five more of whatever you were you doing.
12. Take a rest / sleep.
The biggest factor affecting concentration is rest and this has been approved by research. Concentration requires your mind to be calm. But your mind will be scattered if you are not well rested. Make sure that you get the right amount of sleep at the right time. Also have regular sleep time, and this can be the key step for concentrating.
– You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish. Time magazine, By Kevin McSpadden. 14 May 2015. Read article
– How to Improve Concentration and Sharpen Your Attention at Work. Lifehack. 21 May 2019. By Dinnie Muslihat. Read article
– The Myth of Multitasking. Psychology Today. 12 May 2014. By Nancy K. Napier Ph.D. Read article
– Svartdal F, Granmo S, Færevaag FS. On the Behavioral Side of Procrastination: Exploring Behavioral Delay in Real-Life Settings. Front Psychol. 2018;9:746. Published 2018 May 16. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00746
– How to Improve Your Concentration. WikiHow. 12 October 2019. Read article
Learn more techniques to keeping your memory active
Volume four uncovers a number of techniques that will help keep your memory active, in hopes to boosting your memory. Improving or maintaining an active memory is an important part of aging, which is why we’ve included it as one part of volume four – listing some key causes, quick tips and techniques to engage healthy cognitive brain. The volume comprises of 47 pages the volume covers two informative chapters on how to stay relaxed after 60, and techniques to keeping your memory active.
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