Apart from the necessary equipment and knowledge, what is the single most important factor that determines the successful completion of a task? It’s Focus, we need to concentrate and focus on a task in order to do it properly and to ace it. However, in the age of social media and in a world dominated by the internet, our minds are always scattered, looking for new distractions and hindering our ability to stay focused. Through the years, I’ve tried and learned some simple yet effective ways to combat the distractions, and I’m sure you’ll benefit from them too.
Keep reading to learn some proven methods that can help improve your concentration. I will also go over some conditions that can affect your ability to concentrate and steps to take if trying to improve concentration on your own just doesn’t seem to help.
TAKE CHARGE :
Many people work under the assumption that focus can only be achieved if the world around you allows it, I want you to leave that idea behind. Ask yourself Are you living your life or is life simply something that is happening to you? Take charge of the situation. Remember, in the journey of your life, you are not sitting in the back seat, looking at the scenery, or looking for the aux cord for your phone. You are in the driving seat, and your eyes must stay on the road. Distraction and direction are inversely proportional.
WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS CLEARLY :
Often times we are unable to focus because we haven’t clarified to ourselves what exactly we want to achieve. Whether you wish to achieve them in the next 20 minutes or in a month, Write your goals down. Take a paper and write down your intentions very clearly. If there is more than one, make a list with the most important one at the top.
LIMIT YOUR FOCUS :
When making a list of goals, be careful not to make it too long. Many people owe their success to the fact that they focus on fewer but crucial things. The fewer the items on the list, the less your mind will wander and worry about doing a large number of things.
PRACTICE FOCUS :
Many people live under the delusion that maintaining focus is something that can only be achieved by a chosen few; however, this is false. Like anything else, it is said, “focus is a muscle, and you can build it”. There is a popular belief that to master an art, you have to spend 10,000 hours doing it. Well, spending so many hours on Facebook, twitter, youtube, and Netflix, our youth have mastered these distractions. Now we must shift their learning elsewhere.
It’s rightly said that,
“The more you sweat in peace
The less you bleed in war”.
Start with a 10 or 20-minute session of focus leading up to 45 minutes, set a timer for the desired time, and try to stay focused until that timer goes off.
SETTING THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT :
Now, this is central to most of our concerns.
- Establish a regular study area. Use a place you don’t sleep in. It can be your room if you’re studying at a study table. Do not distract yourself further by sitting between a dozen people. Also, STOP STUDYING SITTING ON YOUR BED!! I can not stress this enough.
- It’s almost impossible to find a perfectly quiet place. So you may have to drown out all the sounds around you. It’s been proven that random rhythmical noise can help improve concentration up to 20%. White noise is a good way to achieve this, for that you can get this app WHITE NOISE LITE.
- Set the temperature right. Warm rooms can make you feel tired and sleepy. Colder places may have a shock factor to help you feel awake, but your body will be using its energy to keep you warm instead. Research at Cornell University shows that somewhere between 70 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for productivity.
STOP MULTI-TASKING AND STAY AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA :
Apologies everyone but your mom was right, you need to put your phone down. Social media is a big problem when it comes to maintaining concentration. Do you think you can reply to that E-mail that popped up and get back to what you were reading? Maybe you can, but you will lose productivity, and it takes time to grasp it again. Multitasking results in doing multiple tasks at once yet doing none properly.
Your study place is sacred; do not pollute it with your phone.
Moreover, if you use your phone for study purposes, you can use one of the many applications that allow you to limit the amount of time you can use certain apps daily. There’s no shame if you’re struggling with self-control, you don’t have to give in.
DISTRACTION SHEET :
Make a distraction sheet. When you’re studying and some random thought pops in your head, stop, don’t follow that train of thought. Write it down instantly on the distraction sheet and get back to work.
LEARNING BY TECHNIQUES :
It’s the era of working smart instead of spending hours trying to work hard.
SMART stands for:
- Specific – What exactly needs to be done?
- Measurable – How will you track your progress?
- Achievable – Is it realistic? Can it be done in time?
- Relevant – How does it fit with the overall plan or bigger goal?
- Timely – By when does it need to be done?
Moreover, use the SQ3R Method for starting up any topic.
This picture below will give you an idea of the Method:
The Pomodoro Technique can also help you get more work done in less time.
REWARD YOURSELF :
After you’ve studied for 10, 25, or 45 minutes straight, and your timer buzzes, it’s time to reward yourself. You can have a power nap, go talk to your friends, answer that text you wrote down on your distraction sheet, or have a piece of chocolate.
After a 10 minutes break, start the timer again, and you’re good to go.
SOME HABITS AND FACTORS THAT AFFECT YOUR FOCUS :
GET THAT MORNING COFFEE :
I wouldn’t advise consuming too much caffeine but it’s been proven that some caffeine in the morning can help you stay focused throughout the day.
Do not consume caffeine after evening, and try restricting the use of electronic devices at least half an hour before bed. They delay your body’s internal clock and suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Get a sound 6-8 hours of sleep for a good start to the next day.
When you’re dealing with anxiety, in my personal experience, meditation can be immensely helpful in allowing you to feel calm and focused. Deep breathing also helps your nervous system relax.
Calm application is one of the best applications for this purpose.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN :
Try spending your leisure time playing puzzles, mind games, word searches, etc. Many studies suggest that spending 15 minutes a day, five days a week, on brain training activities can have a significant impact on concentration.
LESS INTAKE OF SUGAR :
I know that we all love sugary foods, but it’s no secret that they can be very detrimental to our health. They can act as sedatives, their after-effects are much stronger than the initial “kick” you feel. High sugar consumption inhibits the production of Orexin, which is a chemical in your brain that stimulates the feeling of being awake. The more sugar you eat, the more sleepy you will feel. Try snacking on healthier alternatives such as bananas, oatmeals, nuts etc.
Moreover, before you sit down to study, get rid of your hunger, it can cause anger and frustration. These feelings hinder your ability to focus.
DAILY EXERCISE :
Researchers have found that adding physical activity to your routine helps improve the ability of the brain to ignore distractions. In one study, students who engaged in moderate physical exercise before taking a test that measured their attention spans performed much better than those students who didn’t exercise. So, establish a reasonable exercise routine for yourself.
LASTLY, it’s important to start saying no. If different things are calling you towards them and you know they are low priority, do not feel bad to say no. You’re allowed to do that.
Moreover, if nothing works for you and there are too many voices in your head that distract you from focusing, you do not need to beat yourself up. It’s okay. Close the book, take a break. Don’t worry about the timer. Your mental health is more important than anything else.
Written By: Rimsha Rameen