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We all know what it’s like to try (and fail) to focus on something without our mind wandering – daydreaming, checking your phone, even chatting to other people. It’s irritating when all you want to do is concentrate on your task and get it done so you can check it off your list. 

Luckily, there are activities that you can do to improve your attention and concentration. How successful they will be for you differ from person to person, but it’s more than likely that you’ll find at least one thing from this list that works for you. 

Why can’t you focus?

There are many different possible reasons for you not being able to focus on your tasks. Some of the most common are:

  • Information overload – if you have too many things to do, focus on, or going on in general, your brain is going to struggle to take it all in. It’s like trying to watch TV while someone is vacuuming.
  • Consuming food and drink – when you eat or drink something, your body diverts energy away from your brain to digest what you’ve consumed. Certain foods and drinks or substances in them also just make you drowsy, like alcohol.
  • Time of day – you will likely have noticed over the course of your life that there are certain times of the day that you concentrate better and certain times where you can’t seem to concentrate to save your life. This all depends on your own personal biological clock.
  • Medication – certain medications can make you drowsy or unable to focus as a side effect.
  • Underlying conditions – you may have conditions like sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, or ADHD that make concentrating on tasks difficult.
  • Lack of investment – it may be the case that you simply don’t care enough about what you’re doing to focus on it!

How to improve your attention and concentration

1. Eliminate distractions

Your working environment should have as few distractions as possible. It can sometimes be easier said than done when it comes to eliminating distractions, especially if those distractions are people – roommates, family, or chatty coworkers. 

Minimize background noise by turning off radios or TVs, and try and find a calm and quiet location to work or set a time where people have to leave you alone.  

Of course, not all distractions are external. Internal distractions like worry, exhaustion, anxiety, etc. are far more difficult to avoid. For these, you can try mindfulness or breaking negative thought cycles.

2. Focus on one thing at a time

Many people swear they can multitask, but when you try and focus on more than one thing at a time, you are simply not able to give each task your full attention. 

Instead, try and prioritize your tasks in order of importance and urgency so that you know which ones to focus on first. This way you can give the task your all knowing that there isn’t anything else that is demanding your attention at that time.

3. Practice mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is everywhere, and for good reason. Mindfulness simply means being aware of what you’re doing, and while it’s often equated with meditation, it can be as simple as doing a breathing exercise. 

When you notice your mind wandering, acknowledge it, accept it, and then without criticizing yourself, guide your mind back to your task. 

When you are truly aware of what you’re doing, it’s easier to master your thoughts and actions. 

4. Take breaks

In the same way that no one can do a specific physical activity forever without taking breaks, your mind needs breaks to function well too. 

Try this: take a 5-minute break every 30 minutes. Not only will this help to rest your brain and allow it to work better in the long run, but you can also rest your eyes too!

5. Reward yourself

During your breaks or after you’ve finished a segment of work, it’s a great idea to reward yourself for working hard. When you’ve accomplished a task or a specific part of a task, then treat yourself. This could be a snack, a short nap, or even a little walk or scroll through Instagram. 

Just be mindful that these rewards should benefit you as well and be a part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. 

6. Try listening to something 

Some people find that they need to listen to something to cover the noise that their own brain makes, or to avoid being overstimulated by other things. This is common in people with ADHD, autism, or even anxiety and depression. 

If this sounds intriguing to you, try listening to brown noise, white noise, or ASMR. 

7. Trick your brain 

And finally, you might actually benefit from “tricking your brain” into thinking that the task you need to complete is actually the distraction by doing some other small activity while you’re completing that task.

For example, you need to do your taxes or study for an exam but you just can’t seem to focus. You might try doodling in between, playing an idle game, or even half-watching a TV show. While it seems counterintuitive because you feel like you should be cutting out distractions, some people actually find that this is the only way they can finish a task!

Your time is valuable

Being able to focus on a task means that you can finish it faster and then move on. Doing so brings you joy, success, and satisfaction. Hopefully at least one of these tips helps you to accomplish more with the time you have in your day.