Did you ever catch yourself thinking about something you shouldn’t be thinking during a meeting or during a lecture? You are trying to focus but all of sudden you realise that your mind just wandered and you have no idea what has been happening during the past few minutes. Does that sound like you? If so, then probably you have difficulties to sustain your attention and become distracted very easily. The following are a few tips how to improve your concentration.
- External distractions – If you need to work on a task which requires you to sustain your attention choose an environment which will minimise distractions and boost your mental capacity. Ensure that the lighting is appropriate, not too bright nor too dim. Visual distraction can be eliminated by sitting whilst facing a blank wall. Keep your desk clear to avoid fidgeting and also eliminate unnecessary noises.
- Internal distractions – These are harder to manage and therefore require a lot of practice. When you have intrusive thoughts and notice that your mind has wandered stop and tell yourself “Be here now” whilst bringing your attention back to what you were previously doing. Let the thoughts go and if they keep persisting just take a note and deal with them later when you have finished with your task.
- Use a timer – Use short units of working time by setting a timer to work for 25 minutes and then have a 5 minute break or you might increase that time span to 50 minutes of working time and 10 minutes to rest. Repeat this cycle according to your needs.
- Motivation – Set goals in order to help you remain motivated. Break down a larger task into smaller tasks. When you set a goal make sure it is realistic and specific so that you are clear about what you are going to work on. Giving yourself a reward upon the completion of a task will also likely to keep you focused so that you get on with the task, finish it and then you can reward yourself.
- Physical factors – These may seem obvious however it is important not to ignore them. Getting sufficient sleep is one of them. Unless you do so, you are likely to feel tired throughout the day and therefore will not be able to concentrate. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleeping hours in order to feel rested. Usually the average is 8 hours. It is also important to notice at what time of the day you work best and feel at your optimum. Try to fit in as much work as you can during that time frame as when you are alert the quality and quantity of work you manage to complete will be better. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will also boost your energy levels and mental capacity.
Get to know what works best for you and just do more of it!
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties.