Focus the Mind: Tips to Improve Your Concentration

Re-reading the same paragraph over and over? Here's how to address the physical, emotional and environmental issues that prevent concentration

Credit: Flickr/Photo4jenifer

Your ability to focus depends on physical, emotional and environment conditions

Re-reading the same paragraph over and over? Don’t despair, here are some great tips to improve attention and concentration

Lapses in attention happen every day. Your mind drifts from reviewing spreadsheets to checking e-mails to the conversation in the next cubicle. Multiple projects sit unfinished on your desk.

What makes it so hard to focus, and how can you keep your mind on track?

Emotional Causes of Concentration Trouble

Total absorption in a task requires a balance of challenge and progress. If the work is too easy, you grow bored. If the work is too difficult, feelings of anxiety or frustration lead to avoidance. 

Helpful tips: 

  • Set one-hour slots for tedious work with more interesting tasks in between. 

  • Break stressful work down into small, manageable steps.

  • Focus on one task at a time. Juggling will lead to mistakes.

Physical Causes of Lapses in Attention

Irregular sleeping and eating habits, binge drinking, sugary treats or overindulging in caffeine will affect your brain chemistry, weakening your ability to concentrate.

Helpful tips: 

  • Maintain a healthy sleep, diet and exercise regimen.
  • Limit sugary or processed foods as these will lead to an energy slump.
  • Schedule breaks that involve physical activity, water and a healthful snack.

External Causes of Difficulty Focusing

E-mail, websites and chatty co-workers can be an intrusion or a temptation, depending on how motivated you feel. Either way, they’ll mean big stress when your deadline finally looms.

Helpful tips:

  • Use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Hang a “do not disturb” sign, with the time you will be available.

  • Turn off your Internet connection when you don’t need it.

  • Breath deeply: Concentrating can also be an act of will. When you feel your mind starting to drift, take three deep breaths and make a conscious choice to focus on the work at hand.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.