Telling yourself to focus on something is often much easier said than done. Whether it is the lack of sleep, fatigue, distraction or something else, being unable to focus can negatively impact our productivity.
The good news is, there are several things you can do to improve concentration. Here are some of our science-backed tips to enhance focus and increase productivity.
1. Get enough sleep
Consistent sleep deprivation is the number one killer of your focus. Not only does the lack of sleep disrupt concentration, it also affects other cognitive functions including memory and attention.
Being sleep deprived can even slow down your reflexes and ability to perform at work or other daily tasks.
It is generally recommended that you should aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Occasional sleep deprivation should not be too problematic, but if you regularly fail to get a good night’s sleep, you might need to follow the following tips:
- Put away all screens an hour before bed.
- Keep a stable sleeping schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time daily, even on weekends.
- Avoid the use of caffeine 10 hours before bedtime.
- Set the mood with soft music, relaxing scents, a warm bath, or reading a book.
2. Try meditating
Meditation and mindfulness have been proven through research and studies to be helpful in improving the ability to focus and enhancing learning and memory.
According to a review of 23 studies, mindfulness training is associated with improvement in sustaining attention and focus.
Practicing mediation goes further than sitting silently with your eyes closed. There are different activities you can try, including yoga or deep breathing exercises.
Meditation is not easy for everyone, especially those who does not find joy in sitting still and thinking about nothing. If you’d like to learn mediation by yourself at home, there are several apps such as Headspace, Calm, Oak or Aura. Most of these apps are free with in-app purchases.
You might think you can multitask to achieve several things at a time, but the truth is humans cannot actually multitask. The myth of multitasking is simply switching attention from one task to another. Therefore, when you direct your attention on only one task, your productivity increases, and distractions minimizes. Make a list, prioritize your to-do lists, and focus on one thing at a time.
4. Remove unnecessary distractions
It is easy to give into your temptations and check your phone constantly, especially when you have the tendency to procrastinate when you have too much to do. But even when you’ve decided to put your phone down, if your phone is constantly buzzing with notifications, how do you expect to stay focused?
Personally, when I’m doing work, I either put my phone on airplane mode or have all my notifications disabled. You can also inform your coworkers or people you live with (if you work remotely) that you are not to be disturbed.
If your workspace is not silent, be sure to have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
5. Brain training games
A 2015 study found evidence that brain training activities can effectively impact on concentration. The adults participating in this study suggested spending 15 minutes a day and 5 days a week on such activities. Brain training games you can try:
- Memory games
- Word searches
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Crossword puzzles
Besides improving your ability to concentrate, brain training games can also be beneficial for your short-term memory and problem-solving skills.
Overall, give yourself a range of approaches to try these different ways of helping with concentration. Some may work well for you, some may not. These tips are unlikely to have any negative effect like decreasing focus. However, if you find yourself seriously struggle to focus, consider consulting a doctor, as a more serious health problem might be the cause.