After working as an engineer, I enjoy reading and writing to help others get more out of their time in their pursuit of personal development
Do you find it hard to concentrate and stay focused? This is a typical situation we've all been In. This article explains why staying focused is important and gives tips on how to improve concentration and stay focused on your work and study.
Lack of Concentration and Focus
Staying focused and fully concentrated on my study and task had always been an issue, not only during my uni days but also during my career days.
One day I took the bold step of learning Transcendental Meditation, to loosen up and practice relaxation techniques. Later, I joined yoga classes to heal stress and instill calmness.
As a result, I saw improvements in my concentration level and was able to stay focused longer.
I tried to pass on these 'techniques' to my children but none were keen, especially on the meditation. So, I looked for other ways to help them and these are some of the ways that benefited them and hopefully, you will too.
The Importance of Concentration
I found this book, 'Supervisory Management', by Philip Hunsaker and Colette Frayne, that stated:
"if your mind wandered rather than focused on the issue at hand, then you may have a concentration problem".
They also said concentration is crucial in order to complete what you were supposed to do. It had to be an active and continuous effort to exclude from your consciousness all thoughts and emotions not related to the task that you were doing. It is a skill that requires motivation, self-discipline, and common sense.
This book by Philip Hunsaker and Colette Frayne became my tutor and guide in the quest to help my kids and my co-workers. However, not all of the ideas are applicable to students and you need to adapt accordingly.
Why You Need to Stay Focused
In their book, the authors gave the following reasons why you need to improve your concentration and stay focused:
- To complete your task efficiently and effectively.
- To have a better idea of what needs to be done.
- If you are able to concentrate, then you can learn better.
Why You Are Unable to Concentrate
I learned that how well you concentrate depends on how well your brain can 'filter' out the non-related messages. Your lack of concentration can also be due to these factors:
- When you lack motivation, you will be easily distracted.
- When you daydream and fantasize about other issues.
- When the surrounding environment is distracting you.
- You have too many tasks at hand and try to complete the work without proper planning. This leads to frustration and confusion, hence your ability to concentrate.
- You are sleepy or hungry and this makes it difficult to concentrate, especially on abstract activities.
How to Concentrate Better
The first step to overcome these barriers is to recognize that you have a problem. By accepting these problems, you learn to concentrate better. The followings are steps given by the authors to improve your concentration and focus level:
1. Check Your Level of Motivation
Analyze your level of motivation. If the reason for not being able to concentrate is due to a mismatch of personality and job, then you should stop. Forcing yourself to continue will not be productive.
2. Organize Your Activity
Start your week with a plan. Schedule what needs to be done in the order of priority and importance. Estimate the time required to accomplish those tasks. Do you need any help from others or the use of particular equipment? Put it all on your list.
3. Put Aside Your Personal Problems
Are you having personal problems or fantasizing about a new love? You must not let this interfere with your work or task. If you can't control your thoughts, they will interfere with your ability to concentrate.
4. Check Your Degree of Involvement
If you are doing too many tasks at one time and not getting one task to completion, then you should delegate some minor tasks to others.
If you continue to try doing everything, nothing may get done.
5. Manage Your Study/Work Environment
Is the noise level in your work environment a distraction? Is the lighting too dim? Is the color scheme in your study/work area too garish? Is your chair too hard?
These are the excuses you encounter that create a distraction and lessen your concentration level and increase your stress level. If you can manage and reduce these distractions yourself then attend to it. Otherwise, talk to the admin staff or the person in charge to help with these problems.
6. Evaluate Your Task Requirement
If your task requires long hours of concentration like doing a financial report, find a quiet place to work. Take frequent breaks or alternate with other minor tasks. Playing soft music might help relax both body and mind, helping you concentrate better.
7. Take Care of Yourself
A clear mental state and a healthy physical being are necessary to help you concentrate better. Proper sleep, diet, and exercise are also important.
Staying up all night to prepare for a meeting or exam early the next morning will not be beneficial if it causes you to drift in and out of sleep during the session.
8. Manage Your Own Concentration
Most people can concentrate for up to one hour. After that, they become vulnerable to distractions. The way to keep one's concentration level high is to take frequent breaks. A five-minute break every half hour or so is best.
How to Improve Your Study Mindset
If you are a student it is important to 'create' that study mindset. In addition to the above suggestions (with some slight modifications based on your study scenario), here are other ways that might help:
- Study in areas with little distraction such as in the library.
- Bring only what you need for the study, otherwise, you will be distracted by other things such as messages on your hand-phones.
- A study group with your friends - asking questions, discussions and brainstorming on the subject will improve your memory.
- Take a short break in between study will help refresh your mind.
Brain Exercise and More
In addition to what was suggested by the authors, I would also recommend you do brain exercise to keep the mind 'alert and active'. Meditation or relaxation and simple stretching exercises like gentle yoga will also help.
Finally, drink a lot of water, especially mineral water.
Stay alert and be productive.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Mazlan A
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on October 27, 2015:
Hi Alice. Thanks for sharing the link.
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on August 20, 2012:
@Paneuromix. There may be side effects with some of these substances so you need to check and be extra careful before taking them. I personally used to take Ginkgo biloba, which helps with blood circulation and memory. I am now taking dates vinegar and alternate it with apple cider vinegar and pomegranate vinegar (i.e. once I finish one bottle of one type of vinegar, I then take the other vinegar and so on)
Paneuromix on August 19, 2012:
I appreciate very much the tips you gave us in this hub. I want to ask you a question, do you think using various substances that affect brain activity in a positive way are good or bad?
Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on June 27, 2012:
@billybuc, @dinkan53 , @teaches12345, @Simone Smith
Thank you all for dropping by, commenting and sharing your own experiences. Thanks for the Share, dinkan53
Simone, thanks for including multitasking as a possible culprit, I can see that already!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 26, 2012:
Very good tips! I'd like to add an avoidance of multitasking to the mix. Multitasking is the ultimate bane of concentration!
Dianna Mendez on June 24, 2012:
Excellent! I have found drinking water helps in so many ways. Glad you listed this as a suggestion for improving concentration. It does help the brain.
dinkan53 from India on June 23, 2012:
Thanks for suggesting such useful things to improve the concentration, as it is the key factor of any kind of work. Personally for me a good shower or herbal tea like green tea is working to restore my concentration. Rated up and useful. Shared!!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2012:
Great suggestions! In truth I am a very focused person; always have been. Many of the tips you give are things I have always done. Very nice hub!