It’s easy to get distracted nowadays. There’s so much going on in our everyday lives that staying focused can be a problem for anyone of any age. Whether you’re a student in school, struggling to be attentive in class, or an adult having trouble staying on task at your job, these tips on how to improve yourself are applicable to anyone. If you are having trouble with concentration and applying yourself, it could be a result of ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). For others, it could be out of bad habits, or even anxiety disorder. For any of the above, it might be good to seek out professional help. But these tips don’t require anything except a little discipline and practice!
You probably have heard that exercise can be beneficial for lots of things. Studies have shown that physical activity can help treat depression, reduces the risk of chronic diseases, and improves your sleep. But did you know it can also help with brain function and memory? When you exercise, it increases your heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. This, in turn, helps activate the production of hormones, enhancing the growth of brain cells.
University of Illinois psychology professor Art Kramer is a nationally recognized expert on the subject of physical fitness on cognition. In 2013, he discussed his findings during a meeting with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He spoke at length on the benefits of exercise, and how increased physical activity has a direct effect on cognition and brain health. His studies found that older adults who participated in fitness training saw significant improvements to their brain activity and function.
Numerous studies on physical activity have shown exercise to be a powerful tool in sharpening focus. Just a few minutes of exercise can help you increase productivity and improve time management. If you are working on a big project, consider taking a break and doing some light physical activity like walking, biking, swimming, or aerobics. Even taking a walk three times a week showed an increase in brain power.
SLEEP AND MEDITATION
Who doesn’t enjoy a good night’s sleep? The recommended amount of hours of sleep per night for young adults is 8 to 10 hours. A sleep deprived person cannot function properly; not getting enough hours can affect your ability to learn and remember things.The more well-rested you are, the happier and optimistic you tend to feel. Sleep is crucial for learning new information and for feeling good.
Lack of sleep can cause a significant lack in selective attention. Selective attention is the process of focusing on a subject in an environment for a certain amount of time. We are constantly bombarded by new information, and our senses pick up so many things happening around us. In order to get anything done, we have to be selective on what we want to focus on, and tune everything else out. Studies show that a well-rested person performs better because they are more able to select what they want to focus on.
Just like exercise, sleep has a ridiculous number of benefits. Especially on days before a big test, or a busy day at work where you have to perform well, getting to bed on time is crucial.
If you find yourself feeling distracted a lot, then take the time to re-evaluate what is causing those distractions. TV, social media, and video games are common things that pull us away from doing the things we need to do. Learning what detracts you from your work — and then eliminating these things from the equation — will help you in the long run.
For example, try turning your phone on silent for a bit so you’re not tempted to be answer messages. You will get a lot more work done if you don’t have to pause and answer every message you get. Sometimes it helps to visit a library, where it is nice and quiet and you won’t be disturbed.
Another helpful tip is having a tidy workspace, which can help reduce stress; studies have shown that having a messy workspace can give you a feeling of being overwhelmed. Having a tidy workspace also saves you time! If you know where your tools are at all times, it can help you save time and be more efficient in your work.
If you are feeling scatterbrained, making a to-do list can help you focus on one thing at a time. You can make a list of all the things you need to tackle on that day, prioritizing what needs to get done first.
KNOWING YOUR LIMITS
One of the most important (and undervalued) tips? Know when to take a break! Our brains are not built to sustain constant attention for hours and hours, and taking breaks can help break up the monotony of work. Taking breaks gives you time to relax and recollect yourself. It helps the brain recuperate after performing a bunch of tasks like decision making, problem solving, and communicating, which can all cause your brain to feel fatigued. You could try doodling, do a little light reading, have a quick chat, or meditate. Even taking a 20 minute nap can help clear your mind. Just make sure whatever you do is truly a relaxing activity for you! If you don’t feel rejuvenated or calm after 20 minutes, maybe you need a better break activity. For example, you might think that going on Facebook is a good way to take a break, only to find that Facebook leaves you feeling as exhausted and stressed out as work!
I hope following these tips can help you focus and be more productive. You will have to tweak your current habits for a few weeks before the new habits form, but the results can be really effective. Resources are everywhere online to help you improve your studying, work habits, and lifestyle.
If you or someone you love is struggling with concentration and focus and interested in being evaluated for possible ADHD, we have many providers who can help.