Experts at the University of California have researched that we get interrupted every 11 minutes and we need an average of 23 minutes to fully concentrate on the task again.
We waste around 20,000 hours by being distracted over the course of our career.
That means if we improve our concentration to easily focus back on the task, we can avoid distraction and utilize these 20,000 unproductive hours to some extent.
Distractions are inevitable in our daily lives as we keep on checking Whatsapp messages, Facebook notifications, or news feeds.
In this highly distracting environment, it’s very important to learn how you can improve your concentration to become more attentive, focused, and productive.
In this article, you’ll learn about 7 useful ways to improve your concentration and become more productive.
7 Useful Easy Steps To Improve Concentration
#1. Use Pomodoro Technique
Pomodoro is a time management technique that allows you to break your work into 25 minutes chunks. Each 25 minutes time block is called Pomodoro.
You work deeply focused for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break. You continue this for 4 Pomodoro blocks and then you take a long break of 15 to 20 minutes.
Pomodoro technique creates an urgency of limited time (25 minutes) available that allows the brain to become alert and focused. Then you give it a reward of a 5-min break.
Since our brain signifies immediate rewards easily, giving a short break after 25 minutes of work makes it easy to focus for the next 25 minutes and the loop continues.
The journal Cognition study revealed that short breaks help you concentrate better on your work, rather than working for prolonged periods.
Longer work sessions result in mental boredom that decreases the focus and the mind starts distracting. So a work-break-work pattern used in Pomodoro helps you stay away from the distraction traps.
#2. Start Your Day with Exercise
In 2019, the British Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study that discovered starting your day with exercise increases concentration, visual learning, and decisiveness.
Because morning exercise increases BDNF level in the brain. BDNF is a protein type that improves brain cell regeneration that improves the concentration.
Morning exercise improves your alertness level because Cortisol hormone levels increase. Cortisol is also called the alertness hormone.
When you exercise, your heart beats rapidly, which increases blood flow in the body. Increased blood flow improves oxygen and nutrients supply to the heart and brain.
You need not work out for 2 hours in the morning to improve concentration. You can do 20 minutes of light stretching, a brisk walk, yoga, or pranayama to start your day.
Exercises and yoga poses to improve concentration
#1. Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
Vrikshasana improves neuromuscular coordination, improves concentration and alertness, strengthens legs, hips and helps in sciatica pain (a nerve pain travels from the lower back to leg).
#2. Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Setubandhasana improves blood circulation, calms the mind, and helps in mild depression.
Bridge pose also helps in stimulating the lungs, thyroid glands, abdominal organs and improves digestion.
#3. Anulom Vilom Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Anulom Vilom relieves stress, anxiety, improves focus, willpower and patience. Also improves brain, respiratory, and heart health.
Squats build new brain cells, strengthens legs and core, reduces the risk of injury, improves balance and athletic ability.
#5. Skipping Rope
Skipping rope calms your body, increases your concentration, coordination, improves balance, and strengthens the heart.
#3. Do Mindfulness
Even 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily for 8 weeks can leads to reduced stress, improved concentration, better memory, and alertness in the participants.
Mindfulness means focusing your attention on the present moment.
According to experts, 47% of the time we are lost in our thoughts. We do our routine chores in autopilot mode. Because when we do any task repeatedly, it’s saved into our subconscious mind and that allows us to do that task without giving full attention.
For example, if you go to the office by driving yourself, you will be focusing 10% on driving while 90% of your mind will be thinking of yesterday’s argument with your manager.
Mindfulness is the opposite.
It’s like slowing down your brain and observing what’s happening in the present moment. When living in the present moment you protect your brain from exhausting overthinking.
How to do Mindfulness Meditation
#1. Deep breathing
- Sit comfortably on a chair, yoga mat, or any mattress
- Keep your spine straight
- Close your eyes
- Take 3-4 deep breaths quickly
- Now again take a deep breath very slowly and observe the air going inside starting from your nostrils and then expansion of your belly
- Now release as slow as you can, again focusing the exhale of air
- That’s it. Repeat the steps at atleast 5 times in the beginning and gradually increase the time to 10 mins (atleast). You can use a timer for that.
#2. Listen to mindfulness meditation audio
You have to plug in your earphones or headphones and play a mindfulness meditation audio and follow the steps as mentioned in the audio.
However, sit comfortably and keep your back straight.
Some useful mindfulness meditation apps are Headspace, Calm and if you are looking for a free meditation app the go with Mindfulness app. All these apps are available on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store.
#3. Practice silence meditation (Vipassana)
- Simply sit comfortably and keep your spine erect.
- Start by observing your breath – inhale and exhale.
- Put a 1-minute timer initially.
You can start with whatever time you feel comfortable doing even 1 minute daily but increase the time gradually such as increasing 1 minute every 2 days.
Note: Whenever thoughts come into your mind, don’t feel panic. Just shift focus back to breathe until your timer rings.
#4. Do One Thing at a Time
We think doing multitasking improves productivity but actually, our brain is not designed for multitasking. What we assume multitasking is actually serial tasking that means shifting our attention from one task to another. This repeated attention shift takes extra effort to fully concentrate.
For example, if you are watching a movie and you get a phone call. It might seem like you are doing multitasking (watching the movie along with attending a phone call) but you may notice that when you are talking on the phone you would miss some movie dialogues.
And as soon as you focus on the movie, you would miss some call conversation part. This happens because our mind can focus on 1 thing at a time
A study published in Science Daily revealed that our brain can focus on one task at a time. Juggling between multiple tasks affects attention and focus.
Single-tasking allows you to give full attention of your brain to one task at a time that increases your concentration, quality of work and makes you more productive.
#5. Train Your Brain
Our brain learns and adapts new things faster when we are kid because of new cell formation. But as we age the new brain cell formation slows down.
You can increase the new brain cell formation by increasing oxygen supply and stimulating certain brain parts like the cerebral cortex, hippocampus.
You can do this by paying attention to a certain object for some time or pushing your brain to work on specific thought processes like problem solving and creative thinking.
Let me show you two popular ways to train your brain for better concentration. deep focus and sharp memory.
A. Play Brain Games
A 2015 research conducted on 4000 plus adults revealed that playing brain games like Sudoku for 15 minutes daily for 5 days a week, improved concentration, short-term memory, and problem-solving abilities.
Our brain appreciates immediate and unexpected rewards. When we play such brain games and solve a puzzle, that immediate reward of winning releases Dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is a happy hormone that controls mood, memory, concentration, and learning abilities. Brain games help in releasing adequate amounts of dopamine to improve our memory and focus.
Games that help in improving focus are –
- Memory Games
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Word Scrambles
B. Do Concentration Workout
You can also do concentration workouts if you have trouble focusing. The concentration exercises include devoting full attention to an activity for a set period.
Some examples are –
- Suck on a sweet candy and resist the urge to bite it. Pay attention to the flavor on your tongue and how long it takes to eat it completely.
- Draw something you like or doodle for 10 to 15 mins.
- Tossing a small ball with another person for 5 to 10 mins
- Try to not blinking eyes or blink as little as possible for 3 to 5 mins.
#6. Set Your Environment
Your work environment plays an important role in concentration. The comfortable environment includes a well-lit room, comfortable sitting, and ideal room temperature.
Let’s discuss further.
#1. Bright lighting conditions
Brightly lit space improves concentration, memory, and alertness as compared to regular room light. That’s the reason bedrooms have soft light whereas offices contain bright light.
If you are working, try to set up a light above the working desk that will help you keep alert and focused while working.
#2. Comfortable sitting arrangement
Make sure your chair is comfortable and it is at adequate height according to the desk.
The uncomfortable sitting arrangement results in back pain or neck stiffness that reduces focus as well as productivity.
If you are working from home try to set up a separate area as your workspace, so when you start sitting in a particular area for work, your mind will automatically start focusing as it will start differentiating between workspace and living space.
#3. Room temperature
As per a study by Cornell University, 21-degree Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius is the ideal temperature range that enhances your concentration and people make fewer mistakes.
Make sure your room temperature is within the ideal range, however, you can adjust it according to what your body feels comfortable with.
#4. Remove distractions
As discussed distractions reduces our focus. You can use below techniques to avoid distractions.
A. Listen to Music
You can use light instrumental music to avoid other background noises that create distractions. Music or any other ambient sound that subsides the effect of other noises is called white noise.
You can also use apps that create uniform and soothing sounds such as ocean waves or falling rain.
B. Keep smartphone aside
The biggest distraction in today’s world is our phones. Try to disable notifications when you are starting work that requires deep concentration.
If you are working from home, then try to put the smartphone in another room until you complete your task.
C. Start working early
If you are working from home and you don’t have any dedicated work timings, then you can try to get up early to start your work when others are sleeping.
That will give you distraction-free time to fully concentrate on your work.
#5. Put pictures
Putting up natural landscapes or wildlife sceneries help in improving the focus. Put up the scenery in such a place from where you can easily see while working.
#7. Get Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep can also interrupt concentration as well as memory and attention because your brain needs rest to re-energize. If you don’t give it enough rest, it will not work at its best.
Multiple factors like hectic schedules, health issues, or other circumstances like having a toddler, make it difficult to get enough sleep but sleeping close to the required hours is a must.
An adult requires 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
If you are not able to get full sleep at night, try taking a short nap of 15 mins to 30 mins after returning from the office or in the afternoon (if you don’t have work timing commitments) to give your brain some rest.
You can improve your concentration by rewarding the brain with short breaks or using Pomodoro, solving puzzles, getting enough sleep, and reducing distractions.
Try these techniques and which technique worked best for you, do let me know in the comments.