Insufficient sleep and physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, and the multitude of constant distractions surrounding us daily can drastically impact our ability to concentrate.
Although being able to focus and concentrate is essential for getting things done, this ability does not come easy to many of us. It is common to feel scattered, fuzzy, and out of control as your mind wanders off.
However, it is possible to improve your focus by working to mitigate the factors that distract you. In the following sections, we talk about some of the most critical factors that affect your focus and concentration and the ways to get them under control.
Factors that affect your focus
So why is it so hard to focus and concentrate? As it turns out, internal and external factors can influence your capacity to focus.
Understanding these factors can help you figure out ways to tackle them and get your mind back on track. Below we have identified some of the things which make be hindering your work quality.
1. Distractions make you veer off track
When we receive a piece of information, our brain actively tries to make sense of it and categorise it subconsciously.
The sheer volume of information that we flood our brains with can limit our ability to effectively process thoughts. Soon, our brains struggle to distinguish between what is useful and what is not.
You might have experienced this phenomenon when you search for something online. If you are not careful, you may have been drawn into an information rabbit hole just to discover that you have wasted hours doing nothing!
Distractions have power like that, causing you to lose track of your productive time and focus.
2. Lack of sleep affects memory
Another considerable reason you are unable to concentrate is a lack of sleep. Several studies support the notion that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to be easily distracted and consequently struggle to focus.
Studies conducted at Stanford University’s Sleep Medicine Centre found that regular poor sleep can make it more difficult to remember things, and affects your short-term and long-term memory.
3. Poor eating habits
What you eat significantly affects your mental and physical health. You must fuel your brain to keep it sharp, alert, and focused.
A diet that is very low in fat, for example, can ruin your ability to focus. Restrictive diets generally do more harm than good when it comes to concentration.
4. Lack of exercise dulls your brain
A lack of physical activity can also dull your brain. If you are not physically active, your muscles tend to become tense, and you might not be able to relax. This is enough to keep you distracted and prevent you from concentrating.
5. Your environment
Your work environment also plays a key role in helping you focus. If you try to get some work done in a noisy environment, it can be very distracting, and you might not be able to concentrate. The intensity, as well as the type of noise, can affect your ability to focus.
Three ways to improve focus and concentration
While staying focused can be difficult, you can take considerate steps to minimise distractions. Here are three of the most effective ways that can help you improve your concentration and be more productive as a result.
1. Eliminate multitasking
Stop telling yourself that you can do two things at a time. No one can, at least not efficiently. Efficient multitasking is nothing but a myth. You might feel that doing multiple things simultaneously might boost your productivity, but the opposite is true.
As you engage in various activities, you lose focus, and nothing gets done the way it should.
When you do any mentally demanding work, you want all your brain's processing power to be focused on that particular task.
Here are some tips to avoid multitasking and keep yourself focused:
- Avoid listening to music or podcasts while working
- Divide your time into blocks and perform only one activity during any particular block of time - the Pomodoro technique can be quite useful
- Create schedules or plans using Microsoft programs such as Excel or Word to keep on a set time schedule
2. Practice mindfulness
The secret to increased focus is being aware of your surroundings. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help your brain calm down and your body relax. It is a great way to get your distracted mind back on track.
Numerous studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can also increase neuronal plasticity. It helps your brain make new neuronal connections and rewire itself, increasing your ability to concentrate.
Here are a few mindfulness tips that might help you stay focused:
- Take a few minutes and focus on your breathing with your eyes closed, trying not to think about anything
- Make a habit of taking short breaks throughout your working day
- Go for a walk if you are feeling particularly distracted
3. Eat and sleep well
The importance of diet and sleep in regulating your brain is tremendous. Your nutrition and sleep quality have the biggest impact on your ability to focus.
Your brain needs a constant, uninterrupted supply of energy to function optimally. Starving yourself is perhaps the worst thing you can do for your concentration. It is crucial to keep your energy level stable throughout the day by eating nutritious and balanced meals.
Make a point of getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep can help rewire your brain after a day’s stressful activities, so it is ready to go again the next day.
Some actionable tips include:
- Increase the number of green vegetables and fruits that contain high fibre in your diet; they help to keep your glucose levels even throughout the day
- Avoid sugary and fatty food for lunch or a midday snack
- Include more nuts and berries in your diet
- Try to reduce your screen time before bed to help you sleep better
- Avoid eating a heavy dinner that might interfere with your sleep
It is possible to improve your focus and concentration, but it will need practice and commitment.
Focus is indeed a crucial element for success in personal and professional life, and maintaining it requires a combination of good habits and effective tools. In addition to practices like avoiding distractions and taking care of your physical and mental health, training can also be a valuable asset to improve your focus and productivity.
Nexacu offers a variety of training programs and tools designed to help individuals and organisations optimise their work processes and improve their efficiency. These programs can teach you how to use tools like Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams to manage your tasks, organise your work, and collaborate effectively with others.
By learning how to use these programs effectively, you can streamline your workflow, reduce time-consuming tasks, and eliminate unnecessary distractions, allowing you to focus more on important tasks and achieve your goals.