It can be frustrating to sit down at your desk or start preparing for an upcoming challenge and feel like your mind is in a million places at once. No matter how much you breathe and get ready to dive in, you might just feel unfocused and scattered, grabbing your phone or checking random things instead of hunkering down.
Focusing is a problem almost everyone experiences at some point, but it can be particularly challenging during a stressful time at work or around the busy holiday. You know you need to get stuff done, but how can you, when you can’t focus on one single thing?
Fortunately, there are a lot of simple ways to trick your brain back into focus-mode and get ready to tackle your responsibilities. Try some of these tips to improve focus and concentration and minimize distractions for your most productive day yet.
Focusing in the moment
Many times, all you need is a quick refresher to get you back on track. Try some of these tips for an instant focus boost.
- Remove all distractions: Depending on your environment, it can be difficult to work because of external distractions. Your cell phone is probably a big one—it can be hard to focus on something if your phone keeps ringing or buzzing with notifications. Music, television and other noise can also be difficult to manage. To minimize physical distractions in your workspace, turn off noise-making machines if they bother you, or invest in a pair of soundproof headphones. As for your phone, unless you truly need it for work, tuck it away in your desk or use one of the many apps available to “lock” your phone for a certain amount of time.
- Make a to-do list: Sometimes, you just have too much going on at once to really dive in. Making an itemized to-do list can help you sort out your thoughts, empty your brain and figure out which tasks are of the highest priority. Jot these notes onto a spare piece of paper or look for a planner if you consistently have multiple items to tackle each day. Then, work on one thing at a time instead of trying to multitask.
- Drink water: A tall, refreshing glass of water can make a huge difference in your day if you aren’t able to focus. Our bodies and minds need water for proper circulation and function, and brain fog can happen if you’re dehydrated. If you can’t concentrate, take a short break and drink a glass of water, then return.
- Exercise: The body and mind are deeply connected, and exercise is the perfect way to strengthen them both. If you’re at work and need a break, take a 10-minute walk around the building or outside to get your blood pumping. If you have some more time, a quick yoga session can be great for focusing your energy while activating the rest of your body.
Long-term tricks for concentration
There are also a lot of ways you can improve your focus long-term through lifestyle changes and emphases on your health.
For example, the nutrients you put into your body not only affect your physical health, but your mental health, as well. It’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet each day to maintain proper brain function. Make sure to get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, as well as your full variety of vitamins. Cut down on refined sugars as much as possible—a high sugar diet can cause “brain fog” that can inhibit your ability to focus and sour your mood.
There are also many natural herbs that are known for their ability to improve concentration and focus while reducing stress. Bacopa, ginkgo, ginseng and many others are often combined into supplements specifically designed to improve concentration. Taking a supplement once a day may help improve your concentration over time.
Meditation is another great way to work on your focus long-term. Practicing meditation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi or other forms of mindfulness can help center your breathing, calm the mind and body and bring you back to what’s important. Many studies have suggested that people who meditate regularly experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve their memory and ability to focus.
Finally, make sure to take care of your health as a whole for the best possible brain power. Get a solid night’s rest, exercise regularly, find ways to relieve stress and practice self-care to not only live a healthier life but also see an improvement in your ability to tackle the challenges each day can bring.