If you want to succeed in your career, or even excel at your hobbies, then you need to put a focused effort into them. There is no substitute for sustained, attentive effort. Individuals have so many elements vying for their attention at the moment, however, that it isn’t always easy to concentrate on the things that are important to you.
Though human brains are truly amazing, it’s actually quite easy to trick the brain if you know how to do it. Because humans have task-dependent attention spans, the way that individuals apply attention can be trained and modified to suit the situation.1 So, with a few smart strategies, you can concentrate better and make life easier. Some of these strategies are highlighted below.
Don’t Just Stop
One of the toughest challenges for a lot of people is continuing on when things are difficult. If you’re frustrated with an assignment, sick of studying for a test, or on the verge of quitting your chosen sport, then tell yourself to keep going.
If you tell yourself that you’ll do just a couple more questions or complete one more assignment before you stop, then you should find that it is easier to keep going because you can see the end in sight. When you do finish that task, you’ll get the feeling of accomplishment of having completed it, and then it will be easier for you to start another.
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Additionally, it’s important to allow yourself brief diversions with the understanding that you will come back to the task after them. A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Illinois found that such diversions can improve productivity in the long term.2
Focus on One Job at a Time
Choice paralysis is a real issue, and it’s something that supermarkets have researched extensively.3 It’s been found that if you provide people with too many choices, they will feel overwhelmed and make no choice at all.
You can use this knowledge in your life to help yourself when you’re feeling as if things are getting too much for you. Instead of trying to tell yourself not to worry about all the things that are chipping away at your mind, tell yourself that you will spend the next 30 minutes working on one specific job. From there, you will work on the next job, and the next one, until you’ve completed everything.
Even with laying everything out in this manner, some people struggle to do this at first. Writing out to-do lists can help you with that because the act of writing the tasks down tells your brain that they won’t be forgotten.
Start Right Now
Procrastination is something that a lot of people struggle with. Rather than beating yourself up about it, ask yourself whether it makes sense to delay a task. You’ll likely come to the conclusion that the task will not be any easier at a later date, and that delaying it will simply leave you feeling stressed and anxious.
If the task is important to you, then it makes sense to start it right now so that it isn’t occupying too much of your mind for too long. Once you start work, keep working until it’s completed or until your attention starts to wander.
If your attention wanders, go back to the first tip, and do five more questions or one more Pomodoro timer worth of work before you allow yourself to stop and take a break.
Create a Good Working Environment
It’s difficult to concentrate in an environment where you are constantly distracted, so try to find somewhere to work that will allow you to think clearly. Put headphones on so that people aren’t tempted to talk to you, and turn your phone off if necessary. It all helps.
Interruptions, especially ones that are unnecessary, can cause stress and burnout. A study conducted at the University of California found that people who are interrupted regularly at work compensate for that by working faster, but the increased effort frustrates them and makes them more stressed, which can have a long-term negative impact on their well-being.4
Employ All of Your Senses
When you think of concentration, you probably think of an absence of noise and the presence of tunnel vision, but don’t forget about the sense of smell. Some aromas are distracting and some can help promote razor focus. Vetiver and rosemary essential oils, for example, can help to modulate mental functions. The oils also have refreshing properties, boosting electrical brain activity and improving alertness.5
Try using these essential oils topically after diluting them with a carrier oil or aromatically in a room diffuser or personal aromatherapy diffuser like Zen MONQ.
Train Your Brain
Most people accept the idea that you can train your body to get faster, stronger, or to have more endurance, but the idea of brain training is often met with a smirk. Mental stamina is a real property, and it is one that you can train.
If you struggle to focus when you’re at work or school, then that’s a skill that you will need to build up. Recent research suggests that it is indeed possible to train your brain but that the training should be highly task-specific. So, if you want to concentrate better on cognitive tasks or visual tasks, the best way to improve your performance in those things is to do more of them.6
When it comes to promoting concentration and focus, it’s important to find what works for you, whether that’s long periods of hyperfocus or short bursts of concentration. Additionally, try to work on improving your personal workflow until you feel that you have found something that makes you comfortably productive. If you do the things you enjoy well, then you should have the more mental energy to do the things you struggle with effectively too.
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