Updated: Aug 12
Improving your focus and concentration in an increasingly distracting world feels like it should be an Olympic sport. Everywhere you look, someone or something is greedily fighting for your attention. Research shows that the ability to concentrate and pay attention is something that can be improved, even from a very young age. Our ability to focus is not a fixed quantity.
Of all the resources which have become in short supply over the past few years, the diminishing of our power to focus is perhaps the most problematic. Lean and challenging times are nothing new to the human race, but it’s our ability to concentrate that allows us to thrive in spite of them—to cultivate relationships, deeply problem solve, and innovate our way to a better future.
It sounds like a big task, but rebuilding your powers of concentration is a remarkably straightforward process, which can be accomplished by targeting a few very simple behaviors. So in this week’s blog, my advice is to start by first improving your ability to focus—and from there, you can conquer whatever mountains you need to with aplomb.
This week, I put together these tips to help you to help you improve your ability to concentrate for extended periods of time and harness the power of your mind and attention.
AVOID COMPUTERS FOR THE FIRST AND LAST HOUR OF EACH DAY
Our screen lives (email, social media sites, online news) have created an instant-response culture that has been scientifically proven to be addictive, stealing our ability to concentrate. And so, as a 2012 study by UC Irvine and U.S. Army researchers found, spending time away from email significantly improves one’s ability to focus.
ORGANIZE YOUR SCHEDULE AROUND YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
Aim to work on tasks that require a lot of concentration during the times when you're typically highly focused. During those periods when you're recharging, I’d suggest checking your email, studying for that test you have next week, or make a full try-schedule for the whole month so you don’t get caught up later on.
This strategy works even if you don't have such a flexible schedule. If you can predict your energy level at any given point throughout the day, you can also plan ways to boost your energy level when it's necessary.
Building a new wellness/fitness habit starts with a sometimes massive behavioral change, which also brings up the question: Am I really ready to make a change at this point of my life? Everything we do, feel, and think relates to our well-being. In my opinion, wellness is considered a way of living, an integration of the body, mind, and soul. It’s not just about your looks, but your health as well: overindulging in unhealthy habits can endanger your life in more ways than one, and avoiding this situation is a must. This blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago details it very well how you can create a wellness habit.
Regular exercise is critical to good physical and mental health. When you can get out and get moving several times a week, it promotes a healthy weight, good muscle tone, and healthy joint function. It’s a great way to relieve stress and regulate your energy levels.
When you exert yourself, your brain produces endorphins, a hormone that people associate with having a positive attitude. This hormone also desensitizes your perception of negative feelings or physical strain. People who start their day with a little bit of exercise have reported enhanced concentration and motivation. They’ll also be more likely to make healthier food choices. Here’s a blog I wrote a few weeks back on Why A Fitness Routine Is The Best Way To Improve Your Mental And Physical Health.
IDENTIFY YOUR DISTRACTIONS, TEMPTATIONS AND TIME-SUCKERS
Your phone is a great tool, but it can also create negative attention patterns and be a distraction. If you want to get serious about concentration and focus, you must set your life up to support it. Remove temptation by turning off notifications. You don’t need to be alerted about everything, all the time. Ideally, you want to engage with your phone when you want/need to.
By always responding to the ding of somebody/something trying to get your attention, you are negatively training your mind and body to be distracted by irrelevant stimuli. Turn off push notifications and go through periods of putting your phone on airplane mode (especially at night). Trust me, that message, snap, and picture will be there later.
Distractions impact work in many ways, and yet it is difficult to fully eliminate them. Checking your email, text messages, social media or favorite websites during the workday takes away from the time you could be spending completing a task. The key is to identify common distractions and eliminate them.
As I always mention, keeping your body hydrated is the bare minimum you can do to optimize mental and physical well-being. As a professional swimmer, I always have to make sure my body is at its maximum level of hydration, so I can perform at my best during everyday workouts and swim meets. Walking around with a water bottle or sports drink bottle has become part of who I am. When I go to that morning run or workout I always make sure I have a bottle of Hydra-Guard with me. Staying hydrated not only helps me to stay on top of my physical performance, but also I make sure I am always at my best mentally.
For most people, water is all that is needed to stay hydrated. However, if you will be exercising/studying/working at a high pace for hours, a sports drink may be the answer. The calories, potassium, and other nutrients in sports drinks can provide energy and electrolytes to help you perform for a longer period of time. Products like Hydra-Guard Sports Drink also help me to make sure I have my proper amount of Vitamins and essential electrolytes to keep me healthy and active all year. One bottle has 20% the equivalent Daily Value of Calcium we need alongside with only 5g of REAL Sugar and no artificial anything.
KNOW WHEN TO RECHARGE
Productive workers know when to step back and leave an important task for another day. Try to avoid working overtime and only check company emails during work hours. Those who work from home may want to take a 20-minute nap in the afternoon to recharge. Even quick 30-second breaks throughout the day can help you regain focus and look at a task with refreshed concentration.
Reclaiming your capacity to focus is the most important first step you can take this year, a behavior change that will position you to tackle every other challenge with confidence, clarity, and precision. Try dedicating the next two weeks to improving your focus—and see how quickly (and almost magically) you will feel in control.
Ultimately, taking steps towards better mental and physical health will complement one another. When you have a good attitude and you feel well physically, you’ll feel less vulnerable to stress. Moreover, you’ll feel as though the world has more possibilities and there’s more to look forward to during your busy week.
Many professional athletes endorse the use of sports drinks to better prepare them and to stay mentally and physically sharp throughout their season. Minnesota Vikings’ Running Back Alexander Mattison also emphasizes the importance of sports drinks like Hydra-Guard in his preparation to play at the NFL level. “I believe that staying Properly Hydrated with products such as Hydra-Guard is very important because as an athlete, it becomes part of a healthy lifestyle choice and it helps me to prevent any injuries,” says Alex.