If you can’t make it through this short article before zonking out or checking your phone, then you really do need to read this article. So pay attention, keep your eyes focused and absorb some nifty concentration tips.
As your absent and undisciplined mind drifts limply from work to daydreams, then to doom scrolling your social media feed and finally back to work again, you just wasted two hours of your day. Congratulations, your attention span is suffering.
You can do better. We can all do better!
As the swirling distraction machine of modernity chips away at our powers of concentration, we can still do something about it and learn how to concentrate better.
Behold – life hacks below!
1) Keep it green – literally
Human beings evolved for millennia in a world flush with greenery. We forgot along the way how important this is to our natural wellbeing and concentration.
One solution is to go for a quick walk in the park, soak up your natural surroundings for a while and bring yourself back to earth for a change.
If you can’t afford the time, at the very least pepper your work environment with verdant plant life or have a window nearby where you can see nature.
Funnily enough, it’s not just oxygen given off by plant life that boosts your concentration but literally viewing greenery. It’s hard wired.
A 2015 study from the University of Melbourne showed that even glancing at a green rooftop meadow did the trick.
150 students were given a concentration sapping task, with a mere 40 second break. One half gazed out at a concrete roof, the other half a green flowering meadow situated on a nearby rooftop.
“After the break, students who glanced at the greener vista made significantly less errors and demonstrated superior concentration on the second half of the task, compared to those who viewed the concrete roof.”University of Melbourne
2) Chew Gum!
This hack is short and sweet. Truck drivers have been all over this one for eons.
Studies have shown, including one by the British Psychology Society, that the simple act of chewing gum while undertaking a task which requires concentration has measurable benefits.
“The results showed that participants who chewed gum had quicker reaction times and more accurate results than the participants who didn’t chew gum. This was especially the case towards the end of the task.”British Psychological Society
3) High intensity exercise
All exercise is good exercise, but for improved concentration, get intense!
There’s a lot of scientific evidence pointing us toward the brain boosting powers of high intensity exercise over low intensity dawdling.
Harvard Medical School undertook some research, centred around concentration and memory. They studied two groups of people who were tasked with either regular low intensity or higher intensity exercise over three months.
“The researchers found that the people who continued to perform at the moderate-intensity level had higher brain test scores at the end compared with those who stayed at the lower intensity for the three months.”Harvard Medical School
Pro Hack: It’s recommended to do at least 20 minutes of high intensity exercise before a brain draining task is attempted. It really does help.
4) Brutally kill all distractions
Put your phone on mute, suspend email notifications and get the dog out of your room. If you’re constantly breaking your concentration with pings and dings, you have no hope of concentrated work and will always lose focus.
Pro hack: If you can’t be bothered going through the hassle of muting and reigniting notifications, use the poor man’s Faraday cage and wrap your phone in aluminium foil or stuff it in a Twisties packet. No signal equals no distractions.
Do you find your mind is wandering after a poor night’s sleep? One of the most gargantuan concentration boosters of all is proper sleep. We’ve talked about this before, but let’s do it again.
Sleeping properly is akin to taking a performance enhancing drug. Not getting seven to nine hours, however, is just as bad as trying to concentrate after a few shots of whisky.
As Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California will tell you, “after being awake for 21 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is legally drunk.”
As with most of these recommendations, when we try to fight the nature of ourselves through the traps of modernity, we will fail.
We’ll pay the price of millions of years of evolution with our concentration spans, ability to focus, memory and general health.
“The evidence is resoundingly clear – cutting on sleep makes you less productive and less creative and less effective”.Matthew Walker
6) Clean your filthy space
If you work in a cluttered environment, strewn with detritus like a concert ground after a summer festival, your fate will be that of distraction.
Apart from some lush greenery, get yourself out of a distraction loop by setting yourself up in a clean, tidy environment that’s well lit and free from something undesirable like a blaring TV.
If you have a niggling in the back of your brain, caused by uncivilized surroundings, you’re bound to fail the game of concentration.
Before you log in and get to work, take five minutes to clear your work area and make sure everything you need is in reach. Tidy it up people and you’ll do better at staying on task.
You still with me? Good. Now go and implement these simple hacks to defeat the modern demons of distraction, increase your focus and perform even better at your chosen vocation.