Ah, the age-old problem. You sit down with a task with so much enthusiasm, only to find that you just. can’t. concentrate. For the most part, it’s about practice, but there are still a lot of tricks you can use to help you out. Let’s take a look at how to concentrate better and get you on your A-Game.
“Concentration is a genius; it has the power to solve any kind of problems. It works with the same principle a magnifier uses when creating fire: Bring all your powers to a point and destroy your problem!” – Mehmet Murat ildan
Have a routine
Before I sit down to work, I like to go through a short process that tells my brain that we’re about to enter concentration mode. Kind of like a warm-up. I make a cup of coffee, fill up my water bottle, turn my desk lights on, collect my notebooks, pens and anything else I might need whilst I’m working and put on some background music on (I have a handful of playlists made for concentrating, which I find are great triggers for my brain).
This little ritual makes me feel more committed to whatever I sit down to do and little things like the music and the lights allow me to cosy into the idea of working, making the act that much easier.
Yes, I know, it’s basic advice. But it works! Make use of the ‘do not disturb’ mode on your phone (stops notifications unless people call more than once or you’ve marked their contact as essential). Let the people around you know you’re concentrating. If you’re working in an office, having your headphones on may be enough of a signal, if not, verbally let people know not to disturb you. Equally, going somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, like a library, is a great way to get your head down.
Get in the right headspace
If you have something on your mind or aren’t in the right mindset for concentrating, it might be really hard to get into your work. Meditating (or alternative meditating), journaling, going for a walk or speaking to a friend are great ways to clear your mind before working. I know you just want to get on, but clearing your head first will achieve you much better results in the long-run. Trust me.
You’ll also be far more productive if you’re excited about working. Sure, there will be some tasks you dread, but surrounding those tasks with tasks you love will help to keep your mood and motivation up. Get yourself a nice drink, choose your favourite coffee mug, imagine where this task could lead, remind yourself why you love what you do and get started.
Know what you’re doing
Before you start a task, make sure you’re really clear on what you’re doing. If not, take some time to plan out exactly what you need to get done. Breaking a task down into steps and making it clear exactly what you need from each step will help you get everything done more efficiently and avoid feeling lost or aggravated.
Collect everything you need before you start
One of the most common forms of procrastination is what I call anti-productivity. The kind that masks itself as being productive, skirting around the edges of the task you’re really meant to be focusing on.
What does this look like? It looks like filling up your water when it’s half-full and grabbing another coffee, doing ‘a little more research’, filling out your agenda or completing some random admin. By no means are these things unproductive, they’re just not what you sat down to do.
So, as part of the routine we discussed above, make sure you have everything you need ready, before sitting down. Make sure you have no excuse for losing your concentration or getting up to dawdle. You’ll learn to concentrate better in no time.
Take breaks and try a time pattern
It might seem counter-intuitive, but taking breaks is a great way to keep your brain concentrating. Think of your concentration like a battery, in order to keep it working, you have to recharge it. So, taking short breaks can be really beneficial.
The Pomodoro Technique is a method of effective time management developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It involves breaking your tasks down into 25-minute segments, called pomodoros, taking a five-minute break in between and a thirty-minute break after four or five segments or ‘pomodoros’ (Italian for ‘tomatoes’ named after the tomato kitchen timer Cirillo used to track his intervals). These timings are widely considered to be the most effective, but you can adjust the timing to suit you and your work.
What should you do in your breaks?
- Take a short walk
- Have a snack and refill your drink
- Have a stretch
- Do some breathing exercises
- Strike up a conversation with someone (just make sure they’re not trying to concentrate!)
- Act on any other thoughts that hit you during your work session
Have a notebook ready for eureka moments
Which brings me on to my next point… You never know when inspiration is going to hit. You could be half way through a task and suddenly remember you need to buy your mum a present for her birthday next week. Simply promising yourself you’ll remember to act on it later might not satisfy your brain (can you blame it? We’re a forgetful bunch). So have a notepad ready to collect your stray ideas so your brain trusts they’ll be dealt with and lets you go back to concentrating.
Train your brain
Remember that your brain is like a muscle, the more you train it, the easier it becomes. The more you practice concentration and these tips, the stronger you’ll become. Start small and work from there.
Hopefully these tips will help you get your hands into your projects! Let me know what you’re up to in the comments below.
Go get it!. Love, Ella-Rose x