We humans like to think we’re the superior species on the planet, but in some ways, we’re at the bottom of the totem pole. For instance, did you know that our mental focus attention span is less than that of a goldfish? We definitely could use help on how to increase alertness and concentration.
It didn’t always used to be this way, but thanks to our 24/7 digital connectedness, there is a constant barrage of Instachat and funny cat videos to distract us. And that’s a problem, because most of us are not as productive during our day as we think we are.
The good news is, mental focus is like a muscle. Yes, it can become atrophied after years of pinging back and forth between texting, reading emails, checking your Facebook page and ordering lunch online. But it can also be built back up with commitment and determination.
With this in mind, here are 5 Tips on How to Increase Alertness and Concentration.
5 tips on How to Increase Alertness and Concentration
1. Determine What Truly Deserves Your Attention
Being skilled at focusing means being skilled at identifying what you should give that focus to. Start getting into the habit of creating optimized “to-do” lists. Take time to determine what tasks deserve your attention for a single day, week, month and even year. You will find that this will help with focus and concentration in your daily life.
2. Eliminate Distractions
There are two types of distractions: external and internal.
External distractions are things like a TV or radio on in the background, your cellphone vibrating every three minutes, or that overbearing coworker who insists on stopping by your cubicle to share the “adorable” thing her son said that morning.
While turning off (and keeping off!) cell phones and radios is fairly simple, it may not be as simple as seeking quiet from coworkers, spouses and children. Request not to be disturbed from friends and family for a set period of time each day. If you work in an office with other people, do the same and if that doesn’t work, seek a calm place like a conference room or library to get important work done.
But what about those internal distractions like worry, exhaustion and looping mind chatter? How can you get a handle on those?
Try to avoid drinking excessive amounts of coffee each morning, which can make you jittery and anxious. Do your best to get enough sleep each night and start your day with some exercise and/or meditation, which can calm you and make you feel centered with your mental focus.
3. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking has always been thought of as a special skill. But while it may seem like a good way to get more done in a short amount of time, research has now shown that multitasking kills your performance and can even damage your brain. Yes, I said it… DAMAGE YOUR BRAIN.
Our brains simply were not built to focus on two (or yikes, more!) tasks at the same time. That would have gotten our ancestors killed and quickly. Not only does multitasking slow down your performance, it also lowers your IQ.
So, stop doing too many things at once and focus on giving just one task your full attention. Your brain will thank you and in return, give you better mental focus.
4. Have Some Mental Sherbet
You know how in some fancy restaurants they serve sherbet in between courses to cleanse your palette? This is because the next course is so delicious, the chefs want to ensure that what you just ate won’t cloud your experience in any way.
You’ve got to do the same thing with your mind. Once you complete a task, cleanse your mind so you are fresh to start the next. Go to the restroom. Get a sip of water. Sit and breathe deep for a few minutes. This will help you to switch mental gears and be able to harness your mental focus on your goals.
5. Keep Practicing
You’re not going to get abs of steel overnight, and you’re not going to get “focus of steel” immediately either. Both require commitment and constant training.
Though you may find yourself continuing to be distracted, don’t beat yourself up. Be as patient with your attention span as you would be with a toddler learning to walk. Just keep at it and you will slowly but surely find you can focus for longer and longer periods of time.
In the coming weeks, try to incorporate one or more of these tips into your workflow. By building your mental focus, you’ll soon be able to accomplish more of your goals and that will feel incredible!
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