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The key to better concentration: Top 8 tips for improving focus

by Amanda Collins

** This is an updated post**

Do you have issues concentrating? Find yourself mentally wandering off during conversations, reading, watching TV?

Don’t fret, we’ve all been there. And in this day and age where the “cult of busy” reigns supreme and we’re constantly bombarded with information, it’s unsurprising that many of us find it hard to focus for any great length of time.

The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your concentration, including working with the increasingly popular idea of mindfulness.

Start your journey towards better concentration with these simple and easy tips.

Top 8 tips for improving your focus and concentration

napping with open eyes

1. Build your mental muscle

Better concentration requires practice, and just like training to run a marathon, it takes time to build up your focus fitness.

The key is to start small and build up.

First, set your focus goal as five minutes of pure focus. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes and focus solely on one task, whether that be reading or writing, for five solid minutes. After the timer has gone off, take a one minute break, then do another five minute focus block. Then stop.

Every day add five more minutes to your focus period. So the next day you focus for 10 minutes straight, with a one minute break, then 10 more minutes focus before you stop. Then on the third day do 15 minutes, and so on. Just by doing these simple daily exercises you’ll see your focus improve.

2. Focus on your breathing

You’ve probably heard the word “mindfulness” before. In recent years, it’s become a bit of a buzzword. But all it means is simply being aware and present in the moment.

Mindfulness and better concentration go hand in hand, and if you get a handle on mindfulness, concentration becomes very easy.

To start you off in mindfulness, set aside 10 minutes every day, whether that be in the morning, afternoon or evening. During that 10 minutes focus only on your breathing.

During that 10 minutes focus only on your breathing.

Whether you are sitting at your desk, on the floor or on the train, focus all your attention on your inhalation and exhalation of breath. How does the air feel rushing down into your lungs? How does your rib cage feel when it expands? How does the warm exhalation feel?

Focus on your breathing for 10 minutes and let all other thoughts fall away.

3. Do one thing at a time

Multitasking is shortening our attention spans.

One of the best ways to improve your concentration is to ditch multitasking and instead embrace one task at a time.

Give the task your full, undivided attention and then move onto the next task. The more you do this, the more you will find your ability to concentrate improves.

Just a normal Tuesday morning really

4. Put away your phone and limit distractions

This may seem obvious, but every time you check your phone (for emails, messages, social updates, or anything else) you are breaking your concentration.

So if you have a task you need to focus on, put your phone in the drawer and commit to not looking at any of these things until your task is done.

These quick little checks can take up way more time than you might think, and they can severely affect your ability to concentrate. Before you know it, you’ve already wasted an entire hour just scrolling through your Insta feed.

5. Eat and drink

Fueling your body with the right mix of fibre, protein, fat and carbs really helps you to stay focused. This mix keeps your body primed for work. Otherwise, you can become fatigued and will start looking for quick and easy sugar hits.

So if you want your concentration and brain power to be at their best, don’t skip breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Staying hydrated is also really important. Think about it – no single part of your body can function without water. Staying hydrated through the day can boost your concentration, brain power and mood.

6. Make a list

If you have important tasks to do throughout the day, spend 10 minutes making a list of everything you need to get done. Arrange this list from the most important task to the least.

Making a list helps your mind to stop wandering to all the things you need to do, and worrying if you will remember to do them. Once you have a plan, you are free to focus fully on one task at a time.

She does not work in an office, clearly she is a model

7. Five more minutes 

When you are ready to give up on a task, promise yourself that you’ll focus for just five more minutes, then do it.

Similar to building physical strength, every time you push your mental muscle, you build it up for next time. Over time you’ll find that all the little ‘five more minutes’ have helped you build a stronger and more focused concentration muscle.

8. Find some Om

Daily meditation has been linked to serious improvements to concentration levels.

To meditate, all you need is around 10 minutes of alone time. If you’re just starting out, it may be best to follow a guided meditation. Try the following meditations and see what’s best for you:

Beginner’s guide to meditation

Back to basics guided meditation

5-minute guided mediation for beginners

Or find out more about the Headspace app, which talks you through a guided mediation every day. Read more about the app in our Get some Headspace article.

Yeah, this is what my hair looks like when I meditate

Have these tips helped you to improve your concentration?

The great thing about the tips we’ve shared is that just about anyone can do them. While there is no “one size fits all” solution to helping you concentrate better, by incorporating some of these tips into your day, you’re sure to see some improvements in your concentration levels.

Because once you knuckle down and really push yourself to achieve your goals, you’ll realise that everything is possible.

Concentrate on your studies

If you’ve been struggling to get back into your studies after a break, take the hints above and head to OpenSpace. There’s no time like the present to take what you’ve just learned and put it into practice with your course!

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