When TV newscaster Diane Sawyer was asked the secret to her success, she said, “I think the one lesson I’ve learned is there is no substitute for paying attention.” Although we love the taste of our favorite Starbucks drink, there are other ways to improve your concentration that have benefits that reach far beyond the report card. Here are some of our favorite tips to improve your attentiveness throughout the day and help you find balance between work, life, and school.
F.O.C.U.S on the Five Rules
The simple act of undivided attention can be the truest form of paying respects to others around you whether you are interacting with co-workers, studying at school, sitting in a meeting or simply trying to finish up a project. It requires shifting from a long-term focus to the short term. Consider these five tips to improve your concentration as prescribed by a certified physician in the field.
F – Five More Rule
Think of the burn you may get from doing multiple reps at the gym or laps at the track. In life and in sports, some say there are two types of people – those who have learned how to work through their frustration and those who wish they had. From this point forward, if you are in the middle of a task and tempted to give up, just do five more! When studying an exhaustive textbook, read five more pages. When you’re at the office and are on the verge of leaving, work five more minutes. Why? Because just as runners get their second wind by not giving up when their bodies first protest, you can get your “second mind” by not giving up when your willpower protests. Consider it conditioning for your brain!
O – One Think at a Time
One of the biggest drawbacks of the digital age is our perpetual attention deficit even when we may not clinically have the medical disorder. Overcome the scatter brained effect by implementing a Godfather Plan. In other words bribe your brain! Instead of telling yourself not to worry about something other than your important project, assign it a single task with start and stop time parameters. If your mind still protests, write down your concerns on your to-do list so you can be free to temporarily forget about them. Recoding bothersome obligations or distractions means you don’t have to use your brain as a “reminder” bulletin board, which means you can give your full focus to the priority at hand.
C – Conquer Procrastination
Even the best of students can be kings and queens of procrastination. After all it can often be the easiest and detrimental actions to take in work and in life. Although it seems simple enough, the following quote from R.D. Clyde may shed light on the matter in frank terms, “It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something we’re not working on.” Next time you’re about to procrastinate a responsibility, ask yourself three questions:
- Do I have to do this?
- Do I want it done so it’s not on my mind?
- Will it be easier later?
Although they may seem simple, these three questions can give you the incentive to mentally apply yourself because they bring you face-to-face with the fact that this task isn’t going away, and delaying will only add to your guilt and make the task occupy more of your mind and time.
U – Use Your Hands as Blinkers
Think of your mind as a camera and your eyes as its aperture. When your eyes are on a wide-angle setting, you are mentally multitasking. But what if you switch to a telephoto focus? What’s better for concentration – multitasking or mono-tasking? One of the easiest things you can do to help you pay attention to your project or study materials is to physically create tunnel vision. Place your hands on the side of your face so they block out environmental distractions. Any social science, psychology and advertising major can appreciate Pavlov’s conditioning experiment. Similarly, using your hands as blinkers every time you want to narrow your focus teaches your brain to switch to “one track” mind and concentrate on your command.
S – See As If For the First or Last
Our spouses, friends and family can easily call us out when we are physically present but mentally, or emotionally, far away. One of the most important things about learning to concentrate is truly being in the here and now instead of allowing our mind to run away to some distant time or land. Think of the words of Fredrick Franck who said, “When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.” Or speak the words of Evelyn Underhill aloud and say, “For lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.” Many lifelong learners actually re-learn this sense of being over and over throughout life. Sit down and really see your surroundings. Simple exercises may include studying a beautiful flower in a vase, or getting close to a picture to analyze the artist’s true craftsmanship. This perspective can do wonders for your mind and overall appreciation of the world.
Many professors in subject matters across academia and professionals that foster corporate wellness rely on Mind Tools to get them started on the path to success. Check out this quick video to vet your work-practices with what the experts say helps you become more productive.
Nutrients For Your Brain
We’ve heard of power foods, good fats and natural memory aids but what about foods that can improve your concentration and make you smarter? Professionals and college students that are constantly on-the-go need healthy snacks to help fuel their brain power during the long days. Consider packing some of these top foods to make you smarter.
Fun Fact Takeaway - Many types of berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, contain flavonoids, which have been linked to brain cell growth and improved memory.
Share with us how you work to improve your concentration!
Become a Student
Have questions about enrollment, degree programs, financial aid, or next steps?