Concentration is essential for getting through the school or workday. You need to be able to sustain focus and concentrate on your work for hours at a time in order to be productive and successful. But a growing number of us are struggling to maintain concentration for longer than a few minutes at a time.
If you’re someone who struggles with concentration, you may find it difficult to think clearly, focus on a task, maintain your attention, or make decisions. Does that struggle sound familiar? If so, read on to learn about some of the most common reasons people are unable to concentrate – along with some tips for improving concentration and productivity.
Symptoms of Concentration Problems
Struggling to concentrate can have significant repercussions for your school or work performance. Not only does it make it hard for you to get anything done, but it can have symptoms that bleed into your everyday life as well. An inability to concentrate affects everyone differently, but if you’re struggling with concentration, you may be experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:
- Lack of focus
- Frequent careless mistakes
- Difficulty sitting still
- Struggling to think clearly
- Frequently misplacing things
- Forgetting where things are
- Inability to make decisions
- Difficulty performing complex tasks
- Lacking physical or mental energy
- Easily distracted
- Missing appointments or meetings
You may also notice that it’s harder for you to concentrate at certain times of the day than others. That is likely due to the nature of whatever is causing your lack of concentration. Depending on what the cause is, it will affect you more at different times of day.
What Causes Difficulty Concentrating
There are some medical conditions that can cause problems with concentration, and if your issues with concentration are truly severe or are accompanied by additional symptoms, you should make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor. However, the majority of people who have difficulty concentrating are completely healthy. The most common underlying cause for difficulties with concentration is lifestyle factors.
What kind of lifestyle factors can negatively affect your ability to concentrate? Read the following list and determine if any of these may apply to you:
- Fatigue: Night after night of not getting enough sleep has a compounding effect on your ability to concentrate. Losing even one hour of sleep can decrease your capacity for focus.
- Chronic stress: Sustained levels of stress can have many negative effects on your overall health and well-being. Difficulty concentrating is just one of them.
- Multitasking: Modern employees love to boast about their ability to multitask. But the truth is that none of us are capable of effective multitasking, and the more you try to do it the more you sabotage your ability to truly concentrate on one thing.
- Poor diet: All jokes about “brain food,” aside, you really do have to feed your brain in order to achieve peak performance. A diet running on sugar and simple carbs (aka the average American diet) will make it very challenging for your brain to function at its best.
- Distraction: The more distractions you surround yourself with, the harder it will be for you to concentrate. Unfortunately, most of us keep the mother of all distractions within arm’s reach at all times: the smartphone.
Any combination of the above factors may be impacting your ability to concentrate. To improve your concentration and increase productivity, try addressing them one by one.
Tips for Improving Concentration
Once you identify what’s causing your problems with concentration, you can start working on a solution. Most likely, there isn’t just one cause, but several. Try implementing some of the solutions below for a few weeks and observe whether you experience any improvement.
- Get more sleep and keep regular sleeping hours
- Eat a balanced diet of vegetables, whole grains, protein, healthy fats, and fruit
- Keep healthy snacks at your desk to avoid mindless snacking and sugar crashes
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Turn your smartphone off during working hours, or keep it in a drawer out of reach
- Use relaxation techniques to manage chronic stress
- Stop trying to multitask and focus on one task at a time
Another thing you can to to improve concentration is to make changes to your workspace. Using a Standing Desk Converter has been shown to increase focus and productivity. Standing increases blood flow to the brain, which delivers the oxygen and nutrients your brain needs to reach optimal performance. Studies have linked standing to improved memory and recall, greater concentration, elevated energy levels, and enhanced neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells).
Some of the solutions listed above may work wonders for you; some of them may not make much of a difference. Your task is to experiment with making temporary lifestyle changes, figure out which changes are helpful, and make those a permanent part of your new routine.