Concentration – the key to success

Concentration – the key to success

On a daily basis, you have to be focused from morning till night so as not to be late to school or work, to be efficient at the office and to be there for your family and friends. Do you think concentration is a problem for you? Do you often make mistakes? Do people who speak to you think that you don’t listen to them? Do you have trouble finishing what you are doing? If you answer “yes” to at least one of these questions, it means you may be easily distracted. So read on for some tips on how to improve your concentration.

Why is concentration so important?

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When you are concentrating it is less likely that you will miss important information.

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Staying focused helps you memorise things more easily.

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Concentration allows you to better use your resources and approach problems more efficiently.

Here are some quick examples of how to check and practise your concentration:

  • Take a book and count the words in any paragraph. Then count again checking if the results match. Later you can progress to two or three paragraphs and then a whole page.
  • Count backwards in your mind from 100 to 1.
  • Choose an inspiring word or phrase and repeat it in your mind for 5 minutes.

Concentration is important in everyday life. Scientists discovered that the ability to stay focused can be an important indicator of a person’s future success. Many influential and hugely successful people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates stressed the power of simplicity and focusing on priorities. As an old Zen proverb says, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat”. This quote is not only about walking or eating. It describes an approach to life. It simply states that the most important thing is to focus your attention on present activity. This is the way to achieve the best results. So, what is concentration and why can you have problems with it?

Definition of concentration

Concentration is the ability to think carefully about something you are doing and nothing else. It means controlling your attention. It is the ability to focus the mind on one subject, object or thought and at the same time exclude any other unrelated thoughts, ideas, feelings and sensations.

Unfortunately, it is easy to get distracted. At work the temptation to read an email, answer a phone, respond to a tweet or instant message, make a coffee or talk to a friend can interrupt your schedule, force you to move meetings or be late completing your projects. Your brain becomes quickly overworked. Instead of focusing on one task you skip from one to another, becoming less effective and losing concentration.

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Quote – Your brain needs certain vitamins and minerals that necessary for its proper functioning.

How to improve your focus

A balanced diet and physical exercise are important for your ability to stay focused. A healthy diet provides your brain with vitamins and minerals that allow it to function properly. Some B-group vitamins, like B3 (nicotinamide), B9 (folic acid) and B12 can help you boost your focus, concentration and productivity. They can be found in a healthy diet containing foods like:

  • egg yolk,
  • watercress,
  • certain cheeses,
  • some fruits and vegetables.

Magnesium is a mineral that also greatly improves the ability to concentrate. Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • whole wheat,
  • spinach,
  • dark chocolate,
  • mussels,
  • beans,
  • nuts,
  • lentils.

You can also boost your concentration by doing some simple exercises. Try doing them at home or at work and watch how your concentration levels go up.

1. For this exercise, you need to sit on a chair with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Then close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When it slows down you will be able to feel yourself relaxing. Now you need to think of an object (it can be anything) and try to concentrate on it. Try to describe it as best as possible, view it from different angles and discover its characteristics. Then let the object go and focus on your body, stretch and open your eyes.

2. This exercise will help you improve your concentration at work. You should choose a task that you find difficult. First, you have to set a time frame for completing this task. This will make you work more efficiently. Second, you should make a list of all things that distract you and find a way of excluding them. Then, sort out the tasks you still have to do and set yourself the goal of completing one task a day. That way your mind won’t be cluttered with unnecessary thoughts.

In some situations, you may need a vitamin and mineral supplement but note that these are not a substitute to a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Both are essential if you want to boost your focus. Below you can find more tips that can help you improve your concentration.

- Brain training: did you know that playing certain types of games can help you get better at concentrating? You can try playing sudoku, chess, memory and word games as well as crosswords or jigsaw puzzles. All of these activities not only improve concentration over time, but can also help you develop your working and short-term memory as well as problem-solving skills.

- Getting quality sleep: Insufficient amounts of sleep impede your concentration. While it’s OK to not get enough sleep from time to time, constant sleep deprivation will leave you unable to focus and negatively affect your mood and overall performance. To improve your sleep, you can try turning off any screens about an hour before bedtime, keeping your bedroom cool, relaxing with a good book or a warm bath and exercising regularly. It’s also advisable to try to go to sleep and get up at around the same time every day to maintain a regular schedule.

- Spending time in nature. There’s a reason why having plants in your workspace helps increase concentration: your brain has a tendency to relax in a natural environment. That’s why it’s good to try and find time for a short walk in a park, bush, or along the coast every day. Even sitting in your backyard or garden can help you wind down, so try to reserve 15 to 20 minutes in your daily schedule just to be in nature.

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