Trouble Concentrating? Here’s What You Can Do To Stay Focused And Increase Productivity

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Imagine you wake up, do your homework, study for your exams, or complete all your work assignments, all in a few hours. Productivity gives us a sense of accomplishment that drives us toward attaining the next goal on the never-ending list. Unfortunately, while this sounds great in theory, being productive and achieving it all is, most often than not, a much more complicated process than that.

We all have those awful days when regardless of what we do, we can't concentrate on our projects, nothing gets done, more tasks continue to pile up, and anxiety suddenly kicks in, making us feel even worse.

In today's article, we pay extra attention to why it sometimes gets difficult to focus and what to do to ease the mind and soothe the soul when that happens. You will find some valuable tips to reduce concentration difficulties to a minimum and improve mental focus and productivity. Let's dive right in!
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Signs Indicating Concentration Difficulties
First things first - how would one know they are experiencing concentration difficulties? The first and most obvious sign would be constant distractions. We live in a busy world where many events happen simultaneously and can easily catch a wanderer's attention.

People that find it hard to focus on a task are easily distracted by their surroundings. Be it a loud car passing by, a phone notification, or a dog barking at a fly - it doesn't matter. Any outside stimulus can be strong enough to get them out of working/studying mode.

It is a common phenomenon for people unable to concentrate to experience other symptoms, including forgetfulness, irritability, racing thoughts, increasing anxiety, or feeling on edge as if everything is going in a direction that it's not supposed to.

What May Cause Difficulties In Concentration?
Let's face it, human beings are neither robots nor machines that can be productive at all times. We've all had our bad days. We've all had moments when we'd rather do anything else but complete what we have on our to-do lists for the day. It's okay to go through it occasionally.

However, when they become frequent or consistent, concentration difficulties can do more harm than you imagine. Put aside that they may take your job or make it so that you have to drop out of uni because you can't keep up. Your sense of self-worth, level of confidence, and general well-being could be the most affected.
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But what may cause some people to experience focus difficulties more often than others?

Environmental Causes
When concentration difficulties are a rare phenomenon, environmental factors are to blame. At least most of the time. Certain lifestyles and habits are often responsible for people's inability to focus on a task.

There's usually something else that occupies their mind or worries them, making their mind unavailable to anything else. Fortunately, once those factors are changed or removed, people can get back to normal and be their most productive selves.

Environmental factors include:

  • Lack of sleep. Nothing makes people more distracted than a difficult task on occasions when they haven't rested enough. Distraction comes first, and then drowsiness will surely follow.
  • Stressful events. Sometimes, people have bad stuff going on in their personal lives, making it hard for them to concentrate and finish their projects.
  • Burnout. Emotional and physical exhaustion makes it impossible for anyone to concentrate or get anything done the right way.
  • Noisy and over-stimulating surroundings. Imagine having to concentrate with a crying baby nearby, neighbors fighting in the distance, or a grandma, watching TV on full blast. It is literally mission impossible.

Medical And Psychological Causes
Other times there are medical or psychological causes or factors involved. That's when people should turn to a professional and seek help to improve their overall well-being. The most common psychological causes include attention-deficit disorders, anxiety and severe depression episodes, or uncontrollable mood swings. Hormone or thyroid issues can also affect the ability to focus for a longer period.

Also, keep in mind that with age, our ability to focus our attention on a specific task for a particular amount of time slowly decreases. It's a naturally occurring process in our bodies. If you notice other changes, like increased forgetfulness to do basic things, it's best to contact a professional.
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8 Tips That Can Improve Your Mental Focus
So what is it that people can do to help themselves get all their tasks done? Let's go through our tips for improving focus skills and productivity.

Tune Out Distractions
While there are more distractions than you can imagine, nothing beats an overly chatty coworker, a disrespectful roommate, talking on the phone for hours, and relatives unaware that they interrupt your flow. The only thing that can help when you find yourself in any of these situations is isolation.

Unfortunately, it sometimes is impossible to leave the room or ask others to keep quiet. And if you wonder why collocations like "music for studying" are trending on streaming platforms, let us tell you that this is how people have learned to tune out their surroundings.

Concentration sounds are a real thing that helps people of all ages to hear their thoughts and focus on their tasks when the world gets too noisy to bear. Many people still can't concentrate while listening to calming music, so they opt for something else - sound machines. White noise for studying, work, and concentration is a total game-changer for those that have tried it.

Forget About Multitasking And Set SMART Goals
Multitasking is not at all as efficient or effective as one would anticipate. It takes more effort for the brain to focus on several things simultaneously, especially if the person is having difficulties concentrating in the first place.

Your productivity levels will be higher when you focus on a single task at a time rather than when you juggle between several assignments at once.

Use your mental resources wisely and give full attention to your primary project or task. To concentrate better and not let distractions come in the way, try setting SMART goals.

The SMART goals formula stands for

  • Specific - Define what exactly you need to do or complete. Create subtasks if needed.
  • Measurable - See how you will track your progress.
  • Achievable - Think if your goals are realistic and, more importantly, attainable. Consider your deadline.
  • Relevant - Determine how essential your tasks are in line with your primary goal.
  • Timely - Figure out a timeline to finish your job.

Completing smaller tasks will give you the sense of accomplishment you need to keep going.
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Take Breaks When It Gets Overwhelming
After long periods of focusing on your tasks, it is only natural to take a break. People can actively focus on something for so much time that their mental resources start to wear thin, impacting how they do their job.

Don't be afraid to take the occasional break once every hour.

Whether studying for your exams or finishing some important projects at work, take a break whenever you feel like you are becoming unproductive.

Press Pause On Social Media
With social media becoming a more prominent part of our lives, we spend more and more of our time scrolling through news feeds, liking pictures, and chatting with friends. While the chance to connect with close ones is great, constantly checking your accounts is more distracting than you know.

Social media platforms want you online for as long as possible. And providing you with short content that you like and that they know will give you some instant gratification is a surefire way to keep you scrolling much more than you might have initially intended.

Providing so many interactive stimuli at your disposal, social media is becoming more of an enemy rather than a friend. The brain gets easy entertainment from social media, so why would it prefer wasting time focusing on more important matters that would not give it the same satisfaction?

If you want to improve your concentration skills, ability to focus for longer, and productivity, put social media scrolling on hold, especially when you have work to do.

Exercise, Exercise, And Even More Exercise
Instead of running to your social media accounts during your breaks, why don't you try exercising instead? Yoga is one of the many sports activities you can do that will help you stretch your body and ease your mind. Using your extra free minutes to indulge in a yoga practice is a surefire way to get rid of some of the daily stresses of life.

Yoga postures are perfect for improving concentration as they are all about quieting the mind and keeping distractions at bay. You may enjoy your small yoga breaks so much that one day you might even sign up for a
beginners’ yoga retreat to change your lifestyle and regain your inner balance.
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Get More Good Night’s Sleep
No one should ever question the importance sleep has on our bodies. People should get their daily doses of good night's sleep to recharge their energy levels and help their bodies rest. Occasionally missing a night or two of getting your 8 hours of sleep won't do you any harm. But the moment you become constantly sleep-deprived, your mind, body, and soul will suffer.

Chronic sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on both your concentration skills and your memory. Calm your mind before going to bed so that you can get some quality sleep and feel recharged in the morning.

Give ”Brain Foods” A Chance
Changing your food habits and adapting to a healthier, more balanced menu is another thing you could try to change your mindset and improve your mental focus skills.

Don't get so overworked on your projects or studies that you forget to eat and suddenly get in "hangry" mode. Irritation born from hunger is a surefire way to lose concentration and not complete your tasks well, if at all.

Don't delay or skip meals. You can even try to use food as a source of energy to boost yourself and help your concentration game. Stock up on some snacks to get you between meal times.

And by snacks, we mean fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds, not the junk food we all love but unfortunately is so harmful to our health. The best "brain foods" you can stock up on are walnuts and other nuts, different kinds of berries, including blueberries and blackberries, spinach, broccoli, and dark chocolate (eat in small bars and moderately, as it contains caffeine).

Practice Mindfulness
Our minds often might drift off to more pleasant places, especially when we have a lot going on and more tasks pile up on our to-do lists. And it's only understandable. No one wants to think about executing their tasks or studying 5 pages of school or uni lessons when they can think about something that makes them happy. And while it is understandable, it doesn't get the tasks done.

That's where mindfulness comes in. That's the ability to be fully conscious in the present moment. Being aware of when your thoughts and mind start to wander is crucial to guide them back to your tasks.

Awareness of one's own thoughts sounds like an easy thing. After all, it is your thoughts. Yet, many people fail to realize the precise moment their thoughts have strayed from the tasks they are trying to complete.

That's why mindfulness takes practice and doesn't happen overnight. To teach themselves to be more mindful, some try different morning rituals. Meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga postures are among the best ways to practice mindfulness.
Ready To Complete More Tasks?
There's no better way to improve your productivity and ability to focus than taking care of your mental and physical health. When you make sure there are no environmental factors to keep you distracted from doing your work, you will find it easier to concentrate.

Reduce your social media presence, eat healthier, sleep better, exercise, meditate and you will feel much more productive and ready to achieve more in no time.

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