If you’re like many Americans struggling to sit down and focus, you’ve probably researched how to build concentration.
In fact, 29% of Americans have found themselves less productive at work and in their lives than ever.
So, how did we get here?
If you’re like us—and if you’re here, welcome aboard—today’s modern distractions of social media, Netflix, or *ugh* the News is a constant draw on your attention.
You sit down to write a paper and there goes your phone.
You put it on “Silent Mode” and check it every five seconds.
And it doesn’t take The Social Dilemma to let you know you’ve got a problem.
However, there is a ray of hope in this sea of pings, FOMO, and notifications…
You can build your ability to concentrate—and thankfully it’s not as hard as you think.
Here’s how to build concentration.
Get More Sleep
Sleep is an incredible thing—in fact, we’ve mentioned its importance here, and here. The body needs rest for a variety of reasons: it slows down your heart rate, aids digestion, and even detoxifies your brain.
That last fact is the most important because believe it or not, your brain secretes a form of stress toxin throughout your day that gradually inhibits cognitive function. When you sleep your brain actually flushes this toxin out. That way when you wake up, you feel lighter, more refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
So, what does this have to do with improving your concentration?
The key is in that last part: improved cognitive function.
So, if you want to think better, faster, and hold your focus longer without the recurring thought of “jeez, I’m so tired!” hit that snooze button another time before getting up.
Go for a Run
Here’s something you may not know about running…
It’s kind of sucks.
Unless you’re being actively chased or you’re running through an airport terminal to catch your flight, you almost never want to do it.
Few people do.
However, what keeps many people running (myself included) is the feeling you get after you run. Not the runner’s high but the feeling of accomplishment and self-discipline that comes from keeping yourself moving when stopping is so easy.
And that’s where the mental aspect comes in.
When you run, 100% of your focus is dedicated to simply pushing through your mental resistance to put one foot in front of the other.
That may sound easy, but even after 5-10 minutes of running at a steady pace, you’ll be wishing for a stoplight to catch your breath.
Instead, running forces your attention to a single task, and in doing so, improves your ability to concentrate overall when you need it.
Oh yeah, and it’s pretty healthy for you apparently.
Sit Down and Meditate
We know, we know. Every Millennial has “meditate more” on their annual New Year lists and they download the Calm app and never open it.
We get it.
However, whether you meditate consistently or not, the benefits of meditation are clear.
When you force yourself to sit down and allow time to freely pass without worry, stress, or distraction, you’re actually training your brain to do something pretty incredible.
You’re teaching it to let go.
And when you can train your brain to let go of everything else that seems more (momentarily) pressing or even interesting, you’re training it to concentrate.
All you need to do is sit down and be still.
Do that enough times and for long enough and you’ll be unstoppable.
Put Some Music On
This may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how often we forget to do it.
Fellas, when’s the last time you put on a nice playlist in the bedroom?
You can’t tell us it doesn’t help a little with concentration.
All jokes aside, there’s a direct link between increased focus and the use of music in studying and work. Coders are known for using robust playlists as they plug away with intense focus. Writers and academics, as well, have been known to turn to instrumental lo-fi in times of need.
The data is in and music helps.
Just be sure to find music without lyrics and with a simple melody.
Either way, you can’t go wrong so happy studying!
Practice Controlled Focus
And finally here’s a practical way to really nail down and focus when you need to.
Practice makes perfect.
If you want to know how to build concentration, it’s as simple as practicing it.
Set a timer for 25 minutes and do nothing but doodle on a piece of paper. Set a timer for half an hour and read a book without putting it down or checking your phone.
Heck, you could even play video games for an hour as long as you eliminate any other distractions.
The point is to get your brain used to singularly-focused tasks. The brain isn’t good at multitasking.
However, by addressing single-focus tasks one at a time with 100% of your mental energy, watch how quickly your efficacy improves when handling them.
As we’ve said before, as much as we’d like to be high-powered automatons that sit down and get it done, the modern man or woman is more distracted than ever.
If you want to reign that in and work to improve your concentration, it’s going to take more direct effort than you think.
By setting up your mind and body to focus on the task at hand you’ll be conditioning yourself for better concentration when you need it.
Now that you know how to build concentration…go forth and prosper.