Concentrating today has become very difficult, whether at work, at home or even at school. On the one hand because our brain is naturally distracted by what surrounds us and on the other hand because our environment makes it difficult to concentrate. It's not easy to dedicate 100% of our attention to a single task when our environment is a source of distraction. Indeed, notifications, calls, social networks, colleagues who interrupt us are all elements that challenge our concentration, preventing us from focusing on our missions. But then what are attention and concentration and how can we improve them?
How do attention and concentration work?
Attention and concentration are complex cognitive functions essential for learning and memorization. Although attention and concentration are interdependent and complementary, the mechanisms of each process are truly different.
Attention is a factor in cognitive efficiency, or our ability to memorize or solve problems. It is based on the sensory receptors in the brain which manage the five senses namely hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste. Being attentive means mobilizing your five senses to search for or process information and thus ensure maximum reception of all this information. Attention is essential in most of our daily tasks and can be divided between several activities. You can cook while listening to the news, or drive while chatting with your co-pilot. In this case, attention will require much more energy and brain resources. It can also be moved to different elements of our environment, voluntarily or automatically. You can in fact focus your gaze voluntarily on a person or an object or automatically if you have been surprised by a sudden movement for example. Learning to control your attention is an essential issue for all of us. This will allow us in particular to avoid being distracted by all the details of our environment.
The role of concentration is to ignore all the irrelevant data that will prevent us from concentrating. It will narrow the field of attention. Being concentrated therefore means focusing on a specific point and closing our awareness to anything that can distract our mind from the task in progress. If you are working on a subject that requires a lot of concentration, you will probably put on your headphones or earphones to limit sources of distraction and thus reduce the scope of attention. The processes of attention and concentration are interdependent: the more we are focused on something, the less aware we are of what is happening around us; and on the contrary, if we are very aware of everything that is happening around us, it will seem very difficult for us to concentrate on anything in particular. Have you ever read a book and realized that you didn't understand the meaning of the last lines you read. You should know that your ability to concentrate depends very strongly on changes in our environment. Noise, stress, fatigue, personal worries, etc. can challenge your ability to concentrate.
The 8 solutions to optimize your concentration
In your student and professional life, memory and concentration are two essential and linked elements: to have a good memory, you need to know how to concentrate. However, it is not always easy to concentrate and stay focused on what we are doing. There are still some tips to put into practice to improve our ability to concentrate despite this overstimulation which prevents us from reaching the end of our To-Do list.
Avoid multitasking at all costs
Much criticized by scientists, multitasking has nevertheless become a reality for many of us. Carrying out several missions at once gives us the illusion of being more efficient. However, multitasking is not at all synonymous with success. Indeed, working in this way requires a lot more energy, which exhausts concentration and reduces productivity. In fact, the work becomes more superficial, and the completion of your projects takes more time than if they were completed one after the other. So focus on one task at a time to increase your daily efficiency and productivity!
Meditate whenever needed
By making us work on breathing and letting go, meditation is a way to improve our ability to concentrate. Indeed, it would have an interest in the activation of certain areas of the brain involved in numerous cognitive tasks necessary for concentration and would therefore be an effective training of brain networks. It would then be less difficult to distinguish important information from that which is only there to distract us. In a context of mental overload, meditation becomes a very interesting exercise. If you have to tackle a mission that requires concentration, practice mindfulness meditation for 5 to 10 minutes a day.
Block all digital distractions
Today, the smartphone is the number one enemy of our concentration. Staying focused despite all the notifications we receive every day is a real challenge. We may be in a quiet place, respect our schedule and take breaks, our phone is a very important source of distraction which can, in itself, strongly impact our daily productivity. That's why you can self-discipline yourself by putting your phone on airplane mode, turning it off, or putting it in another room for a set amount of time. If you are still tempted to use it, you can also use a notification blocker to keep control over notifications and block internet access and thus preserve your concentration.
Work from home efficiently
With the massive development of teleworking, we had to learn to work in a new environment. And being productive while working from home requires a lot of organization and self-discipline. So to work effectively from home, remember to reserve a separate place or room for your professional activities otherwise you will have great difficulty motivating yourself and performing. Ventilate the room in which you work as regularly as possible to promote oxygenation of your brain, make your workstation pleasant, ergonomic and practical, and work in a sufficiently bright environment. Last tip, a little surprising, but very important, dress at the start of your day as if you were going to work. The outfit we wear influences our behavior, our thoughts and even our concentration.
Consider stopping during the day
Being productive all day long is possible with a few breaks and a pace that suits you. Even if you have a lot of work, you have to know how to stop from time to time. A short break is essential to free the body and mind and then start again better. It can be seen as a reward after completing a task. Take time for yourself, to take care of your mind, daydream, get up, stretch, make yourself some tea, do breathing exercises. This will allow you to maximize your concentration and memory. Take the opportunity to chat with the people around you, your colleagues or your friends. Regular doses of positive human contact reduce stress and help us focus better.
Learn to manage your stress
Stress management is extremely important when it comes to focusing. A good pace of life, thanks to which you are rested and relaxed, allows you to increase your concentration time. On the contrary, anxiety is the enemy of the brain: brain cells can be poisoned by excess stress. This is particularly the case for certain regions of the brain such as the hippocampus, which plays a very important role in the construction of memory. You can counteract stress hormones with cardiac coherence yoga exercises or a walk in the forest. These exercises allow you to be more relaxed and therefore more willing to concentrate.
Think stupid thoughts
Almost every time we want to concentrate on a particular task, our brain reminds us, for example, of tasks that we forgot to do or even of new ideas. All these thoughts distract you from the activity you are doing and you lose focus. So get into the habit of writing down on an external medium all those ideas, thoughts, tasks that pollute your mind and prevent you from concentrating properly for more than 5 minutes. Once this information is written down somewhere, you won't need to dwell on the idea for two hours for fear of forgetting it. Finally, to stay focused and efficient throughout the day, give yourself specific goals and establish a daily schedule to avoid procrastination. And above all, feel concerned and involved in your missions, you will have an easier time requesting your attention on the project.
Find an environment conducive to concentration
Your work environment directly influences your brain performance and whether or not you are able to concentrate. Certain parameters, such as noise or movement, have a negative impact on your well-being, your performance and your concentration. There are indeed certain environments more conducive than others to practicing activities that require concentration (such as reading scientific studies, preparing a presentation, revising for an exam, etc.). If you find yourself in the middle of an open space or a self-service restaurant, the risk of not being productive is certain. If you need to concentrate on a particularly important task, isolate yourself in a meeting room, a closed office or in the small bubbles provided in your premises, without a telephone to stay focused.