Can’t Concentrate? 9 Tips to Improve Focus When You’re Stuck

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9 Tips to Improve Focus & Concentration | If you struggle to stay focused and want to know how to stay on task without getting distracted, these productivity tips and hacks will help. Whether you're working from home and need tips to shut off distractions, or you're on the hunt for habits to help you stay focused at work when the urge to socialize is high, there are so many little things you can do to stay motivated and present so you can be your most productive self!

If you’re looking for tips to improve focus, you’ve come to the right place!

I’m an organized, Type A personal by nature, and productivity is my jam. I love finding ways to create order out of chaos, but if I’m being completely honest and transparent, the global pandemic had a significant impact on my ability to concentrate and focus for large periods of time. Between meeting my work deadlines, keeping my daughter motivated and on track while she ping-ponged between in-person and virtual school, and staying on top of all of the house stuff I could no longer outsource, I found myself feeling…stuck.

Simple tasks took me forever to complete, and I was no longer the motivated go-getter who worked ahead and felt accomplished at the end of the day. I had a serious case of pandemic fatigue and needed to find a way to get back on track.

These tips to improve focus have always been my go-to when I feel stuck, and I hope they help you as much as they’ve continued to help me!

9 Tips to Improve Focus

1. FUEL YOUR BODY & MIND
When we think about the best tips to improve focus, we tend to zero in on things like planners, to do lists, and other hacks to keep us organized. All of these things are extremely helpful, but we tend to forget the importance of taking care of our bodies and our minds. If either of these things are out of balance, it can be really tough to concentrate and give our all to whatever task we are working on.

If focus is something you struggle with, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Prioritize sleep. Adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night in order to function properly and perform at peak productivity, but when life gets busy, sleep is often the first thing we let slip. We sacrifice sleep to help us stay on top of all of the things that are pulling at us for attention, and while this may decrease feelings of stress and overwhelm in the short term, sleep deprivation actually makes it harder for us to focus and cope with stress over time.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. When lift gets busy, we tend to reach for sugary, fatty, and fast foods and snacks. They are convenient, taste good, and give us a boost of energy, but once that initial high wears off, we inevitably crash, making it really hard to concentrate. If you are looking for tips to improve focus, limit your sugar intake and fill up on fruits, vegetables, and lean protein to fuel your brain and keep you feeling full and satiated.
  • Drink small amounts of caffeine. A cup of tea or coffee can give you the jolt you need to focus in the morning and/or when the infamous afternoon slump hits. Just be careful not to drink too much caffeine as it can make you feel nervous and jittery, which can negatively impact your concentration.
  • Exercise regularly. Working out on the regular isn’t just good for your physical health. It promotes brain health, reduces stress, and improves our moods as well. Make sure you’re moving your body for at least 30 minutes a day.

2. USE YOUR ENERGY WISELY
Learning when you are at your most productive and taking full advantage of that time can make a huge difference in your ability to concentrate on important tasks for long periods of time. We tend to get caught up in the idea that we’re supposed to do our most pressing items first thing in the morning, but if you find you’re more effective after lunch or in the late in the evening, organize your schedule in such a way that you use that time wisely!

3. REMOVE DISTRACTIONS
If you’re looking for tips to improve focus, you probably already know that removing distractions is key. Some of these may seem like no-brainers, but oftentimes we can use a little reminder of all of the little things we can do to maximize our concentration!

  • Create a dedicated work area
  • Turn off social media
  • Close down your email program
  • Wear noise-cancelling headphones
  • Cancel unnecessary meetings
  • Side aside time to respond to emails and calls in one go
  • Delegate wherever possible

4. MAINTAIN ‘TO DO’ LISTS
Have you ever heard of the ‘Zeigarnik Effect’? It’s a psychological phenomenon that describes our tendency to remember tasks that are incomplete instead of tasks we’ve finished. The research surrounding this phenomenon is quite insightful and suggests that if we’re working on a task and suddenly have to stop, it is harder for us to fully focus on something else.

Of course, we can’t always follow a task from start to finish in one sitting, so we need to find ways to offset the negative impact these interruptions have on our ability to switch gears when we need to. A good way to do this is to maintain ‘to do’ lists. Writing down all of the tasks you did not have time to finish at the end of each day, and then assigning a completion date for each item can help remove feelings of stress associated with incomplete tasks.

5. TRY THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
If you’re looking for tips to improve focus, many people swear by the Pomodoro Technique, which follows a pattern like this:

  • Identify the task you want to work on
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes (aka, one Pomodoro)
  • Work only on the task you’ve selected for the duration of those 25 minutes
  • Take a 5 minute break
  • If the task isn’t complete, set a timer for another 25 minutes and work only on that task again
  • Take a 5 minute break
  • Once you’ve completely four Pomodoros, take a longer break (aim for 15-30 minutes) and then start again

Breaking your work into small, manageable chunks of time allows you to hyper-focus without distraction, making you much more productive and effective. Give it a try!

6. STOP MULTITASKING
While it feels great to knock a million items off your never-ending list of things to do each day, multitasking can actually make you less effective with your time. The key to productivity is to do fewer things for more effect instead. Focusing on ONE task at a time allows you to be more efficient, and enables you to give 100% of your effort.

7. BATCH SIMILAR ITEMS TOGETHER
Batching is one of my favorite productivity hacks, and I use it in both my personal and professional life. The term ‘batching’ refers to grouping relevant tasks together and tackling them in one go rather than splitting them up over the course of a few days. For example, you may schedule a block of time to do all of your administrative tasks at work each week like catching up on emails, returning phone calls, filing, etc., and also set aside an evening or two to handle mindless household tasks like cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and meal prep. You will be amazed at how much your productivity increases when you roll up your sleeves and tackle similar tasks together in one go rather than constantly breaking your concentration and borrowing time for these items throughout the week.

8. ONLY TOUCH SOMETHING ONCE
The ‘Touch It Once’ technique has been life-changing for me, and if you’re looking for tips to improve focus, I highly recommend you give this a try. The idea is simple: once you ‘touch’ a task, you deal with it then and there so it’s taken off your plate, rather than ‘touching’ it multiple times and allowing it to take up extra energy and mental space. If a task can’t be completed in one go, make a firm decision on next steps and take action to keep things moving forward. The ‘Touch It Once’ technique will help you realize how many times you look at and ruminate over the same things without actually taking action. You’ll knock things off your ‘to do’ list much faster, which will make you feel more accomplished and less likely to procrastinate.

9. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
The last item on my list of tips to improve focus is to schedule regular breaks throughout the day. This may sound counterproductive, especially when you have a million different things pulling at you at the same time, but the time away will help you clear your mind and gain perspective, allowing you to feel more relaxed and in control so you can prioritize and focus on the important stuff. Walking around your neighborhood, calling a friend, or enjoying a warm cup of coffee while looking out the window can all help you recharge and re-focus when you’re finding it hard to concentrate.

I hope these tips to improve focus help you find ways to not only concentrate for long periods of time, but also enable you to use your time more productively so you have more time to do the things you enjoy with the ones you love most!

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9 Tips to Improve Focus & Concentration | If you struggle to stay focused and want to know how to stay on task without getting distracted, these productivity tips and hacks will help. Whether you're working from home and need tips to shut off distractions, or you're on the hunt for habits to help you stay focused at work when the urge to socialize is high, there are so many little things you can do to stay motivated and present so you can be your most productive self!

And if you’re looking for more tips and ideas to help you live your best life every single day, please follow our All Things Women board where we share all kinds of great ideas we find each day!

Gwen
Gwen
Gwen is a 40-something freelance writer and social media consultant who has an unhealthy love for makeup, hair, and fashion. She lives with her husband and 9-year-old daughter in Toronto, Canada and hopes to move to a warmer climate someday. Preferably tomorrow.