Are you having problems focusing your thoughts or ideas, or sitting down to do a task you know you have to complete but just can’t get into it? With so many things that demand our attention is can be difficult to concentrate and pay attention.
Lack of concentration can affect your memory, your ability to learn, and sometimes be dangerous if you are not paying attention to what you are doing or where you are going.
There are medical reasons why some people are not able to stay focused: hyperactivity; sleep problems; medication; drugs or alcohol abuse; stroke and many more. If you find yourself or someone you know experiencing trouble concentrating, especially if these symptoms come up suddenly and last more than a day or two, a medical professional needs to be consulted.
Most people have distractions from time to time that cause us to lose focus, and most of them can be explained. Here are just a few reasons that could be causing your inability to concentrate, and what you can do to help.
I know a couple people who are addicted to checking their email dozens of times a day, and it’s not just for business purposes. There is just something about messages sitting in your inbox that just screams at you to answer them immediately. Many of these emails may be work related, but they are still distractions that take you away from the job you are supposed to be doing.
Instead of checking your email constantly, set certain times aside to check (like break or lunch times), and don’t check the mail unless you are expecting an important message related to what you are doing right now. Progress can’t be made if you constantly interrupt yourself to check your mail.
According to Psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD, “It’s easy to connect with friends — and disconnect from work — many times an hour. Every status update zaps your train of thought, forcing you to backtrack when you resume your work.”
Social media is just that — social. While you are working you are not supposed to be socializing. Once again, check your Facebook or Twitter during your breaks, lunch or after work or school. If you just can’t back away from them, take yourself out of the situation where you have access. Get away from your computer, shut it down, or go to a location where there is no connection.
Few of us can ignore the ring of the phone. It’s even more disruptive than the ping of the email. Taking a call, or checking your text, stops the momentum you had going and makes it hard to get back to your train of thought until you resolve the call issue.
Use your called ID. If the call is not urgent let it go to voicemail. If you are working with others, put the phone on vibrate or turn if off and check it when you have time. If the phone is off you won’t be tempted to answer it, and you can wait until you have a few moments to listen to the voicemail.
We all have had times when the project we are working on is so boring you get sleepy and want to take a nap. There are also times when we can’t get away from the boredom — like a lecture from a speaker with a monotone that goes on and on. In those instances you will have to find ways to concentrate on what they are saying.
If you are in the office and performing mundane tasks, do the things that bore you first, or intermingle them with chores that make you move or you do enjoy. Often boring jobs are put aside, but they have to get done too, and that requires concentration. Make a deal with yourself that you will stay on task and get them done, and then you deserve a reward — like a coffee break, a snack, or getting a breath of fresh air. If you are able, put on some music that will get you in a happy mood and things will go faster.
Multi-tasking is the biggest culprit when it comes to taking your focus away from what you should be doing. Some people think they are accomplishing so much when they are doing more than one task at a time, but the facts done bear that assumption out. Research suggests that each time you take your attention from one task to work on another you actually lose time because your brain has to shift gears and then get back to where you were before. Our brains are not made to multi-task.
If you find that you have to do more than one project at a time, save the less demanding ones for times that are less stressful — like you can clean up your desk while talking on the phone. If possible, delegate the work to someone else so you can devote your attention and energy to the primary task. You will find that multi-tasking can cause more errors than taking one task at a time.
Taking your eyes off your goal causes errors, and often you end up not completing the goal. Keeping your concentration on what you are trying to achieve will be more efficient, in the end, and will ensure that you complete what you set out to do.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
WebMD — Top Concentration Killers: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/ss/slideshow-top-concentration-killers?ecd=wnl_lbt_020112
Better Medicine from HealthGrades — Concentration Difficulty: http://www.bettermedicine.com/article/concentration-difficulty