Do you ever find it hard to concentrate? Or find yourself easily distracted from the task at hand? Or notice how easy it is to be distracted when you really do not want to do the task at hand! Concentration is is said to truly drive intelligence. It is not memory but more the person’s ability to control one’s selective attention.
So how do we become more selective? And what happens to the brain when we need to concentrate?
When you decide you need to get focused and do something your brain will have blood rush to the prefrontal cortex. It is almost like a neurological switchboard that tells the brain to shift its attention and concentrate. The next phase is an electrical impulse in two parts – first there is a search query where the brain searches for the right neurons to do the task and second there is the command where the neuron is told what to do – i.e. focus on writing, reading, listening etc.
When we are distracted by things like a Facebook notification, an email, phone call, children, partners, boredom or a particular noise the mind disengages and the focus is lost.
Then, once the distraction is over, or we need to get focused again, in order to get back into a concentrated state the brain has to go through the above steps in this organised manner, which gives less kudos to the idea of being able to multi-task. Perhaps it is more than likely there really is no such thing.
Here are 8 ways to get focused and stay on track.
1. Work on one thing at a time
It’s never easy to swap and change or do a multitude of things all at once. In fact it has been proven that the more you are in that scattered state the less you achieve and the more frustration can occur. So, put simply focus on one thing at a time. Write a list if that helps and then one by one get through the list. The more we switch our attention and focus the harder the brain has to work.
2. Eliminate distractions
If you need to get work done turn off technology notifications. You know it too well. It’s addictive. The minute we hear a tweet, Facebook notification, email or text it is so easy to lose our attention and turn our focus elsewhere. The reality, as mentioned above, is incredibly taxing on the brain and can cause more stress and take tasks even longer.
3. Spritz with essential oils
The use of essential oils to get focused is phenomenal. These incredible tools are one of the quickest ways to access the brain as they cross the blood brain barrier almost immediately. Choosing high quality therapeutic grade oils that will stimulate, freshen and activate the mind are powerful. Simply fill a 50ml glass spritzer bottle with water and add 4-6 drops of three oils (or a synergy blend) that are activating like Rosemary, Lemon, Basil, Black Pepper, Lime, Myrtle, Spearmint and Grapefruit. Our two synergy blends are Focus & Clarity and Energy & Vitality. The act of closing your eyes, taking a deep breath as you spritz will help anchor the mind, get focused and remove brain fog. You can have a vaporiser next to your desk or wherever you are working to help your ability to concentrate too.
It is well known the more clutter around you the least effective you are. The same is true if your diary is cluttered, or your kitchen or pantry is cluttered. Clear your desk at least once a week to find your happy place. Complete tasks so you dont feel as though the build up of what needs to be done is clutter. And if you do not complete certain tasks, simply add to your list for the following week. That way the brain knows it is there and will not keep coming up in your mind as a reminder so you dont forget.
5. Make lists
Making lists allows the brain to give it up. It now knows the task is either taken care of or at least acknowledged. When we worry we will forget something or have so much going on in our minds it is hard to remember whether you have completed something or not and this in turn can cause massive stress. Making lists also means you get to tick things off as you accomplish them. The satisfaction in that is huge.
6. Get moving
Moving the body creates an energy like no other. The release of dopamine, seratonin and endorphins during exercise gives us a good sense of self, improved energy and an increased state of happiness and joy. It is thanks to exercising that the brain is able to create new neurons to store information more easily.
7. Get clear
Know what it is you are trying to achieve or do. Even if you are not sure how that will happen at least give your brain a clear indication of what you are wanting to get done or how you intend to spend your time getting there. Saying things like this can be helpful ‘I am now writing my assignment and spending the next 90mins focused and attentive to the outcome of at least 1000 words.’ It gives clarity on the task at hand, a goal and an idea of what you want to achieve so you stay focused and on task. And if for some reason you do not achieve it then hopefully you have allowed time to put into the next block of allocated time so you are not stressed about it either. Simplifying what you need to do allows the brain to stay more focused and gives you a deadline on what you are wanting to achieve.
8. Train your mind
Like anything you have to practice to get better. Training the mind is like training a muscle. Whilst we tend to have a plethora of things to focus on each day the brain with all its so-called ‘multi-tasking’ abilities is being trained to not focus. Practice being focused and attentive on one thing at a time and see your productivity increase ten fold.