Face it, your life is busy. It’s messy. It’s full of distractions. All that makes it easy to lose focus on what’s truly important and what you really need to be doing. Too much clutter can drain your focus and zap your concentration, and instead, lure you away into procrastination and wasted time.
Fortunately, if you want to know how to improve focus and concentration, you’ve come to the right place. There are several simple ways to dial in razor-sharp focus, and in this article, we’ll share five easy hacks that you can use to improve concentration.
Hacks to Improve Focus and Concentration
Hack 1: Manage Stress
Everyday stress is distracting, and it can prevent you from thinking clearly and making smart decisions. Simply put, stress can keep you from giving your full attention to what needs to be done right now. You can’t remove stress entirely from your life, and you wouldn’t want to; after all, some stress is “good” stress (called eustress), and you wouldn’t grow and get better in any area of life without it. This type of stress energizes and excites you, and it inspires action and focus.
On the other hand, too much stress—especially too much “bad” stress (called distress)—can be demoralizing and paralyzing. The good news is that you can learn to manage it so it doesn’t interfere as much. Here are some of our favorite stress busters:
- Exercising regularly. Exercise not only reduces stress, it nourishes your brain with the oxygen and nutrients it needs for peak performance. During the day, taking movement breaks between tasks—even just a walk around the office—can help clear your head and energize your mind.
- Meditation and deep breathing. These practices help calm your mind and improve your ability to focus. The effects are similar to exercise in that they let you disconnect from a task, refresh, and oxygenate your brain.
- Get outside. Sunlight exposure is directly related to cognitive function. So, if you’re looking for a double whammy of a stress buster, try going outside for a walk, preferably in a park or area where you’re immersed in nature. This type of activity, known as forest bathing, has been shown to help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase focus.
Hack 2: Get Enough Sleep
A tired brain is a brain that can’t focus and concentrate. Simply put, not getting enough sleep makes you dumber. Sleep deprivation impairs attention and working memory, which plays an important role in concentration. What’s more, lack of sleep negatively affects decision-making and vigilance.
What you may not know is that, during sleep, the brain clears out harmful toxins. So, if you’re not getting enough sleep, its restorative function may be diminished. This is bad news for a number of reasons, and as it relates to the topic at hand, build-up of these harmful toxins can hinder cognitive function and concentration.
Clearly, getting enough sleep is important—really important. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. Since most people don’t have much flexibility with the time they have to get up in the morning, start by committing to going to bed at a time that allows you an appropriate amount of sleep. Then, work on a bedtime routine—there’s a reason we do this with our kids—that involves turning off digital devices, clearing your head, and winding down.
Hack 3: Eat a Healthy Diet
Just like your body, your brain needs nourishment. There are several key neuro-nutrients in particular that are necessary to improve focus and concentration, as well as being necessary for brain health:
- B6: tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, sweet potatoes, potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach, and bananas
- Folate: lentils, beans, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, and avocados
- B12: sardines, salmon, tuna, scallops, shrimp, lamb, beef, and yogurt
- Choline: shrimp, eggs, scallops, shrimp, turkey, chicken, salmon, beef, and collard greens
- Vitamin D: exposing your bare skin to sunlight is the best way to optimize vitamin D status, and you can also find the “sunshine vitamin” in foods like salmon, sardines, dairy, eggs, and mushrooms
- DHA: herring, sardines, salmon, and oysters
- Water: mild dehydration reduces cognitive performance and attention
Vitamins C and E and several other essential nutrients (e.g., calcium, copper, iron, selenium, zinc) also play important roles in cognitive function. In addition, antioxidant polyphenols from vegetables, fruits, green tea, cocoa, red wine, and coffee have all been connected to improved brain power.
Overall, a well-balanced diet composed of lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables and fruits seems to be ideal for both short-term concentration and brain health for the long haul. Speaking of coffee, one tried and true neuro-nutrient for improved focus and concentration is caffeine.
Also, research suggests that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) may boost mental performance. MCTs, which have been shown to have an immediate impact on cognitive performance, are readily converted by the liver into ketones, which serve as an important energy source for the brain, particularly during periods of stress. Virgin coconut oil is a good source of MCTs.
Hack 4: Experiment with Essential Oils
Research suggests that the essential oils can benefit cognitive performance. For example, rosemary and peppermint are associated with memory enhancement and alertness, while lavender is thought to reduce stress. Citrus essential oils (like lemon, lime, and grapefruit) may also promote focus and productivity.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways:
- Topical application
Not all essential oils are created equally. You’ll notice that some are more expensive than others and for good reason. Only pure therapeutic-grade oils are recommended, and those are the only essential oils that should be used topically or ingested.
Hack 5: Boost Focus with Brain Games
Although your brain is not a muscle, it behaves a lot like one. And just like your muscles, your gray matter needs exercise to sharpen your mental skills and keep your memory in shape. Having said that, not just any mental exercise will do. Only by challenging your brain can you keep it in tip-top shape.
While there are many potentially useful brain games (like Lumosity and CogniFit), one of the best ways to give your brain the mental stimulation and novelty it seeks is through social interaction, which requires mental prowess to follow and contribute to a conversation. Even trying a new recipe or visiting a museum are helpful ways to take your brain off auto-pilot and hone your mental ninja skills.
If you’re looking to clear your mental clutter and improve focus and concentration, stop wasting time, kick procrastination to the curb, and implement these 5 sure-fire hacks. As you dial in razor-sharp focus, you’ll be able to efficiently and effectively tackle your tasks.