A recent study has revealed the connection between increased social media usage and a decline in attention span. The research showed that the more time people spend online, the more difficult it is to concentrate on books or work.
Nowadays, many people find it difficult to concentrate on reading long sentences, or anything for that matter. A Microsoft Corps Study asserted that people now generally lose attention in a subject after about eight seconds.
This is a real problem, as work can become tiring when you spend more hours than you ought to on a task. Zoom meetings will seem like torture because you keep zoning out. Reading is even worse; you may read the same sentence for minutes.
This is why concentration and focus are essential skills for efficiency. You can achieve your goals only if you don’t get controlled by distractions.
So, this article will highlight some tips to help you concentrate for long hours. This way, you can take your work rate to the next level.
Facts on How to Concentrate for Long Hours
Losing focus is entirely normal, as it’s part of our internal survival system. While working on any task, the brain may get stimulated by anything else and turn to the object of attention. For many people, the distraction lasts based on how rewarding the object of attention is.
Research shows our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. Now, 15 years later, it’s shrunk significantly to 8.25 seconds. Refocus time usually takes five to fifteen minutes.
The average office worker may experience interruption every ten minutes, which badly impacts their work rate. For example, they may be interrupted by phone calls, gossip with their colleagues, their boss needing their attention, standing up to print documents, radio announcements, etc.
However, about 44% of distractions are internal. People may be distracted by thoughts, memories, boredom, etc. The NeuroLeadership Institute asserts that work focus equals about 6 hours a week. These stats reveal that distraction is common and unavoidable.
Top Eight Habits to Aid Concentration
Now that you know how distraction works and its dangers, how do you stay focused on work?
Here are ten excellent tips to help you increase focus and concentration.
1. Set Clear and Achievable Goals
Don’t just set out trying to do your tasks. If you don’t break down your work, it may be hard for you to focus long-term. Instead, write down your tasks for the day. Writing things down helps you be sure of what you must do for the day, and you can break each task into snippets.
You can also decide exactly what you want to achieve, and arrange your tasks based on high-concentration and low-concentration jobs.
Having clear goals can also motivate you to complete your tasks. Anytime you feel distracted, you can remind yourself you are close to the finish line.
2. Prioritize Your Schedule
Arrange the task snippets by order of importance. You can sort them from high-urgency tasks to low-importance tasks. Then, you can leverage your prime time to work on the high urgency tasks. Your prime time refers to the time that you’re most productive during the day. This differs from person to person.
However, studies reveal that apart from office hours, 90% of people do their best thinking early in the morning or late at night. So, you can spend a few days observing when you are most productive and reserve the high-priority and high-concentration tasks for this hour.
Then schedule your low-effort activities for hours you usually feel lethargic. For example, socializing, group gatherings, and casual phone calls can wait. This will help your brain feel refreshed, and you’ll be less stressed with your tasks.
3. Exercise and Stay Active
There’s a strong connection between mental and physical exercises, and mental function. Sometimes, internal distraction is a result of worries and anxieties. Physical exercise improves learning activities, alertness, and memory function. Exercise also reduces anxiety and depression.
Physical activities have both immediate and long-term benefits. For example, children usually feel refreshed and concentrate better in class immediately after physical activities. They also help you spend more hours on your work or study.
You’ll find that thirty minutes of vigorous cardio workout followed by a shower will set a great tempo for the day. However, if there are specific sports activities that you enjoy, such as dancing, swimming, golf, etc., they all serve this purpose as well.
For long-term benefits, you can also play specific mental games like chess, Scrabble, Monopoly, etc. You can also download online games, like Elevate and Peak, that have to improve focus and other cognitive functions. These are all good examples of how to concentrate for long hours.
4. Choose a Proper Environment
Where you work or study can impact the quality of your output. A rough or untidy work environment creates room for distractions. If you have many objects hanging around, you’ve created several probable external stimuli for your brain. As you study, these will serve as distractions and hinder your progress.
So, it’s best to set up a workstation. First, it puts you in the right mind frame. You can also ensure that all the resources you need to work are in one place, and you don’t have to stand up often to grab them.
Ensure you declutter your workspace. Only put the necessary objects like your journal, work tablet or computer, some pens, books, and documents. Also, ensure proper ventilation and comfort items like a chair pillow.
Also, your environment should be quiet enough. Too much noise can interrupt your thought process. However, many people enjoy playing music while working, so you can see if this works for you too.
5. Practice a Time Management System
The brain isn’t wired to work infinitely. Attempting to do so will only make you less efficient. This is why you need to manage your time wisely. The brain can concentrate on a specific task for just a few hours before it requires a break. One needs to take this into cognizance while working.
One of the methods to address this is the Pomodoro technique. This technique suggests working in time blocks. A time block takes about twenty-five minutes, after which you can take a five-minute break. Then, you can run four blocks in this manner and take a 20-30 minutes break before starting again.
If this method seems too hard, you can develop one of your own. For example, you can try working for fifteen minutes at a time before a five minutes break in four consecutive blocks.
6. Schedule Distractions
Distractions are bad, but when they are scheduled, they can be precisely what you need to focus better. In addition, you can use distractions to reward yourself as a kind of dopamine fix. For example, after doing a solid block of work, you can reward yourself with ten minutes of window gazing.
Any kind of distraction is acceptable, as long as you enjoy the activity. It can be as simple as rewarding yourself with a snack or texting a friend. Many people enjoy phone breaks. After an hour of work, you can turn off “Do Not Disturb” from your phone and surf the net. However, it’s best to set the alarm in a way that you only spend a little time on your break.
This satisfies your urges long enough for you to dedicate another hour to your tasks. But remember, you control the distractions, and not the other way around.
7. Try Meditation
Meditation is as beneficial as the rumors say. Just a few minutes of sitting still in silence, connecting to your breath, and listening to calm music can realign you.
You can start your day with a guided meditation from Medito or lnsight Timer. You can set your intentions for the day, which will make you feel ready for the day. Also, meditation trains the brain to focus on one thing at a time. As a result, you’ll increase overall mindfulness and will be able to call yourself back from distractions.
Besides, meditation and mindfulness help to manage other conditions that can eventually lead to concentration problems. It helps to:
- Manage stress
- Manage symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia
- Improve relaxation
8. Eat Healthy Foods that Aid Brain Function
Your diet matters. Although the brain contributes to very little of our body mass, it consumes about twenty percent of our nutrition. So good food keeps your energy level high, your brain focused, and your emotions calm.
Healthy and balanced nutrition gives you long-term benefits. The Harvard Medical School recommends some of the following as brain foods:
- Fatty fishes like salmon
- Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale.
- Berries, like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries
- Tea and coffee for the caffeine, in moderation
You can also try nutrition supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B-3, L-Theanine if you want optimum results.
How to Develop Focus as a Habit
Building habits is hard, but seeing focus as an exercise or a challenge can make the process easier. A habit has three parts: cue, routine, and reward.
A cue is a trigger for starting something. In this case, you have to work or study anyway, so you need to develop a cue by yourself. For example, you can set work reminders on your phone. When the reminder comes on, this will serve as your cue to start.
Concentration or focus is the routine. You have to sit with a task for a specific period each day. For example, you can choose to read from a book for thirty minutes every morning.
Repetition is what builds routine. So, ensure you don’t miss whatever focus routine you create.
The reward is something you grant yourself as compensation for each successful routine. This becomes something to look forward to and helps you get through the process.
You can reward yourself with a cup of coffee or arrange your next daily activity to be one you really enjoy. For example, having a bath right after your focus reading exercise.
What’s even more important is not to consider distraction your enemy. It happens to everyone, and you can use distractions as a cue to get back to focus. So, when you come to the awareness that you are distracted, consider it a reminder to focus again.
Simple Tips to Stay Focused
- Practice active listening by paying attention to what people say when they speak to you.
- Set clear boundaries around your time. Your free hour should be free of interruptions.
- Make time for your social connections. Neglecting your social needs can cause thoughts to rise during the day.
- Track the amount of focused work you do. Measuring helps you to know what works for you.
- Pay attention to your sleeping pattern. A poor sleep pattern can make your brain feel fuzzy. You may find it particularly hard to concentrate on anything.
- Use soothing music when working or studying. There are specially curated playlists on streaming platforms like Spotify, Deezer, and iTunes. These playlists aid intense studying sessions.
- An ideal room temperature will make you feel comfortable and less distracted. However, a room that’s too cold can make you feel sleepy.
- Block out external stimuli when working. You can turn off desktop notifications, use headphones when working in a noisy environment, close your windows, etc.
- Take technology breaks. Practice going offline for days from time to time and spend the extra hours working. You can install social media blockers like Forest and Freedom.
- Take nature baths and walks regularly. The brain is confronted with fewer stimuli, which can calm your mind and improve focus.
Being distracted can be a downer, especially if you have several tasks before you. However, like every other skill, you can develop your concentration skills. Following the tips above will significantly improve your long and short-term focus. Remember to go easy on yourself. With time, you’ll see increased productivity and overall improved mental function.
After reading this guide, you should now know exactly how to concentrate for long hours, no matter the task!