Should you be doing something else rather than reading this blog? Do you think you might struggle to reach the end of it?
Well firstly we're glad you've chosen to read it and we think it's worth sticking with it to the end.
And secondly, it sounds – just like the rest of us – that you sometimes find concentration and focus a challenge.
When there are emails flying around, a million and one apps to distract you, competing priorities and deadlines, and good old procrastination, paying full attention to the task in hand is hard.
Why do we struggle to focus?
We can't all be 100% on it all the time, but understanding why we might be struggling to concentrate is half the battle.
Here are some common culprits:
We live in a time when our head, thumbs, and brains are constantly turned by all kinds of distractions. According to researchers just seeing our phones can affect our concentration and information overload is a common issue.
If you're not getting quality rest your ability to concentrate is compromised You'll be less alert, your short and long-term memory won't function properly and you'll find logical tasks hard to process.
Too loud, too quiet, too hot, too cold, too light, too dark. There are all kinds of external factors that might affect your ability to focus. Some people crave isolation whereas others thrive when there's a background hum, the environment that helps you concentrate is personal, but when it's not right the impact is marked.
That post lunch slump is a real thing and there is a proven correlation between sharpness and focus and balanced nutrition. You – and your brain – aren’t yourself when you’re hungry.
Lack of physical activity
Sitting hunched over a screen for hours on end isn't conducive to concentration. If you want to stay alert a burst of physical activity can help you find new focus.
Top tips for better focus
Still with us? Great. Here are some habits and practices that can help you stay alert.
It sounds obvious but making a concerted effort to remove the things that distract you is key. Block out time in your diary for tasks you need to focus on and let people know to not disturb you during that time. Put your phone out of sight and close down apps and silence notifications. Close down all windows on your laptop other than the ones you really need for the task in hand.
Be in the moment
It takes discipline to bring your mind back to the moment and to drown out the noise. But it can help to acknowledge that we are in control and can choose where to focus. Practicing mindfulness can help with this. By learning to focus on your breath you can use that to centre your thinking and bring your attention back to the task you want to complete.
Walk away from the task
Our brains aren't wired to focus infinitely. We need to take breaks. Pop the kettle on, go for a wander, talk to someone about something different and when you return, you'll be able to refocus better. Switching tasks can also help to give your brain fresh focus.
Exercise gives your brain a hit of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which can help with focus. Moving also can relieve tension and relax your muscles - which can put you in better shape to concentrate mentally. Starting your day with a brisk walk or a workout is a great way to stay sharp.
Plant the seed
Even better, get your movement boost with a hit of nature too. Giving your brain a break and connecting with nature on an outdoor walk or run has been shown to aid concentration – even having plants and greenery in your workspace can help.
Brain and body are intrinsically linked and keeping blood sugar on a level and maintaining energy can help your concentration. Avoid sugary foods that cause peaks and dips and fuel your focus with good fats like nuts, berries and avocados.
Top apps to help you focus
Digital devices don't have to be the enemy, there are lots of apps designed t help you focus. Give some of these a whirl.
A productivity app for Macs that allows you to customise your focus sessions and time management. It can sync across all your apple devices and there are lots of neat features like live timers and an overview that helps you track daily or weekly progress.
Science shows that certain types of music and sounds can aid concentration. BrainFM uses AI to generate personalised concentration music that can help you find your flow and offers everything from classical to electro and post-rock and nature sounds.
Forest combines the Pomodoro technique with a touch of gamification. Plant a seed, set the timer, and a tree will grow while you work. The app also partners with Trees of the Future a non-profit focused on land restoration in developing communities around the world.
This popular app is a task manager that can help you organise your life. It's powerful but simple and allows you to add tasks and use it collaboratively to assign them to other people. A team favourite here at Gather!
Freedom blocks out distractions. You can use it to block websites, apps, and notification for set durations and timeframes. Using custom lists you can stay in control of your day and establish a focus routine.
Congratulations, you made it to the end! Go celebrate with a walk, a chat, or a handful of nuts.