Advertising
Advertising

5 Surprising Tricks That Will Enhance Your Concentration

5 Surprising Tricks That Will Enhance Your Concentration

One of the biggest obstacles to being productive is the lack of focus.

Distractions are everywhere these days, not just outside, but at home, and even in our heads. So we need to constantly watch out for them, do our best to prevent interruptions, and structure our days in the most effective way possible by managing our time well.

But still, more focus would make a huge difference to how quickly we get things done and how accomplished we are at the end of the day.

You’ve already heard some general tips on how to concentrate better, so here are a few ways to enhance your mind power that you probably don’t know about:

1. Doodle

For most people, this is a tiny bad habit and a waste of time. But research shows that it’s actually a thinking tool, a powerful exercise that can be beneficial to our ability to focus. What’s more, it helps you be more mindful, productive and creative.

So, being a doodler may be one of your biggest assets. During a business meeting or a lecture, it’s what lets you listen more carefully, and not just remember more from what’s being said, but also internalize it.

Advertising

When you’re procrastinating because you don’t know where to start, aren’t feeling like it or are just distracted, begin doodling. You’ll come up with ideas and your mind will be recharged.

2. Create a not to-do list

To-do lists are one of the simplest productivity tools out there, but they still serve us well. How about a not to-do one?

Together with writing down what you need to get done during the day and crossing off an item whenever it’s completed, you can also have a section for the things you should avoid doing, like bad habits and things that make you procrastinate and lose focus.

You’ll first need to identify the biggest distractions from daily life.

How does this help you? Well, you become aware of the main factors that are preventing you from concentrating and keep them in mind throughout the whole day.

Sometimes, just a quick reminder of what we shouldn’t be doing, or even thinking about, can work wonders.

Advertising

Some items you can include are checking email too often, not using social media when you’re doing your most important work for the day, not overthinking before starting a project, not multitasking, not thinking about the work you’ll be doing later (but focusing on what’s next on your list and giving it your undivided attention).

3. Do something completely different

When you’re about to get to work and can’t seem to focus, just go do something else for a while.

That tip doesn’t make sense until you give it a try.

It’s similar to the idea generation process, where you can come up with more ideas when you stop thinking about it.

So whenever you’re distracted, instead of trying too hard to concentrate on your task, go out for a walk, have a quick workout, have a quick chat, call a friend, declutter your room or put some music on and dance for a few minutes.

When you get back to what you were doing, you’ll find it easier to concentrate and will feel fresh and be in a better mood.

Advertising

4. Chew gum

It’s proven to improve our mind and productivity and help us focus for longer.

According to a study at the Cardiff University, gums are quite practical when you’re facing a continuous activity.

So the next time you need to work on something that’s either boring or takes too long, chew gum and keep your focus.

5. Meditate

You’ve probably heard of that one, but people talk mostly about its overall effects in the long run.

Yes, meditation improves your health in many ways, from strengthening your immune system, reducing blood pressure and decreasing your chances of many diseases, to dealing with depression and managing ADHD symptoms.

But it’s also fantastic for concentration enhancement. Turning it into a daily habit means you’ll learn how to be present, how to focus on one thing for longer (by practicing this using your breath in the beginning) and how to let go of random thoughts, which are often the reason we can’t shut off our brain.

Advertising

But it can also be used as a quick solution. When getting to work, have a 5-minute meditation session right before that. You don’t need anything specific other than some solitude.

Incorporate zen techniques to your life. Breathe deeply, concentrate on one thought, be at ease and be in the present moment. You’ll instantly lower your heart rate. The deep breaths will help you increase the oxygen supply to your brain and make it work better.

Enhance your brain power

Now that you have new productivity techniques to test, you can stop blaming others for interrupting you while working, stop feeling bad about not being efficient but still doing nothing about the tasks on your list, and stop hoping for things to change without your role.

Luckily, concentration can be boosted daily, even if you dedicate it 5 minutes or so. The long-term effect, however, will be tremendous.

Once you enhance your brain power, you’ll see other changes happening in your life. You’ll remember things with ease and that may be beneficial to your social life and relationships  (people are honored when you remember details about their life or something they said a long time ago, for example).

You’ll excel at work and others will notice that. Your work will never overwhelm you again.

As for learning new things, that will become a piece of cake as gaining knowledge and developing skills is all about how good your memory is, whether or not you can concentrate easily and stay focused for a longer period of time.

So, how will you enhance your concentration today?

More by this author

10 Mind-Blowing TED Talks On How To Be Confident, Gorgeous- And A Better Person 26 Things To Remember If You Want To Be Truly Happy 5 Surprising Tricks That Will Enhance Your Concentration Science Says Vegetarians Are More Intelligent And Empathetic 15 Best Photos From 2015 iPhone Photography Awards Winners

Trending in Brain

1 Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts 2 What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good) 3 What is Cognitive Dissonance (And How to Dodge it) 4 How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements) 5 How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

Advertising

Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

Advertising

4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

Advertising

7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

Advertising

Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next