Our attention spans are fighting an uphill battle in this new age of distraction. The average attention span has decreased 30% since the year 2000 - only 8 seconds. In this new knowledge economy you must quickly adapt and master new skills and applications much faster than ever before. This new reality is exciting as it is overwhelming. Concentration is the foundation of focus and will empower you to accomplish more with less in today's workplace. Here's five effective mental exercises for boosting concentration:
Follow these five tactics in this order for maximal results*
1. Little Wins
Start by practicing your focus on the little things. Can you get little wins by focusing for 8 seconds, 1 minute or even 5 minutes without a break or distraction? Research has shown that we rekindle childhood curiosity and creativity by focusing on the small details around us. These baby steps add up quickly in the concentration game.
Exercise: Pick a task like lead prospecting, reading an article or outlining a project. Set a realistic time you can devote to fully engaging in that task. Set your timer and only perform the set task without breaking for any other distraction. Feel free to silence your phone to avoid any push notifications that might break your concentration. Restrain yourself when you feel the temptation to check your phone or email. Do this for one minute, five minutes and see if you can get up to 90 minutes. 90 minutes is when you should take a break - physically and mentally.
2. Candle Gaze
To focus concentration, you need to find something to fix your gaze on, something that interests any mind. We are all fascinated by fire and light. The pineal gland is stimulated by light and starts to diminish if you don’t stimulate it.
Exercise: One evening after work, find a few moments to sit down in a dark room and light a candle. Sit down in a chair about six feet away and focus on the soft flickering light in front of you. Try not to think about anything else but the candle light. Do this for up to five minutes if possible.
3. Mirror Motivation
The most rewarding form of concentration is making eye contact with another person and perceiving a deeper connection. The sense of assured confidence and peace radiates throughout every cell of your body during that moment of Zen. The practice of finding your inner peace can be practiced fairly easily.
Exercise: Standing in front of the mirror, make two marks on a level with your eyes and imagine them as two human eyes looking into yours. All your thoughts should be concentrated on keeping your head perfectly still and avoid other thoughts from coming into your mind. Now keeping your head, eyes and body still, think that you look like a reliable person, someone whom anyone would have confidence in. Practice deep breathing in front of the mirror.
4. Concentrated Counting
Counting is the simplest form of therapeutic concentration. This not only increases your ability to get lost in a single task (which many of us forget to do) but can increase basic mental elasticity if you quantify meaningful symbols like shapes or words.
Exercise: Open up a random magazine and start counting the words in the first paragraph of an article. Count them again to ensure you got the first count correct. Now start counting the words in the next paragraph and add them to those from the first paragraph. Try doing this for the entire page.
5. Superfoods Fuel Focus
We know it won’t be easy to fit the above concentration exercises into your daily routine, but start mixing these superfoods into your diet to supercharge focus and concentration:
- Blueberries – Contain lots of natural antioxidants that increase blood flow and brain activity.
- Green Tea – Not only does it contain caffeine but also more importantly, large amounts of l’theanine. The latter increases your brain’s “alpha-wave activity” so that caffeine is released slowly over time to avoid the crash later.
- Leafy Greens – Chlorophyll contains lots of carotenoids which increase blood flow and B-vitamins which enhance your memory.
- Fatty fish – Fish like salmon or cod are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids which are proven to aid both mental performance and motor skills.
All of the above diet and exercise tips will greatly enhance your ability to concentrate and focus. They also have the added benefit of greatly reducing stress and calming your mind. Wouldn't we all love to pump the brakes on the millions of random thoughts racing through our heads throughout the day and focus on what's important? Start taking these baby steps toward consistent concentration and you will attain the capacity for self-improvement.