You cannot focus on anything anymore at work, and it’s taking its’ toll on your performance and your sense of well-being. You doze off in front of your computer and during office meetings. And even if you try with all your might to focus on work, you fail. This disaster is most probably a sign of poor concentration. Wandering from one thought to another won’t let you concentrate on one specific thing for long. The need to engage in work, that requires higher concentration for longer periods, is impaired by poor concentration. This condition often leads to boredom and drains mental energy, says Dr. Shavindra Dias, Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer of the Psychiatry Department, Medical Faculty, University of Peradeniya.
Concentration problems can occur at any age. Children will perform poorly at school and adults may have extra challenges at work and in their family lives. Concentration problems disrupt your daily life, work and areas connected to society. Therefore learning how to improve concentration is an important and necessary skill.
Concentration isn’t simple as paying attention, but also involves blocking out distractions like irrelevant thoughts and sounds. When the ability to concentrate is at its highest you can work easier, faster and better. Focus and being alert help you achieve your optimal working state. Concentration becomes an issue when you are unable to focus and get your work done. You might find your phone, background noises and your own thoughts getting in the way of working.
Collins English Dictionary states, “the length of time a person can concentrate on something” is concentration span. Attention and concentration are crucial factors for creating memories. The concentration span depends on the age of a person. Some people are better at concentrating for longer periods.
Concentration levels vary depending on the following factors:
- Dedication and interest in the task.
- Ability to complete a task
- Physical and emotional state
- Supportive environment with fewer distractions
Attention and concentration are crucial factors that create memories. The concentration span depends on a person’s age. Some people are better in retaining concentration
Symptoms of Poor concentration
- Being easily distracted
- Taking a long time to finish a task
- Having a hard time reading
- Possible causes of concentration problems
- Poor sleep and rest
- Physical pain
- Brain Tumour
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Electrical Hypersensitivity
- Copper toxicity
Attention Deficit Trait (ADT)
People with ADT are highly distracted and are impatient and won’t be engaging in a thing for long. This condition mimics the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a genetic neurological condition. Those with ADT find it difficult to stand interruptions and more than 44% of them are self – interruptions.
These issues slow down performance making you think any task is more difficult than it really is. Anger, fear, impatience, and annoyance make it difficult for you to handle tasks. In such instances you fear that you won’t be able to keep up with work demands. This perception sets off a stress response and time urgency, which constrict the brain and drives it into a crisis mode. You start feeling that your survival is at stake when undertaking whatever task.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Lack of concentration can be an illness called ADHD. Inattention and hyperactivity/ impulsivity are the key behaviours of ADHD. Children and adults both have this disorder while children are more hyperactive and it’s obvious in their pre-school age. Now the world is understanding that children do grow up to be adults while possessing ADHD. People presented with this condition are restricted with regard to paying attention. People with ADHD have more inattention severely, and it occurs more often and is of an interfering nature. The condition reduces the quality of the person’s work in office or at school.
How to overcome concentration problems
Such people are advised to deal with worries by writing them down.
Constantly worrying about other things while engaged in work disturbs concentration. Thoughts will lead to relationship problems, issues with money and effect your past and future if you let your mind go berserk. If you find you are distracted by worries, note these down and your mind will be free once you do it. Then deal with those problems later.
Our brains are designed to handle one thing at a time. Therefore the neurons in our brains are forced to function in a similar capacity for several tasks while multitasking. Researchers have found that we cannot handle more than two or more high cognitive tasks at one time. Even if someone believes they can multitask, what really happens is neurons shifting from one task to other, causing stress and slowing down productivity from 40% to 100%.
- Switch between high and low attention tasks
Take breaks of 15 minutes after concentrating heavily and when you feel tired. Then do some less complicated work before switching back to the serious matter.
Our minds can focus intensely on tasks for eight hours a day. Therefore, divide your work into one hour long segments with 5 – 10-minute breaks between tasks. Taking 10 - minute break for an hour, getting up and having a walk, relaxing, stretching, going to the bathroom or having a drink (tea, coffee or water) would help to relax your brain and your focus will be much sharper when you return to work.
Schedule your tasks around your energy levels at the beginning of the day. Do difficult work when you have the highest energy level. Queue those according to the importance and urgency of tasks and do the hardest ones first.
Listen to instrumental music while working, or when you need to concentrate. Instrumental music (Without words) produces background noise and that can keep your wandering thoughts engaged. Some people are using various apps to retain concentration and ignore distractions by listening to steady, monotonous and undistracting sounds.
- Understand your emotional self
It’s the on-off switch for learning and for peak performance. It adds to the quality of your focus. The better you understand yourself and your emotional hot buttons, you will be able to hold yourself in the right emotional state of focus.
You must be interested and motivated to pay close attention. Without attention, it is difficult to concentrate. Usually many of us lose our concentration due to lack of interest in what we do.
Meditation can help improve attention, reduce stress levels, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness helps your thoughts to focus on a single idea, which is why it is great for improving concentration. Try meditation at least 10 – 20 minutes a day.
Medications that help
When lack of concentration becomes a disturbance there are medications that help. These can be taken regardless of age. Not being able to concentrate on for longer hours during exams also contributes to failure. This is because some students aren’t good at concentrating for several hours. Certain drugs are used in treating attention deficiency , but only a specialist can prescribe those medications. Increasing study hours day by day helps students who have