by Sarah Halfpenny
Studies have shown that older people find it more difficult to focus on tasks, and struggle to filter out stimuli that are not relevant to what they are trying to accomplish. Can you relate? Here are five easy ways you can improve your concentration when you have things that really need to get done!
Delve into your phone’s settings to turn off notifications (Facebook alerts, text messages, email etc.) and use a free software program like Freedom to block access to distracting social media and websites across all your devices. If you have spare room, create a dedicated work space that’s calm and uncluttered, or go somewhere like a library or café to work where you won’t be side-tracked by the washing pile or the dirty dishes.
Multitasking might make you feel more productive but the reality is it impairs your ability to focus, which in turn weakens the quality of your work. Instead, create a list to prioritise what you need to get done and then tackle them one at a time.
Take regular short breaks
When you focus on something for a long time, your concentration naturally dips, so as counterintuitive as it might seem, the best way to focus is to take regular breaks. The Pomodoro Technique (named after those old-fashioned tomato-shaped kitchen timers, pomodoro meaning ‘tomato’ in Italian) is one of the most popular, easy and successful methods. Simply pick a task, set a 25-minute timer, work on it until the time is up, then take a 5-minute break to do whatever you wish. Repeat another 3 times, when you then take a longer break of around 30 minutes.
Listen to music
This doesn’t work for all types of music (avoid anything with lyrics!) but if you can find tunes that soothe you, it can have a beneficial effect on your brain and help you to be single-minded. Specialists have found classical music or sounds from nature enhance concentration. Pop on some headphones to drown out other sounds in your environment and listen to my personal favourite, the Calmed by Nature YouTube channel. There are lots of different tracks to choose from and most go for around 8 hours!
We know exercise is essential, but did you know that regular exercise releases chemicals that enhance our mental acuity, concentration and memory? It also leads to a rise in serotonin and dopamine in our brain, which helps with cognitive tasks. It’s vital to remember that the body and mind are intertwined, so taking care of your body will take care of your brain!