Multitasking isn't working for me. How can I focus my attention and improve my concentration?
Answers from Amit Sood, M.D.
Many people find it hard to focus, but it is a skill you can develop. To improve your focus:
- Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV, put down your phone and log out of your email account. Not convinced it'll help? Eliminate noncritical screen time for two days and see how much more you get done.
- Plan for peaks and valleys. Are you a morning person? Then don't squander that time on email. Instead, use it to tackle projects that require your full concentration. Save the afternoon for going through your inbox or catching up on your filing.
- Put it out of your mind. Too many mental notes make for a cluttered mind. All of that unfinished business can sap your mental energy. Put whatever's on your mind on paper or capture it digitally. Think of it as off-site storage.
- Train your brain. Any skill worth having requires practice. Learning to focus is no different. Invest time in mastering attention training or meditation. Both are great ways to practice taming distractions and improving focus.
By sharpening your focus, you'll not only get more done but also enjoy more flow — when you're so absorbed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Flow can create a sense of fulfillment, engagement and even contentment.
March 21, 2015
See more Expert Answers
- Snyder CR, et al. Mindfulness, flow and spirituality. In: Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications Inc.; 2007:15.
- Rock D. Get things out of your head. In: Your Brain at Work. New York, N.Y.: Harper Collins; 2009:253.
- Sood A. Attention training: Introduction. In: Train Your Brain, Engage Your Heart, Transform Your Life. Rochester, Minn.: Morning Dew Publications; 2010:123.
- van den Hurk PA, et al. Greater efficiency in attentional processing related to mindfulness meditation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 2010;63:1168.