The other day, I was talking with a successful, driven and visionary client. She had reached some milestones but was missing others, by too much. She felt disappointed, frustrated and ashamed that she hadn't followed through and made certain things happen as she intended. The self-flagellation she was giving herself was fierce.
We dug into why she didn’t achieve the way she had intended. We reviewed her beliefs and unveiled new mental blocks. And then I asked her to looked at the practical reality of her day-to-day…
We paused. She thought. And finally, she hit it: I can't concentrate.
Despite the vision. Despite the drive. Despite the fire, intent and plans. Still, a lack of concentration and focus was her linchpin.
No matter how many underlying beliefs you unearth and transform, or emotional blocks that you clear, if you can’t stay focused on one task – and only one task – for a concentrated period of time then you’re not doing your best work.
Your best work comes when you take the time to relax into a task and let the energy unfurl. You can’t rush that.
Thanks to social media, 30 second videos, sound bites and a robust economy built on disposable goods, we're wired for distraction. We’re mastering the art of tab jumping, Google searching and screen scrolling. Concentration is becoming a unicorn that many seek but few ever find.
If this is you, too, if you're missing the marks and getting caught in habitual distraction, then the following list will help.
Be fierce with your determination, gentle with yourself. Retraining your brain for concentration takes time and repetition. It’s a habit. And that means constant diligence and a sense of humor are required.
The space in which you work is as important as anything. We're designed as sense stimulated creatures. How we experience our surroundings and the way it makes us feel all has a direct impact on the functionality of our brain and our present mindset.
To optimize your environment, consider:
- Cleanliness: make sure distracting clutter and piles of to-dos are out of eyesight
- Sound: minimize sound clutter by shutting a door, putting on headphones or using a white noise machine.
- Light: fresh air and sunlight are scientifically proven to stimulate your brain. How can you better incorporate this into your day?
- Smell: strategically using scents in your environment will have a big impact on your ability to focus. I love Amplify Concentration when I’m struggling to get something done. Then again, I might be biased.
- Chair: make sure you're sitting on a chair that supports your needs - no back pain, neck strain or any other ergonomic faux pas.
- Clothing: what you wear on your body will register in your brain. Make sure you’re comfortable, can breathe easily and aren’t unnecessarily self-conscious to the point of distraction.
- Have what you need for the day nearby. The fastest way to spiraling distraction is having to go search for something you need to get a job done.
We’re working with the functioning of the brain here – so everything you put into your body is going to have an effect. If you want to feel better and do better, remember that what you put in is what you get out of it. Junk food is called junk for a reason.
- Eat well for your body and your brain. Every body is different and requires different things, but you know the difference between a Big Mac and a grilled veggie bowl. And then check out my daily brain-smoothie recipe.
- That said, don't eat like it's your last meal. As in, be reasonable and give your brain a chance.
If you overeat, all your body's energy will be utilized to aid digestion and you'll get the usual brain fog and afternoon energy slump. Instead, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Drink a lot of filtered water. It flushes, it hydrates, it provides your brain fluid that it needs to connect synapses and fire neurons.
- Never underestimate the power of the strategically used supplement. Things I'm using right now to stay on track and support my own evolution: MCT Oil, shilajit, and vitamins D + K.
- Caffeine is a controversial, often demonized, sometimes heralded thing. I won’t promote over-consumption (of anything), but a well-timed cup of tea or coffee can be the catalyst for a powerful concentration streak.
When it all comes down to it, it's all about your mindset. Rearranging materials things will have an effect but you still have to make up your mind to concentrate. This is the inner game. This is where it all begins.
- Sometimes, you need to relax to let your brain focus. Start the habit of meditating for 3-5 minutes a day. Look, you brush your teeth every day. Probably shower, too. Apply the same cleaning strategy to your mind and the results will be just as drastic. Try the free 1-min meditation in the Tools section.
- Other times, you need to retrain the brain to focus. In that case, start using this incredibly simple, powerful method to rewire yourself for concentration.
- Keep a notebook next to you to dump the ideas, to-dos and things you want to remember for later. This will free up a surprising amount of energy.
- Remove known distractions. Close your email and all social media. Turn off your phone's sound and put it somewhere out of sight. Close your door.
- Prioritize what needs to get done and write it down. Your brain is an order-making machine. If you tell it what the order is for the day, it can divert energy elsewhere – namely, on what you want to get done.
- Move the body, sweat. Do this at least 3 times a week, if not every day. Doing this not only flushes toxins from your body and feeds the brain oxygen and new blood, it also flushes the glandular system (which regulates hormones and directly affects your mood) and recharges your energetic system.
No time? Try this 3-min tool to get the breath and glandular system moving and reset your mindset!
Take breaks: we now know that giving your brain regular breaks helps it work better. Set a timer to go off at least once an hour to stand up, stretch and move your body.
Reward yourself: when you just don't feel like it, when nothing else works, promise yourself a reward once you've completed your task.
Use consequences: sometimes the sweetest carrot doesn't cut it. That's when you call in the tough guys. Ask a friend, partner or spouse to hold you to a consequence if you don't follow through.
Do tasks in blocks: if you have a repetitive task that you have to get done, or a bunch of similar tasks, bunch them together and get them done all at once.
Nothing here is a silver bullet. But I guarantee that if you take responsibility for yourself, your success, your results and put these suggestions into action, you will drastically improve your ability to concentrate.
If you concentrate, you'll accomplish more. If you accomplish more, you'll have more momentum. If you have more momentum, more things happen, you have more possibilities and you'll achieve your goals.
As the prolific and world renowned author, Haruki Murakami said,