A quick reminder of what you can do to improve your concentration ... achieve more ... and reduce stress ...
1. Turn off all the external distractions you can – music, mobile phone, email alerts – and close the door to your work room, giving off a signal that interruptions are currently unwelcome.
2. Don’t multi-task. Except for very mundane tasks, when you try to do too much at once your concentration and hence your brain’s ability to transfer information from working memory to stored memory, which you can retrieve later, is impaired. Learning French verbs while chatting on MSN might appear to get the job done, but you’ll remember little tomorrow.
3. Eat breakfast – the brain needs fuel, especially after a night’s sleep. For best results choose porridge for its slow-release energy, or combine protein with carbohydrate to stabilise blood sugar levels.
4. Drink more water. Your brain is 80% water and relies on good hydration for its neurological transmissions.
5. Learning new activities that link and challenge your mental ability is particularly effective in generating new brain cells – what the scientists call neurogenesis – and helping concentration. And these new cells will also help energise old brain cells, by firing them up and making new connections, so it’s doubly effective.
6. Get enough sleep. When we are tired we rely on stress hormones to keep us going – great in the short term, but detrimental to concentration in the long term.
7. Listen more actively – we hear with our ears, but listen with our brains –listening more purposefully helps concentration.
8. Omega-3 EPA is good for brain function, so supplement if necessary because it’s hard to get enough from modern diets even if you eat oily fish regularly.
9. If you’re finding it hard to concentrate on something – whether it’s the book you’re reading or the flat-pack you’re trying to assemble – allow yourself enough time to engage with what you’re doing in order to aid your concentration.
10. Physical exercise is good for the brain for two reasons – one, it helps us relax and a relaxed brain concentrates better and two, physical exercise itself produces a hormone that actively supports brain cell activity.