With more and more apps and messaging services vying for our attention it is no surprise that, as a generation, our attention span has taken a real hit. Pastimes such as sitting to read or patiently creating something have given way to watching Vines and skipping through tracks on Spotify. This is all at the detriment to our ability to study. To consume information – let it sink in and to analyse it – we need to be able to concentrate on certain things for extended periods of time. So the time has come to put our brains into training.
Just as professional footballers will return to their clubs to undergo strenuous pre-season training to ensure they are fit for the new season, we need to put our minds through rigorous exercises. By following the steps below you will be able to keep your mind on the lecture you are sitting in, read more than the first page of that textbook without checking for Snapchats and stay studying for longer.
Get The Right Diet
Much of the practice of improving your concentration lies in improving your habits. Skipping breakfast is one such habit to avoid. Getting a healthy breakfast that provides you with a fuel injection of protein with carbohydrates will see you through the morning and help keep your brain engaged. Any foods which contain omega 3 (commonly found in oily fish) are also said to boost cognitive function, and, therefore, concentration.
Train Your Brain
For those of us who have found that our attention span has shrunk and our brains struggle to stick to certain tasks, the good news is that the damage (in terms of settling into negative habits) is not irreversible. The brain is malleable and new pathways can be created to make it more productive. These pathways are formed by repeating the processes which lend themselves to efficiently fulfil the tasks at which you want to excel. So set yourself targets of attention-demanding tasks and try and lengthen the time you spend on them each time. For example, when you have a spare 15 or 30 minutes, instead of turning on the television (and probably turning off your brain) load up a Ted Talk, even if the subject does not immediately appeal to you. Ted Talks are perfect for this type of training as they come in a variety of lengths so you can keep upping the length of the talks you watch.
Get Out Into Nature
The stress of an urban environment, or any environment that you find oppressive, has been found to hinder brain activity. So, when you struggle to organise your thoughts, try going out for a walk in a park. Alternatively, brighten up your work station with plants.
As proud as some people are of their ability to multitask, it can be detrimental to productivity. Multi-tasking means you are not giving one thing your full attention which is not conducive to improving your attention span. Do one thing at a time.
Find The Best Way To Organise Your Mind
Many people find regular exercise the best way to keep their brain agile and ready to commit to a task. Others meditate to find the peace to work on projects more efficiently. What always helps is clearing all your other tasks and chores in advance of your study time. Hanging that washing out or doing that food shopping before sitting down to read a chapter is the best way to stop you curtailing your study to procrastinate with menial tasks.
Learn To Shut Out Distractions
Our smartphones ensure we are never far away from a myriad of distractions. The subtle hustle and bustle of a library is not the best working environment for everyone. Learn the best way to shut these distractions out. There are apps such as Anti-Social, which block websites like social networks that constantly claim your attention. Instrumental music works to shut out distracting noises for many people (Spotify have you covered here with playlists designed especially to aid concentration).
Build Up Your Stamina
At the end of the day, your concentration span is linked directly to the strength of your willpower. As if it were a muscle, work on building up your willpower. Stop yourself from checking your phone too regularly; limit yourself to only checking on the hour. When you are tempted to put down a book, challenge yourself to read another five pages. You will be amazed how much benefit this will have.
Having an improved concentration span will truly improve your life. Not only will it help you in your studies, but you will be able to put more into all areas of life.
Try these tips for yourself, and if you have any advice for fellow Journal readers, please contribute in the comments section below.