How Not to Lose Concentration While Completing Important Tasks

How Not to Lose Concentration While Completing Important Tasks

Who hasn’t faced the fact that they need to do something important, which cannot be delayed, but then they want to drink tea, play a Crazy Time live game, answer a friend, or do something else? And it’s not about procrastination, or rather, it’s not about it, but about how to keep concentration and painlessly perform tasks.

Concentrating or Directing the Focus of Attention?

Imagine that you are doing a foreign language exercise, reading the terms of the task, highlighting the necessary words or composing sentences, comparing with examples, and checking with the dictionary. That is, you pay attention to some details and neglect others and the environment as a whole; for example, you didn’t even notice that the neighbor upstairs is renovating right now. This ability to direct our consciousness and focus on something is called attention.

Attention, as a complex cognitive process, has its properties. One of the basic ones is its concentration, that is, the degree of focus on an object. The concentration of attention allows us to go deep into the solution of the task at hand and keep our consciousness on it until it is completed.

It’s important not to confuse concentration with the focus of attention. Focus is the ability to direct your attention to a specific task.

To put it simply: focus is what you decide to direct your attention to, and concentration is how deeply you focus on it.

Why Is It Sometimes Difficult to Focus?

This is something that the vast majority of people struggle with. Let’s go back to our example about the foreign language assignment. Our attention can constantly slip back to the phone, to the book lying next to us, or even to the view from the window. Or we finish the task, but in the end, we may find that we have made many mistakes.

Each person’s experience with mindfulness is unique, but common causes of concentration problems can be identified:

  • Fatigue, which can be related to stress or lack of sleep, greatly affects our cognitive functions, including attention. If you feel drowsy while studying grammar rules, it’s probably a good idea to let yourself get some sleep instead of being distracted by the reels.
  • Multitasking leads to lower-quality work as well as frustration and stress. If you think of unfinished work projects or unironed laundry when learning foreign words, it’s a good idea to put your to-do list in order and prioritize.
  • Procrastination often prevents us from focusing on learning a complex topic, kindly suggesting something simpler or more interesting. But in this case, the problem isn’t one of concentration, but rather that we don’t understand or find the task we are engaged in difficult.

A lack of concentration can be caused by more serious health conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, bipolar disorder, brain disorders, and more.

How to Keep Your Attention Focused

Focusing attention involves choosing one task and avoiding others. It doesn’t mean that you should spend all your time on a task. If you focus on a foreign language for 15 minutes a day, the effect will be better than if you spend an hour on it and get distracted by every smartphone notification.

Accordingly, to develop focus of attention, it’s useful to train your brain to perform only one task for the allotted period of time. To do this, psychologists recommend to:

  • Practice meditation, such as “mindful breathing” or visualizations.
  • Read voluminous works at a slow, measured pace.
  • Play counting games, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku.
  • Practice active listening (when you don’t just listen to your interlocutor but also show that you understand their thoughts, feelings, and mood).
  • Start working out. 

What to Do if You Need to Perform an Uninteresting Task, but Your Thoughts Are Somewhere Far Away? 

Boring tasks are almost inevitable, even in interesting and creative endeavors. We want to get rid of such tasks quickly, but our minds begin to “wander,” preventing us from completing what we have started. Psychologists offer several strategies to help us cope with uninteresting tasks and make them more manageable:

  • Set time limits and take small breaks. This will help keep you from procrastinating on the task and make you less likely to let your mind get distracted.
  • Treat the task positively. Focusing on the outcome and the benefits of the task in the long run will help make the task easier to accomplish.
  • Find ways to make the process of completing the task more enjoyable. For example, you can set up your workspace or reward yourself after completing a task. This will allow for fewer distractions during the process.
  • Find an “accountability helper” to whom you will report on the work you have completed. This can also help keep you on track.
  • Utilize game formats. Gamification of task completion through special apps involves receiving small digital rewards for completing an unpleasant task.
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