Can’t concentrate on anything? The complete guide on focus, attention, and concentration.
I can’t concentrate on what I am reading. I have to read a line over and over again to understand it. Whenever I sit to study, my brain wonders on other things, and sometimes I don’t understand what someone is explaining to me. My mind seems to focus for a moment, and then I lose it.
What is wrong with me? I want to do a lot of things, but I cannot do it because I can’t focus.
I feel like my hands are tied behind my back, and I am incapable of making any changes.
But, wait a minute.
I don’t have a focus problem because I can watch a movie without having a second thought. I can talk with my girlfriend for hours on the phone with unwavering concentration.
Moreover, I can complete my work when the deadline is near.
So, does that mean our concentration depends on priority and interest?
Does that mean if I can’t focus on something, it means I am not interested in it?
Let’s talk all about it.
What you are going to learn in this article are given below:
- What are focus, attention, and concentration?
- Developing focus in life.
- How attention works.
- Poor concentration and how to master it.
This will be a long one; please keep your popcorn beside you.
- What are focus, Attention, and Concentration?
The above three are different in meaning.
Focus is used for a broader sense. You want to sort out all the mess and unwanted things and focus more on life.
You want to focus on what is important and what matters most to you. You don’t want to focus on the girl you liked for a month or two, but she is not interested in you. You don’t want to focus on playing PUBG(video game) and want to do something productive.
This is ‘focus’ for you, where your values are associated with your activities. You focus on those things which are essential to you. You want good things in life, and you want to take steps to achieve it.
On the other hand, attention is brain function. When you are talking to somebody about something, your attention is on the person what he/she is saying, but during the conversation, if a road accident happens just outside the mall, your attention shifts from the conversation to the sound of the accident.
Attention shifts from one thing to another. You may be aware of it, if you have mindfulness, or may be unaware. Most of us are unaware.
This is how your brain functions to protect you from external harm. Just imagine, you are standing on the driveway watching the sky, and suddenly a car came honking at a speed of 120 miles/hour, but your attention didn’t shift from sky to the honking. Result? You are in hospital.
Your attention is going to shift if your brain sees it important, and you can’t control it, but the reaction because of your attention shift depends on you.
When you are reading or writing, and the neighbor kid keeps making noise, your attention will shift, and the reaction to get angry or remain calm depends on you.
But, if your brain understands that the noise produced by the kid is not important, then eventually your brain will stop shifting your attention to it.
We will talk about it in detail after sometime.
Concentration is the last and narrower stage. It is the use of our thought process to understand what we are doing. You are reading this article. You are concentrating on the sentences and trying to understand it.
You are playing the guitar and concentrating on playing it right. Your teacher is teaching you something, and you are concentrating on it to understand.
You don’t pay attention to your teacher’s lecture, that is wrong to say. You are concentrating on your teacher’s lecture.
Let’s discuss each of them in detail.
Developing a focus is vital to have a great life. Life without focus is like driving without any destination, without concentration, and most of the time, it results in accidents.
I assume if you are reading this article, that means you want to sort out your life. You want to be focused and don’t want to play video games anymore or watch television mindlessly wasting each precious day of yours.
I recently read one quote which got embedded in my brain. It was, “The simple thing to understand is that you are never going to have ‘today’ again.”
We read motivational quotes every day, but sometimes some quotes affect us depending on the situation.
Yes, we are not going to have today again. So, make the best use of it.
If you don’t have the desire to do something extraordinary in life, no matter how much you read books or watch motivational videos, it will be useless.
This is not an article on motivation, so I will stop it here, and let’s understand how to develop focus.
Developing focus in life
You can focus on your whole life on what you want to become, focus on the current year about what you want to achieve, focus on the current month, or focus on today.
Focusing on each day, each hour and each minute will improve your overall focus on life.
I don’t need to tell you what you want to do or what is right for you. You already know that.
The point is you get distracted while doing it. You start your day, but after some time, you are doing something else or not doing anything. Why is that?
1. 80/20 rule
Brian Tracy, Canadian-American motivational public speaker and self-development author, discussed the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle.
The rule suggests that 20 percent of your activities will result in 80 percent of your work.
Pareto Principle was named after its founder, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, back in 1895.
It means that you may have hundreds of work to complete today, which seems important to you, but there will be only 20 crucial work which will give you the maximum result.
How to use the 80/20 rule?
Prioritize your day according to your priority. In the morning, our motivation and willpower are strong, and it should be allotted to the most important activities of yours.
For example, my life goal is to become a novelist. In the morning after meditation, I start learning 15 vocabs and write 2000 words for my manuscript. After that, I work on my blogs.
After all the important works are done, I practice my guitar and cook food for the night.
Our willpower depletes as the day proceeds, use it wisely.
You can use the same rule on life goals. Instead of achieving everything at the same time, focus on achieving those that matter the most.
Write down all the goals you want to achieve in life. Select only the 20% of the goals and avoid all the others at any cost. Don’t go looking for how to accomplish the rest of 80% of your goals until you achieve the first 20%.
2. No work schedule
You cannot focus on your goals until you have a proper plan of how to achieve it. To become productive in life, you need productive habits. Habits form if you repeat the same activity every day. You can repeat the same activity every day when you have a proper plan of what to do for the day.
Making your schedule in advance, preferably the night before going to bed, will give you what you need to do. You don’t need to spend your willpower for deciding what you should do.
If you are in marketing, then probably you should know how it is to set up a marketing plan in advance. Only those marketing succeed where there is proper planning in advance.
You just can’t launch your company and start targeting people on Facebook by Facebook ads. It doesn’t work that way.
Those people are successful who plan for their goals. This is not a secret.
Only 2% of the population can do multitasking. Don’t think you are one of them and keep doing it. A study found that people who multitask may feel like working more in less time, but the quality of the result is bad.
If your quality of work doesn’t matter to you, you are welcome to multitasking. You can prepare your report for your company while watching the latest episode of game of thrones. And if you accidentally include dragons in your report, don’t be surprised.
But, if you prefer quality, you should always go for one thing at a time. It will improve your quality of work and also reduce your overall time of doing it.
When you are in the zone of your productivity, things will flow on their own.
4. You are surrounded by distraction.
If you desire to work for your goal, then you need the right environment to execute it. The environment plays one of the most crucial points for focus.
If you continuously get disturbed by people while working, you can never focus. If you get constantly distracted by the beeps of the phone, the notifications of social media or the news on television; that will divert you from attaining the required focus you need.
In the book, ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport mentioned that a person needs almost twenty minutes to regain his concentration once he gets distracted.
Once you are isolated from all the distractions, you will produce high-quality results in less time than you imagine.
5. Mental Energy
Having less sleep the night before will also affect your focus. If your brain believes a 7-8 hour of sleep is essential to perform better to do your daily task well, then you will need 7-8 hours of sleep.
What is interesting is that your brain can work fine, depending on your belief system. If your brain believes that all you need is five hours of sleep, then five hours will do just fine as 8 hours of sleep.
When I first learned about this, I thought this is absurd. When I applied the same, I understood it.
In the book, The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod talked about sleep and the benefits of waking up in the morning.
Mental energy is essential for performing your daily task. If you have low mental power because of junk food, stress, or depression, it will cause you to divert from your work every time you focus.
2. How Attention works.
You can’t stop the automatic shift of your attention that the brain thinks are important. Our brains are primal, and our ancestors keep looking for the things to protect themselves, feed themselves, and ultimately survive in the dangerous world.
Of course, no saber tooth tiger is lurking in your basement now, but there are other dangers in this modern world.
The sudden phone call of an unknown number, the crash of the stock market, or the sudden crying of your baby.
Anything which is not a habit will require your attention.
Read the next sentence:
The roam day builds walls together to fight water against the bullies.
What the heck? Did you pay attention to what you just read?
If you have willpower, then you will pay attention because the sentence is not familiar with our daily reading. It is out of our brain patterns.
You will not pay attention to children walking with a balloon in hand, but you will definitely pay attention if the kid is flying with the balloon—something outside of our brain pattern.
Moreover, in my last article on not having the motivation to work, I mentioned the role of habit and emotions.
You may not be that excited to drive your car now, as you drove your car for the first time.
Once you feel less about a particular activity, you pay less attention to it.
Maybe because of this, once you decide not to react to your neighbor kid’s cries who distract you from your work, your brain understands that the crying of the kid is not important to you.
So, the brain will never shift your attention to that anymore. The opposite is also true, if you keep getting bothered by the cries, your brain will shift to the cry over and over again, and you will feel angrier and worse.
So, the question is how not to be bothered about the crying when the crying itself is bothering you in the first place?
The answer is awareness. Mindfulness will do wonder to you. When you learn to notice, a disturbance without getting disturbed will skyrocket your productivity.
For example, while meditating mindfulness, if your thoughts shifted to the fight you had last night with your spouse, then analyze the emotions you feel about the fight.
When the kid makes noises, analyze the emotions evoked by the noises, how it is making you feel without any personal judgment.
This will keep your emotion still, and over time you will not give a sh*t about the kid’s noises.
Remember, mindfulness takes time and considerable effort to cultivate it.
You can’t have it in a day or two.
I can’t concentrate on what I am reading. I have to read it over and over again to understand what the sentence means.
Does this happen to you ever?
There are various reasons for poor concentration and how to master it are given below
- Adult ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder for which you will have trouble paying attention and act mostly on impulses.
There are mainly three group symptoms:
You might be disorganized, less focused, be forgetful about the daily activities, don’t think much about consequences, and have trouble staying on topic while talking with someone else.
You cannot sit comfortably on your chair and keep squirming, run or climb a lot when it is not required and have trouble doing quiet things quietly.
You may live on impulses and do anything that comes to your mind without thinking much of the consequences. You may not have the patience to stand in line and wait for your turn.
These ADHD symptoms are common in children but disappear in adulthood, but not to all.
The symptoms of adult ADHD are poor listening skills, trouble getting organized, extremely distracted, angry outbursts, and others.
One thing to remember is that these symptoms don’t prove that you have ADHD. These are just symptoms, and only after a diagnosis by a doctor your ADHD will be confirmed, if you have one.
What can you do about ADHD?
The first way is to consult with your doctor if you have ADHD and don’t go for medicine by reading on the internet.
The second way is the nofap. If you go to the nofap forum, there are thousands of people who have mentioned the above symptoms in adulthood. They also said their concentration power returned once they started the nofap journey.
There is no scientific proof I came across to provide you, but this is something of my personal experience.
I had the above symptoms, and after 50 to 60 days of nofap, my concentration power started to return. I was more mindful during meditation, more concentrated on my work, and because of the vastness of this article I can tell you, I wrote it in one sitting.
One person may lie or may be a few more, but not those vast numbers of people who told the life-changing benefits of nofap. Why don’t you give it a try and check if it is true? You are not going to lose anything except gaining.
2. Your trained brain
You can’t concentrate because you developed the skill of not concentrating. We didn’t grow up in the Himalayas or in a monk temple. If we were, we could have better concentration skills than others.
Yes, concentration is a skill, and it becomes better by practice. We are practicing distraction from childhood. We are doing something, and suddenly our favorite program is up on television.
Our mind wanders from A to B to C, and we let it roam wherever it wants to go. We never utilized our willpower to stop it and concentrate on the task at our hands.
Concentration requires utilizing our willpower, and the more you practice it, the better you will become by time. This is why the monks have an unwavering concentration in their daily life.
Meditation will be the best exercise to improve your concentration power.
3. Worry or Stress
If you are worried about the thing that is going to happen or may not happen, you will find difficulty concentrating.
If you have stress too about how you are going to complete all your work in such a less time than it will also affect your concentration.
For example, remember the neighbor kid. If you worry that the kid may scream when you start your work, you can’t concentrate on the present work. The kid may or may not cry, and because of your imaginary worries, your concentration is hampered.
On the other hand, if you have real worries, then try to solve it first or learn to live with it. In this case, mediation will help because it will teach us how to stay in the present despite all the stress and worries.
So, in a nutshell, when you say you can’t concentrate on anything, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. You are fine, and you can be best if you apply the above tips that I discussed. Changing yourself will take time, and I am not saying to do everything in one day.
I am saying start with one thing and add things slowly one after another in your life.
I hope this article was helpful and if you have any more questions, please feel free to send a mail at email@example.com
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