Keeping Your Mind from Wandering: Concentration And Focus


We are all able to concentrate – sometimes, on some things. Usually when we are engrossed in something really interesting. Unfortunately, many things we have to do as a part of education cannot be characterized as such – we all are familiar with the experience of our mind constantly wandering away from a lecture, an essay or a textbook. And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the ability to maintain concentration for prolonged periods of time is a crucial skill that can be extremely useful both during your studies and throughout your life. Fortunately, there are ways of improving it.

1.    Try out Meditation

Meditation isn’t just a spiritual practice but an excellent tool for training your ability to concentrate. Set your timer for 5 minutes, sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and try to empty your mind, focus on your breathing completely. The thoughts will immediately flow back into the emptiness; it is only natural – don’t worry about it, just register it and return to breathing. If you feel an urge to change the position you sit in, again, just record it and don’t move. The goal here is not to learn how to empty your mind but to condition yourself to recording distractions for what they are and returning your mind to its initial course.

2.    Allow Yourself to Unwind

Maintaining concentration requires willpower, and willpower is, according to a number of psychologists, a limited resource. The more you exercise it, the less there is to go around. It will replenish after a period of rest, but if you are constantly stressed out and spend most of your time studying, your reserves will slowly but steadily dry out until a mere night’s sleep won’t be enough to keep your mind from wandering the next day.

That’s why you should allow yourself to unwind for more extended periods of time. When you go for a vacation, really go. Put studying aside for a while and change your everyday routine. Anything will do as long as you really let yourself rest – a trip to Bryce Canyon, a hiking tour, a week at the seaside, or whatever you associate with rest.

3.    Set Aside Time for Distractions

Set aside a period of time every day you intend to dedicate to thinking about your distractions. When you notice that something distracts you from your work, take a couple of seconds to write down what this distraction is about and remind yourself that you have a period of time specifically dedicated to thinking about such things. When the time comes, and you take a look at your list of distracting thoughts, you will most likely decide they are not worth wasting your time on – the only allure they have is that they are a pretext for taking time off work.

4.    Condition Yourself to Ignore Distractions

It is natural for us to glance in the direction of moving objects and unexpected sounds, it comes from the primitive part of our brain responsible for looking out for potential dangers. Therefore, training yourself not to automatically take a look every time we hear a door opening, somebody coughing, or a person moving nearby teaches you to maintain control over your unconscious urges of other types as well. After maintaining this practice for a while, you will notice that you can keep concentration for longer and are less tempted to be distracted.

The ability to keep yourself focused on the task at hand is incredibly important at all stages of life – honing it early on will be a significant advantage in anything you do.

Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.


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