Greater concentration can help to improve learning and memory so here are some suggestions on how to help your brain to focus:
Treasure peace and silence
Some people claim to be able to concentrate while listening to heavy metal music at 100 decibels but they tend to be in the minority. Most people find that their brain works better when it is not required to divide itself between its primary work and other distractions such as music or conversations in the background.
Schedule time to deal with 'necessary' distractions - other distractions, such as email alerts or text messages can be just as damaging. It can take you about 15 minutes to get into a state of effective concentration so having this broken every 5 minutes by a new distraction is detrimental to learning. Organise your time so that you remove all possible distractions and schedule specific times to deal with things like emails.
Have clear objectives
Having clear goals and aims helps you to focus, as you will then know exactly what you need to achieve to reach your desired end result. A vague, unspecified or constantly shifting goal results in confusion which makes it almost impossible to focus.
Divide and conquer
Large projects will be more easily tackled if divided into smaller chunks of work or study, with clear, defined start and end points. You will also be able to focus better if you an arrange these 'chunks' in an order to be completed. Thus not only is it important to have a clear idea of the end result but also of the steps along the process which makes up the whole and lead to the end result.
Know the rules
You always focus better if you know exactly what is required so make sure you are aware of the standards needed, the level of quality expected, the constraints involved. Wondering about the expectations and being confused about the guidelines will only cause a break in concentration.
Have a deadline
While most people dread deadlines, having a timescale is very good for clarifying the mind and forcing concentration. You will often find yourself working more effectively and efficiently. Deadlines also help keep you focused on the bigger picture and prevent any unnecessary diversions. Also, deadlines are wonderful for dealing with that demon of inefficiency: procrastination!
Tackle problems head-on
Concentration often flags when you encounter a problem in your work, whether that is a struggle to understand something or to produce something. Breakdown the 'block' by brainstorming ideas or planning out your strategy on a piece of paper – just writing out your thought processes can often help your brain to refocus.
Unfortunately, company usually damages focus. It is very hard to concentrate when there are other people around, especially if conversation keeps intruding. So value your privacy and encourage others to value it too (this includes things like phone calls!)when you are engrossed in a challenging mental activity.
Try to overcome bad health habits
The health of your body seriously affects the way your brain works and your ability to focus and concentrate. Nobody expects a drunk to perform at their peak! Similarly, you will not perform at your mental best if you damage your body with sleep deprivation, caffeine, nicotine, poor nutrition, alcohol and other stimulants. Even just cutting one of your bad habits for a short period (eg, 30 days) may show dramatic differences to your energy levels and mental abilities and give you surprising results!
Don’t give in to temptation
It is natural for our minds to wander and seek easier engagements when it is faced with a mental challenge, such as a proposed period of learning, study or work. Be patient and force yourself to remain where you are, start reading, start writing, whatever – you will find that after a short time, your mind will engage and your mental processes will start to flow.
Few people can concentrate intensely for longer than two hours and most manage a lot less. Everyone has different levels of concentration and you will know best your optimum focus time lengths, so work to this schedule and make sure you benefit from quick breaks in between so that your mind returns refreshed and re-energised.