Inner Reflections
April 15, 2024

Boosting Focus and Concentration

Just as I started to get settled in front of my computer this morning, the thought popped into my head – “I need some water.” I got up to fill up my water bottle and on the way to the kitchen saw the overflowing hamper and thought, “Oh I need to put in a wash,” so I stopped and put a load into the washing machine. Then I went to the kitchen to get water and noticed my dishes from breakfast – “Oh! I’ll just do this quick!” Then proceeded back to my computer…without water.  

Does this ever happen to you!? You have one thought…start to follow it…another pops up, follow the chain and before you know it you are derailed from the first thing you started!  Following thoughts and attempting to act on each one can make a day feel like a game of whack-a-mole!  

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you need to follow it down the rabbit hole. The knowledge of first being aware of thoughts and choosing whether to interact or respond to them has been a practice for me. A practice that has been helped tremendously with yoga, meditation, and coaching…and it continues to be a practice! When I get distracted, I’ll even tell myself “This is a thought…and I don’t need to follow it!”  

When you have many things pulling at your attention, becoming aware of how your thoughts may change your direction can be a great starting point for improving your focus and concentration.  It can also be helpful to have a few tools in your back pocket to reign in the monkey’s mind and set up some boundaries. The following are a few helpful strategies I use to stay focused:

Set a timer and commit to not being distracted during that length of time. When I need to focus on one task like reading, finishing a project, or even cooking dinner, I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes and commit to being focused on the task at hand. Sometimes it can even be great to do a quick timer as short as 5 minutes to knock out a few quick to-do’s and avoid being distracted.  You might surprise yourself with how much you can get done when you remain focused.

Take regular TRUE breaks! Have you ever worked for hours but taken mini breaks by looking at your phone, checking social media, or planning out the rest of the week…and noticed it’s taking you forever to get your project done? Stepping away from work regularly to take a break that truly allows your brain to disconnect and reset can be super rejuvenating and allow you to maintain your focus. Aim to take a quick break every 45-60 minutes. This might look like getting up for a quick stretch, walking around, or taking a few deep breaths. While working in a busy clinic or office this can be challenging…but it only takes seconds to take a nice deep breath every hour! A great time to integrate this is while washing your hands. 

Have a brain dump. Once per week, I write down on a blank piece of paper all my to-do’s for that week. Then I review the list and cross out items that aren’t important or decide on items I can delegate. Having this brain dump allows me to get everything out of my head onto paper and scheduled onto the calendar.  

Rule of Three (3): Each day decide on three things you want to get done that day…and then get to doing them! This simple practice helps you to stay on track and gives you a sense of satisfaction once you complete the tasks. You can expand this practice to your top three items for the week, month, or even the year.  

And lastly, always remember…just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Your mind is your instrument. Learn to play it well. 

Below are some suggested practices to further help with boosting focus and concentration:

By Christine