you're living with ADHD or just have trouble focusing from time to
time, today's world is full of concentration killers. Psychologist Lucy
Jo Palladino, PhD offers a few tips to manage distractions, starting
with social media. It's easy to connect with friends -- and disconnect
from work -- many times an hour. Every status update zaps your train of
thought, forcing you to backtrack when you resume work.
Social Media Fix
Avoid logging in to social media sites while
you're working. If you feel compelled to check in every now and then,
do it during breaks, when the steady stream of posts won't interrupt
your concentration. If you can't resist logging in more frequently, take
your laptop someplace where you won't have Internet access for a few
Culprit: Email Overload
There's something about an email --
it shoots into your inbox and itches to be answered immediately.
Although many emails are work-related, they still count as distractions
from your current project. You won't make much progress if you
constantly stop what you're doing to reply to every message.
Email Overload Fix
Instead of checking email continuously,
set aside specific times for that purpose. During the rest of the day,
you can actually shut down your email program. This allows you to carve
out blocks of time when you can work uninterrupted.
Culprit: Your Cell Phone
Perhaps even more disruptive than
the ping of an email is the ringtone on your cell phone. It's a sound
few of us can ignore. But taking a call not only costs you the time you
spend talking -- it can also cut off your momentum on the task at hand.
Cell Phone Fix
Put caller ID to good use. If you suspect the
call is not urgent, let it go to voicemail. If you're working on a
particularly intense project, consider silencing your phone so you're
not tempted to answer. Choose specific times to check voicemail.
Listening to all your messages at once can be less disruptive than
taking every call as it comes in.
you've mastered the art of multitasking, you probably feel you're
getting more done in less time. Think again, experts say. Research
suggests you lose time whenever you shift your attention from one task
to another. The end result is that doing three projects simultaneously
usually takes longer than doing them one after the other.
Whenever possible, devote your attention to
one project at a time, particularly if you're working on an intense or
high-priority task. Save your multitasking skills for chores that are
not urgent or demanding -- it probably won't hurt to tidy up your desk
while talking on the phone.
Some of the tasks we have to do each day are
more interesting than others. The boring ones may burn through your
attention span in minutes, making you extremely vulnerable to
distractions. Your phone, the Internet, even the prospect of dusting
your workspace can seem tempting if you're bored.
a deal with yourself: If you stay on task for a certain period of time,
you earn a 10-minute break. Reward yourself with coffee, a favorite
snack, or a walk outside. Boring tasks are easier to accomplish when you
have something to look forward to. This is also one case where
multitasking may work well. Listening to the radio while filing receipts
could help you stay put long enough to finish the job.
Culprit: Nagging Thoughts
hard to focus on the work in front of you if you're worrying about
errands you need to run or housework to be done. Or perhaps you're hung
up on a conversation you had yesterday, and you keep replaying it in
your mind. Nagging thoughts of any sort can be a powerful distraction.
Nagging Thoughts Fix
way to keep nagging thoughts from buzzing around in your brain is to
write them down. Make a list of errands, housework, or other tasks you
plan to complete later. Vent frustrations over an unpleasant
confrontation in your journal. Once these thoughts are on paper, you may
be able to let them go for a while.
you feel like you have too much on your plate, it can be hard to focus
on individual tasks. To make matters worse, stress takes a noticeable
toll on the body. You may develop tight shoulders, headaches, or a
racing heart, all of which can chip away at your ability to concentrate.
stress reduction techniques, such as meditation. This can help you rein
in stressful thoughts, so they don't demand so much of your attention.
In one study, researchers found that people who took an eight-week
meditation course improved their ability to focus. If you can't find a
meditation class locally, look for one online.
can make it tough to concentrate, even when you have few distractions.
Studies suggest too little sleep can sap your attention span and
adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Instead of burning the
midnight oil, make sleep a priority. This will help you get more done
during your waking hours. Also, pay attention to which times of day you
feel most alert. Then you'll know when to schedule your most intense
brain can't focus without fuel, so skipping meals -- especially
breakfast -- is a top concentration killer. Research indicates
short-term memory and attention suffer when you rise and shine but do
Keep hunger at bay and give your brain a steady source of fuel with these habits:
Always eat breakfast.
Eat high-protein snacks (cheese, nuts)
Skip simple carbs (sweets, white pasta)
Choose complex carbs (whole grains)
people tend to think of sadness as the hallmark of depression. But the
National Institute of Mental Health says difficulty concentrating is one
of the most common symptoms. If you're having trouble focusing, and you
also feel empty, hopeless, or indifferent, you may be experiencing
you think you might be depressed, the first step is to talk with a
doctor or counselor. Depression is highly treatable. Many studies have
shown the effectiveness of antidepressant medications and certain types
of talk therapy.
Unfortunately, some of the medications
used to treat depression can interfere with concentration. The same is
true of many other drugs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to check if a
medication or supplement you are taking may be affecting your
If you suspect your meds are clouding your
concentration, don't assume there are no other options. Talk to your
doctor about adjusting your dosage or switching to a different class of
medication. Do not stop taking your medicine unless your doctor tells
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not just a problem for
children. More than half of kids with ADHD continue to experience
symptoms as adults. The classic signs are a short attention span and
trouble focusing on tasks.
If you have consistent trouble focusing, and you had
attention problems as a child, ask a doctor or counselor about ADHD.
There are ways to manage the condition, including behavioral therapy and