Improving Concentration

Are you having trouble concentrating?
Your problem may be one, or some, or all of the following:

You're not organized Your work environment is poor
You're procrastinating You're neglecting your physiology
Your comprehension is poor Your mind just keeps wandering

You're not organized

It's easier to concentrate on the task at hand when you have set aside specific times for your other tasks. If you're not organized, then you always seem to have too many things to do and you can't get going on any of them.

Your Comprehension is Poor

Your course details should fit together in a coherent way. If you perceive them as disjointed bits of information, then they will be difficult to comprehend and you'll likely have difficulty concentrating.

To aid comprehension, spend some time identifying the main ideas; otherwise, you're like a traveler without a map.

You're Procrastinating

So you get organized and you set up a schedule, but you keep avoiding your work and finding other things to do. Now what?

You're neglecting your physiology

Remember, the mind and the body are not two separate things. To improve your concentration, get to know your own physiology better.

Your work environment is poor

Take a survey of your work environment.

Your mind just keeps wandering

Think of concentration as presence of mind. When your mind is jumping from one topic to another, it is typically a case of ideas and images from the past and the future impinging on the present. When these distracting extra thoughts come to you, what can you do? In some cases, personal issues need to be addressed before you can concentrate properly. If so, think them through, talk to a friend, or make an appointment with SDC's Psychological Services. Many times, however, you can improve your concentration with a bit of practice.

When distracting thoughts arise, you can follow them, but this can lead to aimless mental wandering. You can try to shut them out, but they'll probably just keep nagging you. Your best strategy may be to relax and let them fall away by themselves.

  1. With practice, you can learn to drop extra ideas before they pull your attention away from the present activity.
  2. To ground yourself and achieve presence of mind, it is also helpful to pay attention to your breathing. Regular, deep breathing helps to re-unite your mind and your body, and brings you back to the present.

Both of these tips address what you can do in the moment when concentration is eluding you, but you can also engage in practices which, over the longer term, develop your ability to concentrate. Here are some suggestions:

Choose the techniques that suit you the best, and be aware of how the ability to focus and achieve presence of mind in daily activities is transferable to your academic pursuits.

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