Lacking concentration and focus

Focus on concentration - Harvard Health

Here's what to do when your mind tends to wander.

Everyone's attention can drift at times, like when you lose your concentration for a moment while doing routine tasks.

Many people shrug off these lapses in focus as "senior moments," but they might be related to a vulnerable brain process called executive function.

"Your brain's executive function helps you plan, make decisions, and — perhaps most important — pay attention," says Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "It acts much like the captain of the ship."

A slow, gradual decline

Your executive function peaks alongside other brain functions in your early 20s and then gradually diminishes over time. Fortunately, the process is quite slow, says Dr. Salinas.

Everyone's brain is wired and programmed differently, and some people struggle with attention more than others. But if you notice any sudden change in your ability to concentrate — for example, if you have a harder time finishing routine tasks and chores, regularly misplace essential items, make more errors than you used to in your day-to-day life, or make more frequent poor decisions — don't ignore it. Speak with your doctor, says Dr. Salinas.

Such symptoms may be due to an underlying condition, like mild cognitive impairment, or a mood disorder, like depression and anxiety. Declining focus also could result from lifestyle issues that should be addressed, such as stress, fatigue, poor sleep, dehydration, an unhealthy diet, or sedentary behavior.

For regular age-related decline in executive function, you can take steps to improve your ability to concentrate. Here are some strategies that Dr. Salinas recommends.

Track your lack of attention. Observe situations when you lose focus. For instance, when you read a book passage and feel your attention waning, make a mental note when it happens. "Keeping a tally can help drive your attention, as it teaches you to be more observant when it occurs," says Dr. Salinas. "Also, plan activities that require less focus during times when you know your attention is at its lowest."

Practice mindfulness meditation. This form of meditation teaches you how to bring your thoughts back to the present when your mind veers off. The practice also helps to manage anxiety and stress, which may contribute to lack of focus, according to a study published in the April 2018 issue of Psychiatry Research. Many yoga studios and community centers offer meditation programs for beginners.

Stop distractions. Change items in your living space that grab your attention, such as equipment that produces distracting sounds or lights. Also, turn off notifications on your phone when you need to concentrate, and set up website blockers so you won't be tempted by the Internet.

Work in blocks of time. Much research has suggested that working in small chunks of time, with rest periods in between, can help with focus, since our attention tends to wane after a certain period. How long that time period lasts depends on the person. Some studies that have looked at work and classroom performance place the range anywhere from 10 minutes to 52 minutes. Experiment with a time frame that works for you. "You should be able to find a range where your attention is at its peak," says Dr. Salinas.

Engage your brain. Do more activities that involve using your executive function skills. "You want to take up something that stimulates and requires mental effort, but not so much that it overwhelms and dissuades you," says Dr. Salinas. He suggests something that teaches a new skill, such as painting, cooking, dancing, or learning a language. "These require focus and attention, but are set up to show progress and offer encouragement. They can also help reduce stress."

Review your medication. Some drugs, especially those used to treat sleep problems, anxiety, or pain, can make you feel drowsy or fatigued. Note any connection between taking medication and difficulties with attention, and speak with your doctor about amending your dosage or switching medication.

Watch caffeine and sugar intake. Sudden spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels can affect attention, says Dr. Salinas. "In general, focusing on eating more fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber foods while avoiding simple sugars can be enough to keep your blood sugar levels more even," he says. While a small amount of caffeine can give you a short-term mental boost, too much can overstimulate you and make you feel anxious or giddy, and affect your ability to stay focused. Keep track of when and how your attention changes after you drink caffeinated beverages so you can make adjustments to your daily intake.

Stay social. Social engagement protects against loneliness, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which can affect attention. "Being more social also helps with focus, since you have to listen to conversations and retain information," says Dr. Salinas.

Image: mihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

Why Am I Unable to Concentrate?

You rely on concentration to get through work or school every day. When you’re unable to concentrate, you can’t think clearly, focus on a task, or maintain your attention.

Your performance at work or school could be affected if you can’t concentrate. You may also find that you can’t think as well, which can affect your decision-making. A number of medical conditions may contribute to or cause an inability to concentrate.

It’s not always a medical emergency, but being unable to concentrate can mean you need medical attention.

Being unable to concentrate affects people differently. Some symptoms you may experience include:

  • being unable to remember things that occurred a short time ago
  • difficulty sitting still
  • difficulty thinking clearly
  • frequently losing things or having difficulty remembering where things are
  • inability to make decisions
  • inability to perform complicated tasks
  • lack of focus
  • lacking physical or mental energy to concentrate
  • making careless mistakes

You may notice that it’s harder to concentrate at certain times of day or in certain settings. Others may comment that you appear distracted. You may miss appointments or meetings because of a lack of focus. Sometimes, people call this brain fog.

Many health conditions can make it hard to concentrate. Here are just a few:

  • alcohol use disorder
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • concussion
  • Cushing syndrome
  • dementia
  • depression and anxiety
  • epilepsy
  • insomnia
  • major depressive disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)

Lifestyle factors that can affect your concentration include:

  • lack of sleep
  • hunger
  • lack of exercise
  • fatigue
  • stress

What are 15 ways to relieve stress and anxiety?

Being unable to concentrate is also a side effect of some medications. Drugs that can affect the way you think include:

  • benzodiazepines
  • opioids
  • antidepressants
  • anticonvulsants
  • histamine h3 receptor antagonists, which reduce stomach acid
  • corticosteroids
  • some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)
  • some cardiac drugs
  • some chemotherapy drugs

If you have new medications, read the insert carefully. Contact your doctor or pharmacist to determine if your medications may be affecting your concentration. Don’t stop taking any medications unless your doctor says to.

If you’re having trouble focusing these tips might help:

  • Remove distractions. Clear up desk clutter, switch off notifications, and only listen to music if it helps you focus.
  • Notice when you lose attention. Identifying a pattern might help you resolve it, and it might prompt you to concentrate better.
  • Review your medications. Some drugs and supplements can affect your thinking.
  • Practice time blocking. Make a plan to work for one hour then rest or stretch for 5 minutes, for example. Put “busy” on your calendar so people know when is a suitable time to approach you.
  • Eat fruit rather than sugary snacks. Sugar can cause your blood glucose levels to spike and dip, making you feel less energetic after a while.
  • Keep your brain active. Do puzzles or other activities that keep you thinking actively.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation. This can help train your thoughts and bring them back to center.
  • Check the side effects of medications. A number of drugs can cause sleepiness or brain fog.
  • Look after your body: Exercise and a varied diet that is rich in essential nutrients can boost your physical wellbeing and may help enhance your mental health.
  • Makes lists and set achievable goals. Written lists, plans, and goals can help you prioritize and remember the tasks you need to do without them cluttering your mind.

However, if you’re lacking focus because of a health condition, you may need medical treatment.

Here are some tips for focusing your brain when you feel you are losing concentration:

  • stop and do a breathing exercise, such as box breathing
  • be aware of how your brain is wandering and decide which way you want it to go
  • shift to a new task and come back to the present one later
  • take a break, for example go for a walk or do some stretches

Here are 14 tips to help you focus your brain.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • memory problems that are worse than usual
  • decreased performance in work or school
  • difficulty sleeping
  • unusual feelings of tiredness

You should also make an appointment to see your doctor if problems with concentration affect your ability to go through daily life or enjoy your life.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to being unable to concentrate:

  • loss of consciousness
  • numbness or tingling on one side of your body
  • severe chest pain
  • severe headache
  • sudden, unexplained memory loss
  • unawareness of where you are
  • problems with speaking

These may be a sign of a stroke, heart attack, or other condition that needs urgent attention.

Diagnosis can involve a variety of tests because there are many possible causes.

The doctor will most likely:

  • ask you about any symptoms
  • discuss your health history with you
  • ask questions such as “When did you first notice this condition?” and “When is your ability to concentrate better or worse?”
  • review any medications, supplements, and herbs you are taking to see if they could affect your concentration

With this information, your doctor may either make a diagnosis or recommend further testing, for example:

  • blood testing to determine hormone levels
  • CT scans to assess for brain changes
  • electroencephalography (EEG) to measure electrical activity in the scalp

There are many reasons why people find it difficult to focus, and it can take time to find a diagnosis.

Sometimes, lifestyle related changes can help, such as:

  • reviewing your diet and switching to one that includes more whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and oily fish
  • getting more sleep
  • reducing caffeine and alcohol intake
  • taking steps to reduce stress, such as meditating, writing in a journal, or reading a book

Specific foods that may support brain health include:

  • foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and flaxseed
  • foods containing vitamins B1, B6, B9, and B12, such as salmon, leafy greens, eggs, and milk
  • foods containing iron, such as shellfish, spinach, liver, and legumes
  • foods that provide vitamin D, for instance, fortified dairy products and eggs

Other treatments will depend upon your specific diagnosis.

For example, people with ADHD may need several different treatment approaches, including medication and behavior therapy. This includes behavioral therapy to limit distractions or medications to improve concentration. It can also include parent education.

What are the treatment options for ADHD?

Why can’t I concentrate and focus?

Loss of focus can happen for many reasons. They include mental and physical health problems, stress, the use of some medications, and a lack of sleep or and inadequate diet.

How can I improve my concentration?

This will depend on the cause of the lack of focus. Options range from getting treatment for an underlying condition to practicing mindfulness, or just clearing your desk.

Do any foods improve concentration?

According to some research, nutrients that may help include omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B1, B6, B12, B9 (folic acid) and D, choline, iron and iodine. These foods may help protect the brain and the nervous system. They may even improve performance in tasks that involve thinking, but more research is needed.

Which foods can boost your brain and memory?

There are many reasons why you might find it hard to concentrate, including stress, a range of chronic diseases, and the use of certain medications.

If you’re having trouble focusing and it’s affecting your daily life, speak with a doctor. They may be able to help by addressing an underlying problem or recommending therapy.

Memory and concentration disorders | Hbp group

In our time, many are faced with a deterioration in memory and concentration, and this problem is typical not only for older people, for whom memory loss is considered conditionally “normal”, but also for representatives of the middle and even younger generations. Memory and attention are interrelated and interdependent processes and, as a rule, the basis of memory loss is, in fact, a deficit of attention, that is, a person “does not remember because he does not remember, he is distracted.” nine0003

What is the reason? There are cultural and physiological reasons leading to impaired attention and memory. The lifestyle of a modern person is an environment unfavorable for the mental state of people. The development of digital technologies, a huge information flow, lack of time, the desire to do several things at the same time, constant stress - all this, according to scientists, contributes to the development of "attention deficit disorder". It is more and more difficult for a person to concentrate on the task at hand, he becomes distracted, forgetful, it is more difficult for him to do the work with which he used to cope with ease. All this is accompanied by anxiety, irritability, insomnia, headaches, which in turn lead to an even greater deterioration in memory and a decrease in concentration. At some point, a person is unable to independently break this vicious circle. nine0003

Physiological causes include neurological and diseases of internal organs:

  • Vascular diseases of the brain - chronic cerebral ischemia, stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, which in turn develop against the background of high blood pressure, vascular atherosclerosis, obesity
  • Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis
  • Brain injuries
  • Endocrine diseases (thyroid disease, diabetes mellitus, adrenal dysfunction)
  • Anemia (deficiency of B vitamins, iron)
  • Metabolic disorders associated with liver pathology (alcoholism, drug addiction)
  • Long-term use of certain drugs (benzadiazepines, barbiturates, antidepressants)

All of the listed pathologies are serious diseases and can lead to dementia. Dementia is acquired dementia, a persistent decrease in cognitive activity with the loss to some extent of previously acquired knowledge and practical skills and the difficulty or impossibility of acquiring new ones. nine0026 Therefore, if you have long-term memory and attention disorders, you need to contact a specialist for timely diagnosis and adequate treatment.

We all know about the benefits of constant physical activity and proper nutrition for health and longevity, however, recent medical studies show that longevity also depends on the state of human cognitive functions.

In our clinic you can:

  • Get advice from highly qualified neurologists
  • Pass specific tests to check for impaired memory and concentration
  • You can have all the necessary tests with us to help find out the reasons for your complaints
  • Complete a course of drug and physiotherapy treatment in a day hospital
  • If necessary, consult other specialists - a general practitioner, an endocrinologist

Go to the Neurology section.

How to improve concentration - Dropbox

Concentration: how to concentrate better

After several weeks of exhausting work, when you had to go to bed late and wake up early, you developed an attention deficit. And then the day comes when you need a lot more time to focus on an important task, but you just can't do it. Knowing how to focus better at work is a life skill, but how do you do it when you're already exhausted?

Whether you were a fidget in class or a bookworm who didn't have trouble concentrating, getting involved in work can be a challenge as an adult. nine0003

But this time it's up to you: in a work environment, managing your own time, making decisions and disciplined concentration are entirely in your hands. Reduced attention span can negatively impact both large and small workgroups. And for you, as a freelancer or small business owner, knowing how to focus on work while managing multiple projects will get the value you put into your business. nine0003

Increasing focus to help you get things done can be pleasurable in and of itself. You will not only work more efficiently, but also notice pleasant changes in your lifestyle. Work-life imbalance is often cited as a major cause of employee dissatisfaction. Research has shown that improving your efficiency may be a better key to improvement than focusing on a state of work-life balance. And, of course, ultimately improving attention starts at home. nine0003

How to Improve Attention with Sleep

Whatever your goal is to complete a project, close a deal, redo a pile of paperwork, quality sleep is essential. You will not be able to fully enjoy the results of your work if you are tired. It has been scientifically proven that sleep affects performance. And it's no surprise that many of the world's most efficient geniuses have resorted to restorative afternoon naps to keep themselves going. If you're leading a team, your time is probably too valuable to spend on naps, but you should still make sure you get the rest you need every night, or even during the day if possible. If the team is working remotely or is on different floors, you are likely to hop between departments or devices to keep the project under control. Luckily, Dropbox takes the hassle out of that, and even just five minutes of sitting and collecting your thoughts can do wonders for your focus and your brain health. nine0003

Sleep gives your brain and body much-needed time to rest and recharge after a day's work. The recommended sleep duration for the average adult is 7-9 hours per night. Less time can lead to sleep deprivation, and oversleeping can cause a breakdown. It may seem like extra work hours will help you cope with the workload, after which you will be able to sleep on the weekends, but in the end it is counterintuitive. nine0003

Be sure to practice good sleep hygiene every night. Block phone calls and text messages before bed, and if possible, keep your phone in another room. Just take the time to rest and relax. If you allow yourself to truly recharge your mental powers, you will wake up the next morning refreshed and ready to go.

How to focus on work and be attentive

Concepts such as "deep concentration" and "deliberate practice" are based on the idea of ​​controlling one's own mind. The practice of mindfulness is increasingly seen as the key to effectiveness. nine0003

Imagine a golfer swinging over and over again. Without mindfulness, this action is nothing more than an autopilot habit as the golfer simply repeats the shots planned for the day. Purposeful practice requires that every swing be analyzed so that each swing is better than the last, when every little improvement counts.

The workplace is not a golf course, but the same rules apply here. Instead of going to the office hoping that sheer willpower and high energy levels will ensure success (which is unrealistic), look at every part of your day. nine0003

Do you wake up at the same time every day? Do you give yourself enough time to wash and get dressed? Do you have enough time to enjoy breakfast without taking a killer dose of sugar? If the answer is no, then it's time to start improving your focus. Everything is very simple. It's important to understand that you can start focusing better at work just by changing your morning routine.

Deep concentration works in the same way and refers to being completely focused on a task after distractions have been eliminated. If you've made the effort to ban yourself from your phone before bed and practice wake discipline, you can easily apply that same mindset to managing your workload and thus even help your team embrace these vital changes. nine0003

Mindfulness helps you to be aware of bad habits—and be ready to break them—by developing good ones instead. This is a vital way to increase your efficiency. After all, you are unlikely to achieve great success at work if you get to it in a crazy hurry, annoyed and hungry.

Improving Workplace Efficiency with Digital Tools

Once you start improving your concentration through daily habits, you can also start introducing some tools to influence your external environment. While everyone is responsible for their own sleep outside of work hours, using digital tools will help you and your team stay focused and more organized in the office. nine0003

Dropbox Business can help you with this. You no longer need to jump between different folders, windows and devices to find your team member's files, or run between departments to find the person you need. If time is of the essence, then Dropbox is an essential digital hub that lets you see everything you need in one interface. Digital tools not only allow you to brilliantly manage your time and team, but also help with accountability. Working with files and reaching out to team members in Dropbox Spaces helps you stay on top of who's working on what and which tasks are most urgent. nine0003

No more excuses like "I missed the notification." And you no longer need to waste time running around the office, finding out who is doing what, being distracted by empty chatter on the go. Once you focus and tune in to the right wave, you will be able to work more productively and enjoy what you are doing.

Use digital isolation

Digital tools can be very helpful, but there's a difference between productivity-enhancing work tools like Slack or Trello and digital distractions like social media and text messaging. Workplace efficiency is synonymous with engagement and being present in the moment. You can instantly eliminate distractions by turning off notifications from your friends and followers. Don't fall into the "I'll just peek" trap: you don't even have to read the message - you'll stop at it anyway and get distracted. nine0003

If your main concern at 9:00 AM is your social media feed, you probably won't be set to work when the new spreadsheet hits your inbox at 9:05 AM. The same thing can happen with hundreds of different programs that you work with every day. However, the Dropbox smart workspace gives you and your team centralized access to all your most important apps and files, eliminating the need to constantly switch between apps and platforms forever. You can simply drag and drop a file from Slack directly onto your team's Trello board, and none of them need to roam through their browser tabs. With Dropbox, you can avoid distractions while staying connected. nine0003

Collaborate and listen

Collaboration is another area where people most often lose focus. Even when you're working flawlessly with a team of a dozen members, the endless notifications and questions are a constant distraction. But with the right productivity tools, group work can be fun and exciting, not annoying. With Dropbox, you can stay in touch with your team, comment, and assign work across apps and devices, so teamwork becomes commonplace. As a team, you can create and edit documents in Dropbox Paper, set due dates, securely request files, and streamline your workflow for greater transparency so you know exactly what everyone is doing. As you increase your productivity, you can also add short breaks to regroup on busy days. And if you're working alone, these tools will help you stay on top of everything on your to-do list, as well as securely invite clients to share feedback. nine0003

Stay Focused

If you want to know how to concentrate better, it's important to understand that you need attention for more than just work.

Learn more