7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (2023)

Brain Health

Mental Exercises

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Kendra Cherry

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (1)

Kendra Cherry

Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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Updated on July 22, 2022

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Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (2)

Medically reviewed byRachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS

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Staying on task can be difficult, but it can be particularly challenging when you are surrounded by constant distraction. In today's always-connected world, diversions are nothing more than a click away.

Even during quiet moments, distraction is literally at your fingertips as you find yourself checking your Instagram notifications or the latest news updates.

The ability to concentrate on something in your environment and direct mental effort toward it is critical for learning new things, achieving goals, and performing well across a wide variety of situations.

Whether you are trying to finish a report at work or competing in a marathon, your ability to focus can mean the difference between success and failure.

Fortunately, focus is a lot like a mental muscle. The more you work on building it up, the stronger it gets.

Improving your mental focus is achievable, but that doesn't mean that it's always quick and easy. If it was simple, then we would all have the razor-sharp concentration of an elite athlete.

It will take some real effort on your part and you may have to make some changes to some of your daily habits. Here are some tips and tricks from psychology that can help you develop laser-like mental focus and concentration.

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7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (3)

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1

Assess Your Mental Focus

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (4)

Before you start working toward improving your mental focus, you might want to begin by assessing just how strong your mental focus is at the present moment.

Your Focus Is Good If...

  • You find it easy to stay alert

  • You set goals and break tasks up into smaller parts

  • You take short breaks, then get back to work

Your Focus Needs Work If...

  • You daydream regularly

  • You can't tune out distractions

  • You lose track of your progress

If the first set of statements seems more your style, then you probably already have fairly good concentration skills, but you could be even stronger with a little practice.

If you identify more with the second set of statements, then you probably need to work on your mental focus quite a bit. It might take some time, but practicing some good habits and being mindful of your distractibility can help.

The Brain Processes Behind Attention and Distraction

2

Eliminate Distractions

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (5)

(Video) 7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus

While it may sound obvious, people often underestimate just how many distractions prevent them from concentrating on the task at hand. Such intrusions might come in the form of a radio blaring in the background or perhaps an obnoxious co-worker who constantly drops by your cubicle to chat.

Minimizing these sources of distraction isn't always as easy as it sounds. While it might be as simple as turning off the television or radio, you might find it much more challenging to deal with an interrupting co-worker, spouse, child, or roommate.

One way to deal with this is to set aside a specific time and place and request to be left alone for that period of time. Another alternative is to seek out a calm location where you know you will be able to work undisturbed. The library, a private room in your house, or even a quiet coffee shop might all be good spots to try.

Not all distractions come from outside sources. Exhaustion, worry, anxiety, poor motivation, and other internal disturbances can be particularly difficult to avoid.

A few strategies you might want to try to minimize or eliminate such internal distractions are to make sure you are well-rested prior to the task and to use positive thoughts and imagery to fight off anxiety and worry. If you find your mind wandering toward distracting thoughts, consciously bring your focus back to the task at hand.

3

Limit Your Focus

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (6)

While multitasking may seem like a great way to get a lot done quickly, it turns out that people are actually rather bad at it. Juggling multiple tasks at once can dramatically cut down on productivity and makes it much harder to hone in on the details that are truly important.

Attentional resources are limited so it is important to budget them wisely.

Think of your attention as a spotlight. If you shine that spotlight on one particular area, you can see things very clearly. If you were to try to spread that same amount of light across a large dark room, you might instead only glimpse the shadowy outlines.

Part of improving your mental focus is all about making the most of the resources you have available. Stop multitasking and instead give your full attention to one thing at a time.

Single-Tasking for Productivity and Stress Management

4

Live in the Moment

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (7)

It's tough to stay mentally focused when you are ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, or tuned out of the present moment for some other reason.

You have probably heard people talk about the importance of "being present." It's all about putting away distractions, whether they are physical (your mobile phone) or psychological (your anxieties) and being fully mentally engaged in the current moment.

This notion of being present is also essential for recapturing your mental focus. Staying engaged in the here and now keeps your attention sharp and your mental resources honed in on the details that really matter at a specific point in time.

It may take some time but work on learning to truly live in the moment. You cannot change the past and the future has not happened yet, but what you do today can help you avoid repeating past mistakes and pave a path for a more successful future.

How to Forget a Bad Memory

5

Practice Mindfulness

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (8)

Mindfulness is a hot topic right now, and for good reason. Despite the fact that people have practiced forms of mindfulness meditation for thousands of years, its many health benefits are only recently starting to be understood.

In one study, researchers had human resources professionals engage in simulations of the sort of complex multitasking they engaged in each day at work.

These tasks had to be completed in 20 minutes and included answering phones, scheduling meetings, and writing memos with sources of information pouring in from multiple sources including by phone calls, emails, and text messages.

Some of the participants received 8 weeks of training in the use of mindfulness meditation, and the results found that only those who had received this training showed improvement in concentration and focus.

Members of the meditation group were able to stay on task longer, switched between tasks less frequently, and performed the work more efficiently than the other groups of participants.

Practicing mindfulness can involve learning how to meditate, but it can also be as simple as trying a quick and easy deep breathing exercise.

Quick Tip to Regain Focus

Start by taking several deep breaths while really focusing on each and every breath. When you feel your mind naturally begin to wander, gently and uncritically guide your focus back to your deep breathing.

(Video) How to Get Your Brain to Focus | Chris Bailey | TEDxManchester

While this might seem like a deceptively simple task, you may find that it is actually much more difficult than it appears. Fortunately, this breathing activity is something you can do anywhere and anytime. Eventually, you will probably find that it becomes easier to disengage from intrusive thoughts and return your focus to where it belongs.

6

Take a Short Break

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (9)

Have you ever tried to focus on the same thing for a long period of time? After a while, your focus starts to break down and it becomes more and more difficult to devote your mental resources to the task. Not only that, but your performance ultimately suffers as a result.

Traditional explanations in psychology have suggested that this is due to attentional resources being depleted, but some researchers believe that it has more to do with the brain's tendency to ignore sources of constant stimulation.

Researchers have found that even taking very brief breaks by shifting your attention elsewhere can dramatically improve mental focus.

So the next time you are working on a prolonged task, such as preparing your taxes or studying for an exam, be sure to give yourself an occasional mental break.

Shift your attention to something unrelated to the task at hand, even if it is only for a few moments. These short moments of respite might mean that you are able to keep your mental focus sharp and your performance high when you really need it.

7

Keep Practicing

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (10)

Building your mental focus is not something that will happen overnight. Even professional athletes require plenty of time and practice in order to strengthen their concentration skills.

One of the first steps is to recognize the impact that being distracted is having on your life. If you are struggling to accomplish your goals and find yourself getting sidetracked by unimportant details, it is time to start placing a higher value on your time.

By building your mental focus, you will find that you are able to accomplish more and concentrate on the things in life that truly bring you success, joy, and satisfaction.

2 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Additional Reading

  • Ariga, A, & Lleras, A. Brief and rare mental breaks keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition. 2011;118(3):439-443. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.007.

7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus (11)

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

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(Video) 7 Useful Tips for Improving Your Mental Focus

FAQs

How can I improve my 100% focus? ›

Here are eight tricks and tips for eliminating distractions and paying attention to what you need to do:
  1. Prepare Your Brain. Before a task, calm your brain, says Venezky. ...
  2. Understand Where Your Focus Needs To Be. ...
  3. Unplug For 30 Minutes. ...
  4. Grab Some Coffee. ...
  5. Check the Thermostat. ...
  6. Turn On Some Music. ...
  7. Take Short Breaks. ...
  8. Doodle.
26 Aug 2015

How do you stay focused 10 Tips for focusing? ›

Need Help Staying Focused? Try These 10 Tips
  1. Get rid of distractions.
  2. Drink coffee.
  3. Take breaks.
  4. Avoid social media.
  5. Stay fueled.
  6. Prioritize sleep.
  7. Set goals.
  8. Be mindful.
16 Oct 2019

What useful tip for improving your mental focus gives your full attention to one thing? ›

Sitting down to focus on one task can be difficult, especially when you're constantly interrupted. To help increase your focus, start with a good breakfast, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Close your door, listen to music, and don't multitask.

How can I increase my focus 10 times? ›

  1. Train your brain. Playing certain types of games can help you get better at concentrating. ...
  2. Get your game on. Brain games may not be the only type of game that can help improve concentration. ...
  3. Improve sleep. ...
  4. Make time for exercise. ...
  5. Spend time in nature. ...
  6. Give meditation a try. ...
  7. Take a break. ...
  8. Listen to music.

How can I focus on study at home? ›

Download and save a copy of the flyer.
  1. Establish a Routine. ...
  2. Have a Dedicated Study Area. ...
  3. Take Notes for Online Classes. ...
  4. Keep a Routine for Physical Activity. ...
  5. Don't Forget Your Social Time. ...
  6. Create a Study Plan and Share It with Others. ...
  7. Eat Well, Sleep Well. ...
  8. Avoid Multitasking.

How can I start focusing on myself? ›

How to Focus on Yourself:
  1. Indulge in your favorite activities.
  2. Learn a new hobby or skill.
  3. Confront fear of the unknown.
  4. Spend more time outdoors.
  5. Start journaling.
  6. Meditate.
  7. Practice weekly self-care.
  8. Practice self-compassion.
28 Apr 2021

Why is focus important? ›

Focus is so important because it is the gateway to all thinking: perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Without good focus , all aspects of your ability to think will suffer... Here's a simple reality: "If you can't focus effectively, you can't think effectively."

How do you stay focused and motivated? ›

How can I stay motivated?
  1. Regularly review your goals and progress. ...
  2. Continue to set new goals. ...
  3. Keep the momentum up. ...
  4. Find mentors, for example, someone you look up to who is experienced in the habit you want to change. ...
  5. Surround yourself with positive people.

What are the 8 ways to improve your brain power? ›

8 Ways to Improve Your Brain Power
  • Exercise. We all know that we should be getting regular exercise. ...
  • Drink coffee. ...
  • Get some sunlight. ...
  • Build strong connections. ...
  • Meditate. ...
  • Sleep well. ...
  • Eat well. ...
  • Play Tetris.
9 Sept 2015

What are the 10 ways to enhance your mental health? ›

10 tips to boost your mental health
  • Make social connection — especially face-to-face — a priority. ...
  • Stay active. ...
  • Talk to someone. ...
  • Appeal to your senses. ...
  • Take up a relaxation practice. ...
  • Make leisure and contemplation a priority. ...
  • Eat a brain-healthy diet to support strong mental health. ...
  • Don't skimp on sleep.
4 Oct 2018

What are the 3 secret study tips? ›

3 Secret Study Tips
  • Know what your lecturers want. Before you start studying a topic, write down your lecturer's learning objectives for that topic. ...
  • Make a study plan. Many people waste time when they study because they don't have a plan. ...
  • Use effective study techniques.

What is focus life? ›

Focus is ultimately about having full control of your mind. Learn how to develop the ability to choose what you are thinking about, feeling and doing.

What is the best time for study? ›

Mid- Morning/ Mid- Day/Evening

This is generally preferred by the aspirants who are Neither a Morning bird nor a Night Owl. Yes, you read it right. Students who get up late in the morning usually sleep by midnight. Usually, those students who have a shorter attention span follow this study routine.

How can I study and remember? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

How can I improve myself everyday? ›

Here's a look at some ways to build self-improvement into your daily routine and let go of negative thoughts about yourself.
  1. Cultivate gratitude. ...
  2. Greet everyone you meet. ...
  3. Try a digital detox. ...
  4. Use positive self-talk. ...
  5. Practice random acts of kindness. ...
  6. Eat at least one meal mindfully. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Breathe consciously.
24 Apr 2019

How do I love my own life? ›

10 Ways To Love Your Life
  1. Choose happiness. ...
  2. Live in the moment. ...
  3. Be your own best friend. ...
  4. Make every day special. ...
  5. Fill your time with things that matter. ...
  6. Make those “lost hours” count. ...
  7. Become a problem solver. ...
  8. Know your limits.

What naturally increases focus? ›

Add a Daily Dose of Nuts and Chocolate. Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which has been linked in some studies to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties, and it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus.

How do you treat poor focus? ›

Tips that may help improve focus

Exercise regularly, get plenty of quality sleep, and eat highly nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and sources of lean protein. Consider reducing your caffeine intake and practicing effective stress management techniques such as journaling, deep breathing, or meditation.

What improves memory? ›

Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and might keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Play bridge. Take alternate routes when driving.

How can I improve my memory skills? ›

The best way to protect and improve memory is by making good lifestyle choices: exercising regularly, limiting stress, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. You can also keep the mind agile by learning a foreign language or playing brain training games to improve thinking skills and short-term memory.

What is good for memory? ›

Get adequate omega-3 fatty acids.

Essential for good brain health, omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, in particular, may help improve memory. Seafood, algae and fatty fish — including salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines and herring — are some of the best sources of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA.

What causes hard to 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.

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