10 Practical Ways to Improve Focus and Concentration

Focus – this 5-letter word ironically seems fleeting, especially in the modern world where there are so many distractions and information overload. 

Have you been in a situation where you are trying to finish a task but find yourself unable to focus and concentrate? 

Your mind simply cannot get enough of those silly cat videos when you should be tuning in during a meeting. 

Losing focus can be frustrating. Why does it happen? And how can you improve focus and concentration?

Keep reading to find out.

Why do I lose focus?

There are many reasons why we have trouble focusing. They can be due to distractions, stress, certain medical conditions, or may be due to aging. 


Distractions pull us away from what we set out to do. Our ability to focus is important in accomplishing everyday tasks, whether at home or at work. 

Our minds like creating task-unrelated thoughts whenever our focus wavers, thereby distracting us. This phenomenon is aptly termed mind-wandering.

Distractions can diminish motivation and focus. They can come from within your mind or from an external stimulus. 

Mind-wandering, hunger, and fatigue are examples of internal distractions. Loud noises, notification alerts, and information overload are examples of external distractions.


Stress is a potent enemy of focus. A healthy dose of stress, known as eustress, is beneficial and can help to motivate us. But, too much stress, also known as distress, causes difficulty in focusing. 

Other psychological conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can cause you to be restless and impair your ability to focus and concentrate. 

Depression can also cause “brain fog,” where the person struggles to pay attention or remember things.

Sleep disorders

Chronic sleep deprivation can make it hard to focus during the day. In the United States, 50 to 70 million adults struggle with a sleep disorder. 

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia can lead to daytime fatigue and focus impairment. Sleep apnea is also associated with obesity.

Insomnia is associated with psychological distress, caffeine intake, certain medications or drug use, and alcohol consumption. 

Medical conditions

Although focus and concentration are commonly associated with the mind, they are also influenced by our physical wellness. 

Medical conditions such as vitamin deficiencies, low red blood cell count (anemia), and other chronic illnesses like diabetes can make it harder to focus. 

Some medications, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, can also make you drowsy and impair your concentration

This is why these medications always come with a warning that driving or operating machinery can be dangerous while using them. You should discuss the side effects of the medications you are on with your doctor to minimize them.

Cognitive decline happens as a natural part of aging. Many elderly people may have trouble focusing. However, if your ability to remember, think, or make decisions in your daily life is significantly affected, it could be due to dementia. 

Dementia is not a common part of aging. If you or your loved ones are suspicious of having dementia, please consult a professional.


Some conditions can make it particularly difficult for someone to focus and concentrate, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. 

If you or your loved ones are suspicious of having ADHD or learning disabilities, please consult a professional. 

Understanding the cause of why we lose focus and concentration is an integral part of overcoming it. If you find yourself in great distress due to your lack of focus or if your lack of concentration is greatly impairing your daily function, please consult a professional.

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10 ways to improve focus and concentration 

Finding effective and scientifically backed methods to improve focus and concentration is as important as finding practical and achievable ones. Here are some methods to improve your focus:

1) Use a checklist and break it down

Like how shopping lists can prevent us from overbuying or forgetting to buy certain items, creating a checklist can help to overview our tasks and straighten our priorities. 

You can list down clear goals for the day and commit to fulfilling the list in order of priority. This will help you to focus on accomplishing the most important task first. 

A checklist can also help to defragment heavy or time-consuming tasks into smaller, digestible chunks. 

This can improve focus, motivation, and confidence, thereby preventing you from feeling overwhelmed. Remember, stress is a fierce opponent of focus and concentration.

2) Reduce distractions

Whether they are internal or external, household or workplace, distractions can impair your focus. One of the ways to eliminate distractions around you is by turning off notifications on your devices. 

The reduction in external stimuli from your devices can prolong periods of focus and boost your productivity at work. 

You can also choose a conducive work environment, one that is not noisy or messy. Separating resting areas, such as bedrooms, from work areas can help to condition your mind to focus easily. 

Some people can work despite ambient noises, but some get distracted easily. Headphones can help to block out unwanted noise that may distract or disturb you. 

Other internal distractions may also need tending to. For example, if you are hungry, grab a snack. If you are feeling tired, take a break.

3) Take breaks and set a timer

Everyone has a limited attention span. Taking breaks as short as 10 minutes between work can help to improve your concentration. 

Interspersing your work period with breaks can reduce fatigue and prolong concentration. Although the recommended work period ranges from 10 to 52 minutes, you can experiment with a time frame that works best for you. 

Using a timer on your device or downloading applications to remind you to take short breaks between chunks of work time can train your brain to focus while giving it enough rest. 

During your break, do some stretching exercises, or pair it with a caffeinated drink to experience a productivity boost. Caffeine has been shown to improve focus. After the break, reset your timer, rinse, and repeat.

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4) Exercise regularly, and feel the endorphins rush

Being physically active not only sharpens the mind but also keeps the body fit. When you are exercising, especially during aerobic exercises, your body releases a hormone called endorphins. Endorphins can sharpen your focus. 

Exercising also reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. 

Exercise also decreases anxiety, obesity, blood pressure, and age-related cognitive decline.

Studies showed that spending time in nature can also increase focus and concentration. So, take your exercise outdoors if you can.

5) Choose a healthy diet, and avoid blood sugar spikes and dips

Our brain and body need adequate nutrients to function optimally. Choose a brain-boosting diet that is rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Eat more fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber foods to moderate blood sugar. Rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels can lead to drowsiness and lack of focus. 

Hence, it is important to control your blood sugar by reducing sugary food and drinks such as soda, milkshakes, and cakes. 

Here are some foods that can improve brain health and focus.

  • Nuts and seeds: hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds
  • Oily fish: salmon, tuna, mackerel
  • Leafy greens: spinach, kale, and lettuce
  • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, blackcurrants
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, whole-grain toast, brown rice

6) Stay hydrated

Besides maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, remember to keep hydrated. One study found a link between dehydration and low concentration. 

Drinking enough water daily is a way to improve focus naturally. If you are engaged in high-intensity exercises or live in hot and humid climates, you may need to rehydrate more. 

7) Get enough sleep, good quality sleep

An average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep every night. One of the ways to naturally improve your focus is by improving your sleeping habits. 

You can start by developing a regular sleeping schedule every day. This means going to bed and waking up at the same hour daily. 

You can also practice good sleep hygiene, such as ensuring your bedroom is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature. 

If you suspect that you may be struggling with a sleeping disorder or other kinds of medical or psychological conditions, please consult a professional.

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8) Quit multitasking, it does not really work

While our brain can be good at switching tasks, multitasking is exhausting for our brain. A 2015 study reported that chronic media multitaskers had reduced levels of focus. 

Multitasking gives us the illusion of productivity, but it is actually counterproductive. Multitasking decreases work productivity and may lead to burnout in the long run. 

9) Try brain games to keep your mind sharp

Engaging in brain games such as sudoku, chess, crossword, and jigsaw puzzles can help to sharpen focus and improve memory

Brain games, such as jigsaw puzzles, give your brain a good mental workout by engaging the left and right hemispheres. Solving puzzles also gives you a dopamine boost, thereby sharpening your focus. 

Dopamine is a chemical that regulates mood, memory, and concentration. Brain games are great, but play them in moderation so that they do not become another source of distraction. 

10) Practice mindfulness and engage in the present moment

Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga have gained popularity, especially in the U.S. in the last decade. 

They are proven to reduce stress and increase focus. Practicing mindfulness trains you to bring your wandering mind to the present with increasing ease. 

A simple form of meditation is deep breathing. Be aware of your breath while you inhale and exhale deeply, and feel your body relax. 

You can practice meditation wherever and whenever. Many yoga studios and community centers offer guidance in mindfulness practices. You can also try various meditation apps available in the market. 

What do I do when I cannot focus despite trying very hard?

While we expect ideal results after practicing the above methods, we will encounter challenges, especially in the beginning. 

If you begin to feel frustrated from losing focus or if your mind is wandering despite your best effort, maybe it is time for a break. 

Allow yourself to zone out for a while. Gently bring your mind back to the present and try again when you are calmer and more in control. 

A calm and healthy mind is a focused mind, and sometimes, you just cannot force the focus. 

Practice, practice, practice

Training your brain to focus requires mindfulness and patience. To see its effectiveness, you need to establish a routine tailored to you and practice consistently. Maybe focus won’t be so fleeting for you after all.

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10 Methods for Boosting Your Memory.


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