Note that some of the items in this list will help you immediately, while some will take a few weeks to have a noticeable effect on your concentration.
1. Sleep for 8 – 9 hours a day
This is probably the most critical thing when it comes to having a high amount of concentration. You cannot hold your attention if you’re feeling drowsy, can you?
You need to sleep for at least 8 hours a day.
Your body needs sleep to rest, clear waste from the brain, consolidate memories for long term storage, heal and grow your muscles, etc. – it does not make sense to skimp on sleep.
Don’t fall into the “I only sleep 6 hours a day” hype. You’re not a teenager and being chronically underslept is not cool and hip.
You’re only hurting yourself by not getting sleep.
I’ve used this quote in the same context before:
“If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 6 of those hours sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
You’ve got 24 hours.
Spend the first 8 sharpening your brain – there’s literally no reason not to.
2. Fix your diet and STOP EATING SUGAR
Your mind and body need high-quality food to function optimally.
You need to stop eating processed garbage such as vegetable oil, refined grains, instant noodles, and the worst culprit of all: refined sugar.
The problem with processed food is that they’re full of simple carbohydrates and empty calories – they mess up your hormones, they make you fat, and they don’t provide your body with efficient energy.
Filling up on processed carbohydrates is like running a car on kerosene – it’ll work, but it won’t be nearly as smooth and will damage the engine given enough time.
Substitute your vegetable oil with ghee or butter.
Avoid sugar as much as possible.
Sugar is *terrible* for your brain.
Sugar slows your brain down.
Sugar impairs your memory and learning skills.
Sugar gives you a mental haze (commonly known as brain fog).
Sugar causes insulin tolerance which then causes long term cognitive decline and even dementia.
(When I say sugar, I don’t mean natural sugars like the ones found in fruits, I mean factory made refined sugar – which you find in cakes, candy bars, soft drinks, etc.)
Stop putting refined sugar in your food.
The absolute dumbest thing I see people do is put sugar in their morning coffee.
Starting your day with a sugary drink is the worst thing you can do for alertness and focus.
Always have your coffee with no sugar. You’ll get used to the not-so-sweet taste in a few days at max.
3. Plan what you need to do ahead of time
Let’s say you’re a student. Don’t just get down and say “I’ll study for two hours.”
Instead, mark two hours worth of material and say “I’ll get up once I’m done with this.”
You’ll have a much higher drive to get it done because you now have a specific goal in mind that you can’t cheat on by being distracted.
Setting measurable goals is half the game.
It’s easy to say “I studied for 2 hours” when you spent 1.5 hours of those daydreaming.
It’s not so easy when you actually have to complete 2 hours worth of material before you get up.
I recommend creating a detailed to-do list every night, where you outline timespans for the various tasks you need to complete.
For things like studying and work, you’ll also mark out reasonable goals that you plan to meet in that time frame.
You’ll find that your concentration automatically increases as your brain knows “how much” it has to do, instead of just knowing that it has to abstractly do something.
4. Make your surroundings comfortable
Make sure your chair and table are comfortable (it’s much harder to work on a hard chair) and see to it that you have a bottle of water close to you.
Make sure that the temperature of the room is right – it’s easy to get distracted if you’re feeling too hot or too cold.
You’ll also find it easier to focus in a place you’re familiar with – your room is infinitely better than say, a coffee shop.
5. Play some soft music
Play any soft, repetitive music. Repetitive music helps your brain focus.
Keep the volume low because it’s supposed to be going on in the background, not the foreground.
And pick music that doesn’t have lyrics. Lyrics are distracting because your brain is attuned to process speech immediately upon hearing it.
I recommend listening to Binaural Beats.
While you’ll undoubtedly notice some immediate improvement in focus after you meditate, meditation is a long term game.
You’ll have to meditate for at least a month or two to really start seeing the results of the exercise.
Meditation is one of the most important things you can do to make your brain more stable – it literally increases the size of your brain, makes your prefrontal cortex (part of the brain that handles decision making) stronger, and the emotional centers of the brain less volatile.
I recommend starting with 5 minutes a day and over a few weeks, increasing it to 15-20 minutes a day.
7. Lift Weights
This is another long term way to improve your focus.
Studies show that resistance training improves memory, slows the progress of dementia and boosts cognition.
It will also bring your hormones in line, and help you beat the desire for instant gratification, which in turn makes it more likely that you won’t get distracted – can you see how everything is connected?
8. Play long games of chess
This is a fun one – once a week, you should play a 3 hour long game of chess.
You ideally want to play it with a smart friend who’s pursuing the same goals of self-improvement as you, but playing over the internet is fine too.
When you’re playing, don’t play quickly. Remember, we’re trying to develop our concentration.
Take your time and carefully calculate lots of lines through the game.
This is fun and will train your brain to sit still and think for an extended period of time.
Focus, just like a lot of things, comes down to practice.
Social media is junk food for your brain.
Just like how junk food messes up your body, social media messes up your brain.
The way this works is that social media trains your brain to go through material quickly and superficially – this destroys your ability to read slowly and go in depth.
Social media also trains your brain to expect something new and interesting every few seconds (a new Facebook status, a new Instagram photo, etc.) – and eventually, you lose your ability to concentrate on “boring” things that don’t give you a hit of dopamine ten times a minute.
The best way to deal with Facebook and Instagram is to delete them (unless they’re helping you get paid!).
Remember, in the world of non-existent attention spans and distractions, the man who can focus and get work done is king.
New readers: If you’re interested in getting in control of where your life is heading and improving your mindset, discipline, and self-control (essentially the point of this post), you should check out Live Intentionally: Discipline, Mindset, Direction – A 90 Day Self-Project.
Hope this helps,