Friday 5: How To Concentrate



I don’t know about you but I find it hard to concentrate. Even on things that I am interested in, my mind is full of thoughts and ideas and it is constant. This makes it challenging to focus on what I’m doing for long periods of time. I need to be free from distractions and it is easy to switch my TV off or put my mobile away, but what do you do when it’s your mind that is leading you astray?

I found a solution.

I’ve recently started university and have been introduced to the phenomenon that is three-hour lectures. Wonderful. Now, I love my course already as it is a subject of great interest to me, but I must admit I have struggled to keep my eyes open on more than one occasion. It’s not that I’m not interested in what the tutor is teaching, but my mind isn’t stimulated enough for me to pay attention. So I get relaxed, I get comfortable and I start to fall asleep.

But, I said I found a solution.

uni wOne Monday, while sat in my second three-hour lecture of the day, I had a brain wave. I had two writing books in front of me, one for lecture notes and one that I usually write my ideas in at home. I carry that small book in my handbag anyway but I’ve started to bring it to uni for the train journey mostly.

While in my lecture, I could feel my mind going into overdrive and I was finding it increasingly difficult to focus on what the tutor was talking about. I felt like I didn’t understand and could feel my eyelids dropping. This overactive mind was full of ideas but not stimulated enough by the tutor to stay away. Complicated, huh?

So I opened up my ideas book and wrote down whatever popped into my head. I made a notes for potential blog posts, project ideas, outstanding tasks, story ideas, anything that wasn’t at all related to the lecture but in my head regardless. It seems simple enough but I was also to make notes from the lecture slide and interact more with the questions, because I had given myself room to think. The ideas kept coming and so I wrote them down, but because the movement was constant, I was able to digest and absorb the information given by the tutor. I was able to understand and for the first time since starting university, I felt like I knew what I was doing.

This was doubly productive. I got so much more out of my lecture because I was (surprisingly, I know) paying attention and making much more effective notes. At the same time, I was creating the foundation for all these blog posts that I will be writing. All those ideas got documented and never went to waste, so that can only be a positive.

I’ve tried a few other methods to help me concentrate and here’s my Friday 5 on what else works for me:

  1. Listen to instrumentals. Youtube is full of them. I type “music for concentration” into the search bar and click on anything that is more than an hour-long. I find songs with lyrics are distracting as I just sing along to them, whereas these beautiful instrumentals don’t excite my mind so much, which keeps it calm.
  2. I avoid getting too comfortable. If I’m tired, being laid on my sofa with my dressing gown on and my belly full of dinner is only going to enhance that. So, I tend to sit with the heating off. I’ll be warm but not sat back on my sofa, not laid against anything. I might sit a little awkwardly, as too much comfort causes me to feel relaxed and that will only lead to sleep.
  3. Have a plan. I work with to-do lists. Some people advise against them but I’m somebody who needs visual prompts and this helps me a lot. I’m very specific on them and I work to cross off as many as I can, often all.
  4. Regular breaks. Nobody wants to sit staring at a laptop screen for hours and hours. Have a break. Have a Kitkat and a cup of tea. Stretch your legs and hang your washing on the washing line. Give yourself ten minutes to check into Facebook. Go to the toilet. Call the dentist and make an appointment. Anything that brings you away temporarily from what you’re doing.
  5. Switch your phone onto airplane mode. Yeah I said it. It seems that all the social media notifications are too tempting but switching it off completely is too much of a commitment. Airplane mode stops you from being interrupted by life and also saves your battery life. I’m not at all suggesting that you do this for hours, but how about you try it until it’s time for a break? You’ll enjoy the peace and freedom this gives you, as well as catching up with life once you’ve switched it back on.

This is what works for me. I hope it’ll help somebody else. If if did, leave a comment. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment x


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