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5 Tips to Improve Your Concentration

By Sam Horn

Updated June 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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When TV newscaster Diane Sawyer was asked the secret to her success, she said, "I think the one lesson I've learned is there is no substitute for paying attention."

Are you thinking, "I agree, but how do we improve our ability to focus and maintain attention -- no matter what?"

These five focus tips can help you concentrate better -- whether you're working in a busy office, studying at school, sitting in a meeting, or trying to finish a project.

F = Five More Rule

There are two kinds of people -- those who have learned how to work through frustration, and those who wish they had. From now on, if you're in the middle of a task and tempted to give up -- just do FIVE MORE.

Read five more pages. Finish five more math problems. Work five more minutes.

Just as athletes build physical stamina by pushing past the point of exhaustion, you can build mental stamina by pushing past the point of frustration.

Just as runners get their second wind by not giving up when their body initially protests, you can get your "second mind" by not giving up when your willpower initially protests. Continuing to concentrate when your brain is tired is the key to S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G your attention span and building mental endurance.

O = One Think At a Time

Samuel Goldwyn said, "If I look confused, it's because I'm thinking." Feeling scatter-brained? Overcome perpetual preoccupation with the Godfather Plan -- make your mind a deal it can't refuse. Yes, the mind takes bribes. Instead of telling it NOT to worry about another, lesser priority (which will cause your mind to think about the very thing it's not supposed to think about!), assign it a single task with start-stop time parameters.

For example, "I will think about how to pay off that credit card debt when I get home tonight and have a chance to add up my bills. For now, for the next thirty minutes from 1-1:30 pm, I will give my complete focus to practicing this presentation so I am eloquent and articulate when pitching this proposal to our VIP clients."

Still can't get other concerns out of your head? Write them down on your to-do list so you're free to forget them. Recording worrisome obligations means you don't have to use your brain as a "reminder" bulletin board, which means you can give your undivided attention to your top priority task.

C = Conquer Procrastination

Don't feel like concentrating? Are you putting off a task or project you're supposed to be working on? That's a form of procrastination. R. D. Clyde said, "It's amazing how long it takes to complete something we're not working on."

Next time you're about to postpone a responsibility ask yourself, "Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it's not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?" Those three questions can give you the incentive to mentally apply yourself because they bring you face to face with the fact this task isn't going away, and delaying will only add to your guilt and make this onerous task occupy more of your mind and time.

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