Toolbox 29: 7 Ways to Improve Concentration

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Like everyone else I’ve been watching the corvid-19 numbers go up. My stress level has gone up too. I can’t seem to stop it.

I’ve tried to make myself focus on other things to bring my stress down and return to—if not a positive attitude—an inner calm.

I know sitting in the sunshine or taking a nature walk helps, but I want to get back to writing.

I’m unable to concentrate

From my reading I’ve discovered that I’m at odds with my brain. It’s doing what it does best. Absorbing my environment and bouncing around like Tigger. In fact, when I try to focus, my mind fights back by distracting me, encouraging me to do it tomorrow, and making me feel too lazy. All in the name of it keeping its freedom.

Apparently is an evil genius and I’m not. Who knew?

How did this happen?

The world today comes at us through the internet, our phone, and the people around us. We have taught ourselves to read quick blurbs. Pop into a conversation to comment and pop out again to do something else. We jump around mentally and it works fine, usually.

But what if you want to focus on revisions, or filling a blank page.

There are ways to fight back. Try this to gauge your level of concentration. The goal is to quickly say aloud what colour you see in every word you read.

Was there a problem?

This has inched up on all of us.

To improve, we’d have to do some exercises.

But first some Tips:

  • Schedule a block of time and try to be consistent.
  • Know that you’ll easily be distracted so remove temptation temporarily.
  • Use a timer for your focus sessions. For example, twenty minutes on and five minutes rest.
  • Be patient and expect it to be harder than it looks. Understand that like physical exercise, it will take time to improve.
  • Keep the mood as light as possible.

The Seven exercises:

  1. Try sitting in a chair for 15 minutes.
  2. Breathe deeply concentrating on one scent at a time.
  3. Concrete on opening and closing your fists for 5 minutes.
  4. Follow the second hand of a clock for five minutes.
  5. Open any book and count the words in a paragraph and then double/triple check your work.
  6. Read something long or intense slowly. Savour the sentences. Look for deeper meanings.
  7. NOT ALONE, TAKE ADVANTAGE AND try attentive listening: don’t interrupt, paraphrase what you heard, focus and stay engaged.

I don’t know how much this will help and suspect it’s like a computer. Garbage in; garbage out. I’m going to give all of them a try and see what fits best.

Are you having trouble concentrating? What are you doing to stay focused?

Gleaned from:

44 responses to “Toolbox 29: 7 Ways to Improve Concentration

  1. I’m struggling on keeping on task too. Thanks for the tips. I read a study that reported the first thing in the morning is vital to your concentration for the rest of the day. Instead of getting up and immediately checking email or hopping on blogs, first do something that takes your concentration–like meditating, reading a devotion, writing in your journal, free writing for at least five minutes to train your brain to concentrate. I’m doing that, and it does calm me. Wishing you all the best.
    JQ Rose

  2. Great tips. The struggle is real currently. Everyone is home, the kids have school and my focus is shot. By the time I’m done getting them settled I have no desire to get my own work completed. They don’t quite understand that when mom has on her headphones it means don’t talk to her. LOL

  3. Natalie Aguirre

    Thanks for the tips. I think that many of us are feeling stressed out and having trouble focusing on our writing right now. Even though I have more time, I’ve only been able to work on my blog so far.

  4. These mindfulness/meditative techniques are great new ones for me. I find things like this really help me concentrate, so here’s a good new batch of them. Stay strong. I hope you’re able to get back into writing soon. You’ve amassed some good tips to help you do it! : )

  5. I’ve been struggling with concentration as well. This list of exercises is much more helpful than the generic response to “be kind to yourself”, thank you so much. I think I’ll write them down and use them as needed.

  6. Great post! I struggle with concentration at the best of times so these tips will come in very handy.

  7. I am just not getting things done anymore. I try not to watch news but it’s really hard to get around things. Sigh.

  8. I’ve definitely had to shorten my expectation for periods of focus. I *can* focus . . .just not for as long in one go as is my usual. It helps me to do a quiet focus followed by a bit of bustling (my word for nonspecific moving about the house and doing minor housework). @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

  9. I think the biggest thing is to get away from the computer (and the Internet) for a while. Go hand write something at the kitchen table or outside. Someplace that’s peaceful.

  10. Great tips, and so perfect for right now. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Cool post with great tips. Neat exercises.

  12. Oh my gosh, that’s exercise is fabulous. I was laughing at myself so hard. Also, it took me a few tries just to finish the exercises list. Where is my concentration! Seems like I need these exercises tout de suite.

  13. Some good tips here, thank you. I’ve been struggling for a while, thanks to a combination of life, the universe, and everything. I need to do something to get working properly instead of feeling useless. Maybe this will help.

  14. AuthorSarahKrewis

    This was such an intriguing post! Especially the colors exercise. I put myself on a pretty firm schedule which includes getting up by 7 every day and working out right after breakfast. From there I work from home and then in the evenings I edit. Focus isn’t easy but I’ve learned that my goals won’t accomplish themselves on their own.

  15. That concentration test is so hard!
    I think my issue is I’ll watch Netflix and do something else at the same time, so I’m never concentrating on one thing and my attention is always shifting. As a result I’m not very productive! I’ll try these suggestions to see if it helps 🙂

  16. Victoria Marie Lees

    I so need to work on my relaxation technique, Anna. I can’t seem to turn my mind off. Especially at night! I didn’t do poorly on the color word thing. All best to you! Be safe! This has to end soon. Here’s hoping!

  17. These are some good tips. I never would have thought of some of these mental exercises. I’m not currently struggling with concentration, but have before and will again.
    Good post.

  18. I have a jumpy brain as well. But, since we all have lost our freedom, my brain better understands that it, too, needs to be contained.

    Every time we change our environment (this time from our camper in a hot and humid climate to a room in cold and rainy New England), it takes me a week or so to get acclimated and caught up on non-important chores. I hope sometime next week, I’ll be able to focus on my writing again! Thanks for the tips, Anna!

  19. These are wonderful suggestions. Thank you. I didn’t know about the color. I’m going to try it.

  20. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    Using a timer and keeping the curtains closed is the only way for me to concentrate fully on one task at a time. Sigh. Great post!

  21. Great tips. As soon as I wake up I head straight to work (working from home now because of the stay at home order). Been meaning to either do a couple of minutes of yoga or Billy Blanks Tae Bo 5 minute workout but haven’t done so. Will try harder to do so.
    Stay safe.

  22. Thanks for these tips. I’ve been struggling too, and I believe I may try some of them. Kind of wishing I read this post sooner in fact! It’s been a rough month as I’m sure it has for everyone.

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