Experts Say These 5 Small Habits Can Help You Concentrate & Stay In The Present Moment

You know that feeling when you have a ton of things you have to get done, but you just can't focus at all? Your text messages are blowing up, you have a huge project due, you keep daydreaming about taking an extended vacation somewhere to get away from it all. I've definitely been there. It's really frustrating when focus feels like it's just not within your grasp, and that there's no way to improve your concentration, no matter how hard you try. But it's not an impossible feat; you might just have to think outside the box a little to find strategies that work for you.

"People get distracted for different reasons, but it is usually because there is a lot going on around us," Courtney Glashow, LCSW, owner and psychotherapist at Anchor Therapy in Hoboken, New Jersey, tells Elite Daily over email. "We tend to multitask by watching TV, scrolling on our phone, eating, having a conversation, and trying to get work done." When you think about it that way, it really just makes common sense that you have trouble sitting down and getting through what you need to get done: Your mind is so often being being pulled in so many different directions.

Look, I'm not saying it's easy to improve your concentration, especially considering that, yes, it does involve a willingness to let go of some of your favorite distractions, like cat videos and relatable memes. But if you need somewhere to start, here are a few simple ways to start improving your concentration.

Break your day up

Seriously, take breaks, suggests Glashow. Regardless of what it is you're trying to concentrate on, chances are, no one is expecting you to go-go-go for hours and hours on end, especially if it's noticeable that your focus is shattering when you try to do so.

"When you find your concentration waning, then you need to take a break," Glashow explains. "If you are studying for an exam, then you want to take a 10-minute break by going on social media, getting a snack, or talking to someone. If you are at work, then you want to take a break by talking to a co-worker, going to the bathroom, or going out to get coffee."

Allow yourself to fidget

Maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but according to Glashow, having something to do with your hands while you think and work can be an effective strategy. She suggests using something like a stress ball or a fidget spinner to keep your hands occupied while your brain concentrates. "This can actually help focus your mind since the side of your brain that needs something physical to do will be satisfied," she explains. "This allows the other part of your brain to focus on paying attention to the task at hand."

Turn your phone on airplane mode

It might not be the advice you want to hear, but you have to admit, social media can be a real time-suck. Lindsay Anvik, a productivity and leadership coach, says that social media and text messages are often the two biggest culprits when it comes to having trouble focusing.

"These distractions directly impact our ability to focus on one thing," Anvik tells Elite Daily. "Putting your phone on airplane mode or turning off notifications can provide temporary relief from distractions."

Try not to answer email as it comes

"Check email every few hours or at the top of the hour instead of as it comes," Anvik suggests. "If you're constantly checking your email, you will never be able to focus on the task at hand."

Even though organizing your inbox is the kind of thing that might make you feel like it's helping you stay on top of your to-do's, in reality, Anvik explains, it's just distracting your attention from your original focus. Carve some time out separately for email so you make it through your other tasks.

Practice being present in your conversations

You ever have those moments when someone is talking to you, and you're nodding and reacting, but you aren't actually paying much attention to what they're saying? It happens to the best of us. But the thing is, according to Anvik, conversations can actually be great, low-pressure opportunities to practice your ability to concentrate.

"Practicing mindfulness during a conversation is an easy segue into improving focus and concentration," she explains. "Conversations are often brief enough that we can practice being in the now. When you're having a conversation, don't think about anything else except what the person is saying."

So yes, Anvik explains, this means don't think about your response, what you need at the grocery store, or what you're going to watch on Netflix later while the other person is talking.

"If you feel yourself wandering," she says, "bring yourself back to that point in time, and mentally give them your full attention."