Techniques and strategies to improve your attention and concentration

There are lots of simple techniques that you can use to help cope with attention difficulties.

Many of these are ‘common sense’ and relate to blocking out distractions and practicing doing things in a slightly different way, but they can be very helpful all the same.

 

  • Reduce interruptions or distractions – turn off phone, TV, radio. Use headphones/ear plugs if necessary.

  • Find a quiet place and/or take time out from other people when it becomes overwhelming.
  • Focus on tasks for a short time only and don’t overdo it.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Ensure a balance of work, rest and enjoyable activities.
  • Start small – set realistic and achievable goals for yourself.
  • Plan and prepare in advance.
  • Organise your environment so that you have the correct tools for the task.
  • Reduce clutter when doing an activity, e.g. clear the space before starting work.
  • Block out sufficient time for tasks and don’t leave things until the last minute.
  • Write down all of the tasks you need to do breaking tasks down into smaller stage where needed.
  • Plan activities one step at a time. Write down the steps to complete a task and tick off each step as you go.
  • Say the steps of a task out loud.
  • If you are interrupted by worries, it can help to write them down in a notebook to be dealt with at another time.
  • Complete tasks when you feeling less fatigued.
  • Monitor your progress – take a break when your concentration is beginning to decrease.
  • Keep things interesting – It’s easier to concentrate on things that are fun, interesting, or rewarding.
  • Try to stay engaged – take notes or ask questions to help you stay alert for longer.
  • Try and decrease stress, worry and tension. Try to empty your mind to give the task your full attention.
  • Learn to control distracting thoughts with deep breathing or grounding techniques.
  • Learn different relaxation techniques – such as meditation and yoga as these ensure a calm, but alert, state of mind, as this is the basis for optimum concentration.
  • Complete activities – such as arts and crafts which can help to focus the mind and improve your concentration.
  • Check out music streaming platforms (You Tube/Spotify) for gentle instrumental music; or search for ‘focus’ and ‘concentration’ playlists.
  • Discover what works for you – in which circumstances are you more and less able to
    concentrate? Which strategies work best for you?
  • Tell people in advance if you are having problems with attention or concentration and how it is affecting you.
  • Suggestions for reading:
    • Use contrasting colours to draw attention to important points or objects.
    • Cover up the words you are not reading. 
  • ‘Control the Spotlight’ technique:
    Attention can be thought of as a spotlight on a theatre stage. Sometimes it’s focused on one small part of the stage, and at other times it lights up the whole of it. Imagine that you have a task to do that needs your attention. You know that you need to keep your attention “spotlight” on the task just as the spotlight operator needs to keep focused on the leading actor. However they can easily become distracted and move the spotlight off the leading actor for a moment. Similarly, you may find that your attentional “spotlight” drifts away from the task you need to be concentrating on.This is very common, when you notice this has happened, don’t tell yourself off – just gently move your attention back to the task. Try to get into the habit of checking where your attentional spotlight is pointing. With practice, you will begin to notice more quickly that your attention has drifted so be able to get back on task more quickly. This can work well particularly when used for short periods of time but can take practice.
  • Activities to practice attention and concentration:
    • Read short stories or magazines instead of long books.
    • Computer and table top games (e.g. scrabble) encourage you to concentrate to complete the game. You may be able to gradually increase the amount of time you can concentrate on these activities.
    • Participate in interesting physical activities such as exercise and gardening.