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Adjust your routine: 10 habits to boost your concentration

September 15, 2022 - 15 min read

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How do habits function in the brain?

How habits can boost your concentration levels

10 habits to boost concentration

The importance of morning routines

Building habits take time: enjoy the process

Make visualization your ally

It's all about mindset

Habits are often part of your daily routine. They’re so automatic, that you don’t even notice yourself engaging in them. Think about how you read before bed each night, bite your nails, or always wipe down the counters as the coffee perks in the morning.  

Some habits don’t serve you much use and may even lead to problems.

Forgetting your keys after every workout class doesn’t help anyone. But other habits have the potential to make a meaningful, positive impact in your life. 

Habits that boost your concentration are particularly beneficial. After all, when you concentrate, you can accomplish more. And studies have shown that people are happier when they’re able to focus

With a bit of effort, you can successfully build habits that help your concentration abilities flourish. Get ready to kick procrastination to the curb. 

To get started, you’ll first need to understand the science behind habits.

 

How do habits function in the brain?

Even if you aren’t aware of all of them, you have many daily habits. So, where are habits stored in the brain? Scientists have found that the striatum is a part of the brain responsible for habit formation. Certain neurons will send a signal as you begin to act out your habit and again once you’ve completed it. The more you engage in a habit, the stronger those signals become.

But those signals don't become stronger overnight. 

One small study found it took participants between 18 and 254 days to strengthen their cognitive function and build a habit. That’s a wide range of time. The study found that if people occasionally forgot to practice their habit, it wasn't game over.

Even with some neglect, it’s still possible for habits to form. That said, if you’re looking to boost your brain function, consistency is key — even if there are slight interruptions.

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How habits can boost your concentration levels

If you repeat habits, they grow instinctive and feel like second nature. Some studies even suggest that about half of the things people do each day take place thanks to repetition. Think about it: do you wake up, wash your face, and brush your teeth on autopilot each day? Are you ever in the middle of a meeting trying to remember if you put deodorant on because it’s become so automatic to you? 

Habits are important to success, and including good habits that build concentration into your routine helps you: 

A good habit could be using an app to silence social media notifications on your way. That way, your workplace productivity won’t be interrupted by buzzes and chimes. At first, it might be difficult to part ways with your phone. But after a while, you may find that your attention span grows. By eliminating common distractions, your focus and concentration abilities can improve

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Concentration, like any skill, requires regular exercise. You may find it takes several days to nail that type of good habit. Or you may feel that some days, it’s hard to stick with it.  

But now that you know how habits can improve your concentration, you can start forming them. BetterUp can help you establish concentration-building habits that you can sustain into the future. Our coaches can provide the guidance and accountability you need to incorporate habits into your daily routine.

10 habits to boost concentration

Now let's talk about what specific habits will positively impact your concentration levels. Some of these habits help with your blood flow, while some double as ways to take care of your mental health. But all of them will optimize your focus and concentration abilities.

You might click with a couple of these habits more than others. Review this list we've compiled, and try to find a few that you'd be excited about incorporating into your routine:

  1. Declutter your workspace to reduce tempting distractions like text messages, notifications, or games
  2. Do your best to have a good night's sleep and get enough rest  
  3. Practice physical exercises to help increase brain function in your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for your cognitive control functions like memory and attention. High-intensity exercises have been found to improve your working memory and ability to pay attention because they stimulate more activity in the left hemisphere of the prefrontal cortex.
  4. Incorporate mindfulness activities like meditation and deep breathing into your routine
  5. Fuel yourself with brain food that boosts your energy and short-term memory
  6. Use the Pomodoro Technique to help with time management and productivity at work
  7. Listen to music to increase your concentration 
  8. Reward yourself to help boost your motivation levels
  9. Sit in a comfortable position as you work so that your body isn't straining itself
  10. Spend time outside and breathe the fresh air to center and refocus yourself

The importance of morning routines

Are you a morning person or a night owl? While some people like to stay up later, others find that the morning is a special time for them, and they have a good reason for thinking that. 

Maximizing your morning routine is a natural way to boost your concentration. When you plan out your morning routine, it can boost your energy, productivity, and mood. You can start the day in a positive mood and headspace. A productive morning routine helps you gather momentum and hype yourself up as you start to tackle the rest of your day.

Your morning routine could look different from someone else's, depending on your schedule. If you work nights and your morning starts in the afternoon, that’s OK. Your routine will kickstart your day, even if you don’t know how to wake up early

traveler-drinking-coffee-outside-habits-to-boost-concentration

Here are seven examples of activities you can include in your morning routine to set yourself up for a successful day:

  1. Drink a glass of water, and take your supplements and vitamins while you're at it
  2. Eat a filling breakfast that fuels your body until lunch
  3. Write out your to-do list and set some daily goals
  4. Avoid the snooze button and get up as soon as you wake up
  5. Move your body with some physical activity like yoga or walking
  6. Spend time writing your thoughts in your journal
  7. Read the newspaper or part of a book

Building habits take time: enjoy the process

Good habits aren’t formed overnight. Instead, think of setting habits as a journey, and expect to experience ups and downs as you implement new ones. You may experience setbacks or problems along the way. When that occurs, exercise patience and try to enjoy the process.

After all, you’re actively building a skill that'll help in many areas of your life. Not everyone even attempts to do that, so allow yourself to slow down and enjoy what you’re doing. When you enjoy the process, your ability to concentrate on tasks will thrive.

fitness-exercising-at-gym-habits-to-boost-concentration

You’ll have fun rather than agonize over your goals. Being in the moment can teach you how to make better decisions when goal setting and boost your morale at work or at home.

Bottom line: enjoying the process in the present time helps you be more grateful, acknowledge your values, and support your well-being.

Make visualization your ally

You can set as many goals and habits as you want, but if you aren't visualizing them properly, it doesn't help. 

Visualization allows you to imagine what you want to achieve. It lets you think about the future and what you want it to look like, and then create a plan to make it happen. For example, you might visualize your career mobility.

That could look like a promotion, a better salary, or working somewhere new. Then, you can visualize how you want to achieve that and what goals you need to set to do that.

thoughtfull-young-woman-habits-to-boost-concentration

Similar to concentration, visualization is a skill you can train to improve. Plus, it's handy as you sharpen your concentration skills. To visualize what you want your habits to look like, you need to stay focused.

Next time you want to establish a habit, try visualizing what you hope to achieve. Imagine yourself as a person who has this habit. How do you become that self?

It's all about mindset

Building habits to boost your concentration abilities isn’t a simple task. At first,  developing these new healthy habits may feel uncomfortable. After all, you’re learning habits to increase your brain power and boost concentration levels. That’s not easy. You’ll have to do something entirely new. 

As we embark on this project, try to keep the right mindset. Adopting the right frame of mind will encourage you to try new habits, learn from your mistakes, and take advantage of new opportunities. We're talking about a growth mindset compared to a fixed mindset.  

Whether you’re at work or at home, concentrating is helpful.

Having a growth mindset is crucial for setting goals and establishing new habits. At BetterUp, our coaches can help you improve your mindset, so you see the value in learning new things, continuing to grow, and setting goals for the future.

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Published September 15, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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