If you want to increase your brain power and concentrate better, you have to “trick” the evolutionary mechanisms of your brain and exploit biological principles.
Because our thinking organ is trimmed for thrift and quick rewards: In primeval times, food was not available in abundance – as is common today – but was scarce. Energy had to be carefully divided if one wanted to survive.
Long-focused work resists this evolutionary austerity program. However, people with above-average memory or seemingly inexplicably efficient working methods are by no means the result of happy mutations. They use the following tips for maximum concentration and productivity.
Understanding the brain and learning to use it efficiently
Before I show you how you can concentrate better and increase your brain power, it is important that you understand how your brain works in thinking and remembering processes.
Every sensory perception (seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling) creates connections (synapses) between the neurons. The more emotional and frequent we have one and the same sensory perception, the more “stable” the connection is and the easier it is for us to remember.
If an activity is perceived as exciting and meaningful – i.e. very emotionally charged – the experiences and knowledge associated with it are better memorised. If you want to activate your brain power to the maximum, the activity must fill you with passion or at least make sense in your eyes. Conversely, tasks that are perceived as boring are the end of your concentration and memory.
Although it accounts for only 2 percent of our weight, it consumes 20 percent of our energy. Therefore, a sufficient supply of the right nutrients is essential for our brain performance, but later on.
The most important thing for better concentration is therefore an emotional connection to your activity. The problem: Even in the most dreamlike job, there are tasks that you don’t want to do. What helps then – and also with other rather unattractive tasks – is to have the big picture in mind. How does completing this task help you? Does it bring you closer to a goal? Manipulate your thoughts and draw positive out of everything! Your brain will reward you with better performance and more creativity.
Especially with unpleasant activities the pig dog and distractions often stand in the way.
Eliminate these concentration killers and increase your memory performance
- Distractions and interruptions: These include ringing/vibrating telephones & emails, interruptions by colleagues, noise, false music, a chaotic desk or poor planning.
- Low frustration tolerance: If you get frustrated quickly when something doesn’t work out right away, you quickly become unfocused & unproductive.
- Postponementitis/ Procrastination: There’s nothing easier than to push things around. Who lives true to the motto “what you can get today, postpone to tomorrow”, will not achieve much.
- Multitasking: Numerous studies have shown that the brain cannot multitask. If you want to do several things at the same time, you will need more time than if you had done it one after the other.
- Health Problems & Stress: Anyone who is not fit in terms of health or suffers from psychological stress due to constant overload will find it difficult to focus on their tasks.
- Emotional problems: Grief & emotional dissatisfaction do not let you work productively and concentrated.
If you catch yourself being often unfocused, don’t judge yourself for it. Instead, go to cause research and try to eliminate your concentration disrupters step by step. You will see that you can concentrate better after a short time and get more out of your to-do’s!
Now I will show you which adjusting screws you can turn to increase your brain power and to be able to concentrate better.
6 concentration boosters
1. Better concentration through intrinsic motivation
As already mentioned with the concentration blockades, you will only be able to concentrate poorly without self-motivation. Now there are tasks that are really not fun or do not make sense in your eyes. I know that!
The solution here is to keep the goal in mind. What awaits you when you have made it? Is it an important part to reach a higher goal? The sooner you have completed the task, the sooner you can dedicate yourself to the part of your work that you enjoy.
Another way is to reward yourself for completing these tasks. If, for example, I have to spend hours helping out in accounting, although I would much rather research and work on exciting texts like these, then I reward myself with an active break in the fresh air and a delicious snack from my favourite café.
The thought of my reward gives me a good mood and time flies by. In addition I make fewer mistakes by my better concentration, which would hold me only still longer at the unpleasant work.
2. Eliminate distractions & concentrate better
Do you immediately reach for your cell phone when it vibrates? Do you have a radio or television on the side? Are you a hardcore Facebook user or do you respond instantly to every push message? You should definitely change that!
Every distraction doubles your error rate and you need considerably more time, because your brain has to work its way back to the last step of the concentration phase. In short: you think some thoughts twice, if you let yourself be distracted
Here’s just a list of how you can eliminate all your distractions to help you concentrate and brain power and save a lot of time:
- Prioritize your tasks and organize your daily routine. Create time slots in which you can really concentrate on just one task.
- Go to a quiet place where no mobile phone can ring and no colleagues can bother you. This place should be tidy and you should feel comfortable. Why tidy? We all know that when unpleasant work is on the agenda, we even prefer to clean up.
- Switch off push notifications through team chats and e-mails for your concentration phases.
- Even the wrong music can distract you. Music can lift your spirits, but if you prefer to sing and dance along, it’s definitely the wrong music. But there is music that is supposed to increase your brain power and concentration in a certain beat and a certain pitch.
- Switch your phone to mute or put it far away so you won’t be tempted by push messages.3.
3. Better concentrate with these productivity techniques
Create a learning place without possibilities of distraction and work e.g. according to the very effective Pomodoro technique: Work 25 minutes concentrated on a task and then take 5 minutes break. Repeat the whole thing 4 times and then take a longer break of 20 minutes.
The productivity technique that helps me the most to eliminate distractions and concentrate better is “Getting Things Done”. Essentially, it’s about keeping all your tasks and thoughts in a to-do list, prioritizing them accordingly and setting deadlines. The free tool Trello, for example, is perfectly suited for this.
But also the simple Google calendar with reminder function or a sheet of paper do it. This method clears your mind and enables full concentration and creativity. Remembering now takes over your to-do list.
4. Better concentration with the right lifestyle
Pain due to unhealthy and one-sided posture or overexertion, as well as a lack of nutrients due to incorrect or inadequate nutrition are the number one concentration and motivation killers.
Note: You can only increase your brain power and concentration if your body lacks nothing!
In addition to regular pauses in movement (which, by the way, are proven to promote concentration through better circulation), it is especially important that your workplace is ergonomically designed to prevent back pain while sitting or other tensions. In the following illustration you can see how you can optimally design your workplace.
5. Increase brain performance through brain doping?
According to studies, every 5th student takes performance-enhancing drugs in the form of medication, drugs such as Ritalin and other unhealthy stimulants.
These frightening results are the result of the growing fast-paced nature of life and the increasing demands and burdens we place on ourselves. But is short-term success justified in the form of more energy and alertness, the long-term risks of high blood pressure and tachycardia, psychosis and insomnia?
No! And some startups have already recognized this and rely on healthy and above all natural ingredients.
6. Increase brain power through pauses & relaxation
All the right preparation and a healthy diet won’t do you any good if you don’t give your head regular breaks. Every 10th employee does not take time for breaks. But who gives however regularly full throttle, risks a total loss. Today we call this burnout. Take a break so that it doesn’t happen, and do it regularly!
At best, you actively shape them and go for a walk. This frees your mind and stimulates your metabolism. For example, I never try to work longer than 50 minutes at a time. Then I take a short break, have a drink, mobilize my spine with gymnastics and go on. Learn how to take a proper break and thus achieve more serenity and relaxation.
You should also look for a balance after the work is done. For example, read a book, meet up with friends or go to sports. Above all, regular sport helps against back pain. This is important to be able to switch off and not take the work stress home with you.
The excuse that you’re too broken doesn’t bother your body or your psyche. Even a 10-minute intensive workout is enough. And I promise you that you will feel great afterwards. Don’t worry, it was also a huge overcoming for me in the beginning.
Last but not least, our sleep decides whether we are exhausted or full of energy. Therefore it is important to sleep sufficiently and deeply. How does that work? Quite simply:
- Sleep hygiene: Everything that has nothing to do with sleeping does not belong in your bedroom. Eating in bed and watching TV may sound comfortable, but it damages your sleep.
- Bedroom temperature: The optimum temperature is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius, depending on your sensation of warmth. It is equally important to ventilate well at least before sleeping. The humidity should be between 45 and 65 %.
- Manage liquid: After 16 o’clock one should do without caffeine and alcohol, because it stimulates too much. Herbal teas or a warm milk with honey are better. Both promote your relaxation.
- The right food: Optimally you eat the last time 3h before going to bed. If this period is not possible for you, at least avoid hard to digest foods such as wholemeal bread, fruit and salads.
- Sufficient exercise: Shortly before going to bed you should not do an intensive sports program, otherwise your body will not rest. But that’s no excuse for no exercise at all. Especially if you spend the whole day sitting in the office, you should be demanding your body before or after work.
- Positive distraction: Most sleepless nights are caused by pondering and stress. Ensure positive distraction before bedtime. For example, I like to read a few pages or keep busy with my pets.
- Avoid light: Our nervous system reacts very sensitively to blue light and we wake up. Blue light is in some lamps, mobile phones, laptops and TVs. If you can’t get away from your mobile phone in the evening, your inner clock will get out of sync.