It's the quintessential problem of the modern world -- too much information has fried our brains. With constant pings and push notifications coming at us day and night, it's hard not only to decide what to concentrate on, but even to sustain focus once you decide where to turn your attention.
And because pretty much everyone living in the modern world suffers from this problem, there's no shortage of solutions on offer. Meditation is one extremely popular prescription. Others suggest various forms of "digital detox" or "digital sabbath" to refresh your brain.
But you've already heard of these solutions. If they were going to work for you, you'd probably already have implemented them. Maybe you need something different. If so, a handful of recent posts on boosting concentration are for you. They offer a handful of offbeat (if not sometimes outright wacky-sounding) suggestions for improving focus that you can try if the usual prescriptions haven't yet cured you.
1. Use tech to block tech.
Tech might be the root of the problem, but it could also be the solution. "If you've found that technology is your biggest time waster, then fight it--with the right software," suggests Paul David Lozano on blog Dumb Little Man. Not sure what tech tool to use? Here's a list of suggestions.
2. Try a distraction list.
Not everyone will require a high-tech solution to their focus problems, Lozano notes. Often the best cure is a simple text file.
"Sometimes you will get distracted by a thought that disrupts your focus," he writes. When this happens, create a distraction list. "Just create a new text file. Not in Evernote. Not a Word document. A text file. Now, rename it to 'Distraction list'. After doing so, place it in your desktop," he explains.
Whenever a stray thought intrudes and breaks your concentration, add it to your list. Usually it won't come back. Other experts note that various forms of journaling or free form writing can clear your brain in a similar way.
3. Eat dark chocolate.
No, this idea isn't just wishful thinking. Science really does say that dark chocolate can increase concentration (and is also the perfect antidote to the afternoon slump).
"Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way. It can increase brain characteristics of attention," commented professor Larry Stevens, who conducted research into the focus-boosting effects of this tasty snack.
4. Count your breathe.
If you don't have a bar of chocolate handy, you can always opt for another science-backed intervention -- all you need is a pair of lungs. "A short breathing exercise is enough to refocus the minds of highly distracted people, new research finds," PsyBlog reports. "The mindfulness task simply involved counting groups of nine breaths: nine inhales and nine exhales." This simple intervention boosted participants' scores on a test of attention, the study found.
5. Repaint your office.
If you have control of your office's decor, simply opting for a new paint job could also help you and your team concentrate more easily, PsyBlog also notes, reporting on another new study. "Brightly colored rooms can boost your concentration," reports the site. "This is because people perform at their best when somewhat stimulated. Too much and too little stimulation, though, tends to make people's performance worse."
If you're curious, the research focused on red and yellow rooms, so feel free to banish the beige if you're looking to improve your focus.
6. Learn a foreign language.
Finally, PsyBlog suggests that even a little time spent trying to master a foreign language can increase your capacity to focus on tasks of all types. And, no you don't need to kill yourself trying to achieve near native levels of fluency.
"Mental agility can be increased by even a relatively small amount of language learning. After only a week of study, students show improved attention skills," says the site. "Language learners were better able to switch their attention and filter out irrelevant details."
Do you know of any other unexpected but effective ways to increase focus?