We are surrounded by a culture of quick-fixes that rarely work.
The U.S. is a pill-popping Band-Aid solution-driven nation that sustains long-term suffering for the sake of economic exploitation. But I don't have to be a broken record--you know that already.
On some level you have the awareness that the first commercial after Shark Tank is a new anti-depressant medication, beer commercials rule the weekend sporting events, and neither of those two things eliminate unhappiness.
Similarly, you've been told that if you have difficulty concentrating at work you should consider substantial doses of coffee or meth-like medication for your undiagnosed ADHD. I implore you to travel beyond these surface-level ideas and start investigating the underlying causes of your concentration challenges.
Instead of overdosing on caffeine or popping pills, make sure that you have these five things first:
1. Mental and emotional wellbeing, which is the foundation of concentration and attention.
Adding a nitrous oxide system to a beige 1992 Honda Accord makes no sense whatsoever--it's not sustainable and chances are it'll make things even worse than before.
Adding stimulants and other chemicals into the mix without first addressing what's already present in your mental and emotional life will not fix the problem. Like a spare tire, they offer a temporary solution and can buy a little more time before you visit a mechanic.
People often think that concentration problems are due to ADHD, but the truth is, concentration and attention can be disrupted by many things, including anxiety and depression. Start taking your mental health seriously and your focus will improve drastically.
2. Excellent sleep hygiene.
Sleep and focusing go hand in hand. Don't believe me? Prevent yourself from sleeping and then see how well you can concentrate.
Now that you're an adult, it's important to prioritize your sleep and develop good sleep hygiene. Stop staring at your phone before going to bed and start giving yourself more time to unwind at the end of the day.
Instead of going to bed and waking up at different times, try to stay on a consistent sleep wake schedule. When you train your body to sleep and wake at the same times each day, it synchronizes your circadian rhythms and creates higher levels of energy throughout the day.
3. An adequate social life that doesn't just entail binging on Netflix.
Whether you're an introvert or extravert, it's important to schedule time to socialize with other real people. Streaming services make it less likely to leave your house, and while that can be fun and a good way to refuel, getting out of your room is a good idea.
Instead of sitting at work scrolling social media to maintain the illusion that you actually have a social life, get out there on the weekends and be mentally engaged while at work.
4. Adequate nutrition and an optimal level of physical activity.
As someone who used to carry a gallon water jug around with me, most people know that I take hydration seriously--and you should too!
Start keeping track of how much water you drink each day and make sure you're staying hydrated. Dehydration zaps your ability to stay zoned in on what's important.
Similarly, make sure that you're exercising on a regular basis. Because many jobs in the US now involve sitting for long periods of time, you have to be even more proactive about taking small breaks to stand and move around.
Our bodies aren't meant to sit for so many hours each day, and this type of sedentary lifestyle not only leads to health problems down the road, it also depletes energy levels and decreases your ability to pay attention right now.
5. A regular meditation practice, which teaches the brain how to focus.
Without regurgitating all of the researched-backed benefits of regular meditation, I'll just say this: with as little as 10 minutes each day, I guarantee that you'll see significant results from consistent meditation.
Each time you return your mind from a thought to your object of focus, like the breath, you are doing a meditation repetition. It's unrealistic for most people to sit in a state of thoughtless awareness, but it's completely realistic for everyone to practice meditation repetitions.
Like lifting weights, practicing non-attachment to thoughts and feelings teaches you how to develop laser-sharp focus, which comes in handy to flex at work.
Sure, none of these things will improve your concentration as much as a legal amphetamine or large amounts of other stimulants, which is why the legal drug market is so lucrative and all offices have coffee machines.
However, with time and consistent practice these habits will lead to better long-term health outcomes and improved long-term performance.
Invest in your future and stop playing the short-term game.