10 Concentration Killers

Why can’t I concentrate and focus? Loss of focus can happen for many reasons. They include mental and physical health problems, stress, the use of some medications, and a lack of sleep or and inadequate diet.

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Your Cell Phone

1/10

woman sitting on sofa while looking at phone with laptop on lap
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Perhaps even more disruptive than the ping of an email is the ringtone on your cell phone. It’s a sound few of us can ignore. But taking a call not only costs you the time you spend talking — it can also cut off your momentum on the task at hand.

Multitasking

2/10

mother carrying her baby while working from home
Photo by William Fortunato

If you’ve mastered the art of multitasking, you probably feel you’re getting more done in less time. Think again, experts say. Research suggests you lose time whenever you shift your attention from one task to another. The end result is that doing three projects simultaneously usually takes longer than doing them one after the other.

Boredom

3/10

man wearing pink crew neck shirt
Photo by Maria Geller

Some of the tasks we have to do each day are more interesting than others. The boring ones may burn through your attention span in minutes, making you extremely vulnerable to distractions. Your phone, the Internet, even the prospect of dusting your workspace can seem tempting if you’re bored.

Nagging Thoughts

4/10

depressed woman sitting by the window
Photo by MART PRODUCTION

It’s hard to focus on the work in front of you if you’re worrying about errands you need to run or housework to be done. Or perhaps you’re hung up on a conversation you had yesterday, and you keep replaying it in your mind. Nagging thoughts of any sort can be a powerful distraction.

Stress

5/10

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench
Photo by Inzmam Khan

When you feel like you have too much on your plate, it can be hard to focus on individual tasks. To make matters worse, stress takes a noticeable toll on the body. You may develop tight shoulders, headaches, or a racing heart, all of which can chip away at your ability to concentrate.

Fatigue

6/10

man in green jacket leaning head on blue case
Photo by Marcelo Chagas

Fatigue can make it tough to concentrate, even when you have few distractions. Studies suggest too little sleep can sap your attention span and short-term memory

Hunger

7/10

city man person people
Photo by Pixabay

The brain can’t focus without fuel, so skipping meals — especially breakfast —  is a top concentration killer. Research indicates short-term memory and attention suffer when you rise and shine but do not dine.

Depression

8/10

greyscale photography of woman wearing long sleeved top
Photo by Kat Smith

Most people tend to think of sadness as the hallmark of depression. But the National Institute of Mental Health says difficulty concentrating is one of the most common symptoms. If you’re having trouble focusing, and you also feel empty, hopeless, or indifferent, you may be experiencing depression.

Email Overload

9/10

serious ethnic young woman using laptop at home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

There’s something about an email — it shoots into your inbox and itches to be answered immediately. Although many emails are work-related, they still count as distractions from your current project. You won’t make much progress if you constantly stop what you’re doing to reply to every message.

Social Media

10/10

person holding iphone showing social networks folder
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc

Whether you’re living with ADHD or just have trouble focusing from time to time, today’s world is full of concentration killers. Psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD offers a few tips to manage distractions, starting with social media. It’s easy to connect with friends — and disconnect from work — many times an hour. Every status update zaps your train of thought, forcing you to backtrack when you resume work.

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