4 surprising reasons you can’t concentrate (& what to do about it)

As organizational experts, we hear it all the time, “I feel like I have A.D.D.”

People who can’t seem to focus on their projects casually dismiss their vulnerability to distraction as a likely chemical imbalance. But that’s not very likely, as statistics have shown that only around 4.4 percent of adults in the U.S. have some form of ADHD. In most cases the answer is a lot simpler than a neuro-biological disorder. Shockingly, the most common cause of an inability to concentrate is deceptively simple—an unhealthy lifestyle.

As it turns out, the advice physicians have giving us all our lives are the very same things that help us concentrate. As Dr. Jerome Schultz, a neuropsychologist on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and author of Nowhere to Hide: Why Kids with ADHD and LD Hate School and What We Can Do About It, stated simply, “The brain is a neurological organism that needs rest, food, water and exercise. to stay healthy and function well. If it doesn’t have one or more of these things, it just can’t work up to capacity.”

While some folks have a genetically, biologically based condition called ADHD, which may be improved by a combination of therapy and medication, everyone can improve their brain function and attention by eating healthier, going to bed early, drinking water, and moving our bodies —all things over which we have control.
The road to a healthy lifestyle is not easy, but there are a few things you can do to get started on your path to better focus and concentration.

5 Strategies for Improving Your Focus

1. Set an alarm that signals that it’s time to head to bed.


If I have an Achilles heel, it is going to bed far, far too late. As a working mom, I frequently “time-shift” my days so that I can be present with my family from 5-8pm. Often my work stretches from 8pm until at least midnight, often later. My husband has the same tendencies. So recently, we’ve been trying a new trick. Instead of setting internal reminders, we picked a reasonable time (10:30pm), set an alarm to that time, and once it goes off, we shut down our computers and hit the hay. {cool iPhone alarm dock via: Cool Material}

I can attest that the ringing of the alarm serves as a tangible, rather loud, reminder for you to drop what you are doing and head to sleep. Just make sure that you actually head to bed when the alarm rings, rather than hitting snooze and continuing to work or watch TV.

2. Plan-out a healthy menu a week at a time.


Rather than planning a meal on an empty stomach, do it a week in advance. Your meals will be healthier, and you can save yourself the headache of meal-planning during a busy weekday. Moreover, you are more likely to stick to your healthy diet plan when it is written down. I have personally made this shift, going from frozen-dinner queen to healthy weeknight chef, so I promise, it can be done. The key is planning.

To help you on your way, download a free weekly menu planning tool from our Free Tools & Downloads section.

3. Cut healthy snacks on Sunday evening.


Preparation is the key to success. When you cut healthy snacks in advance, you gear yourself up for eating those between meals, rather than grabbing the nearest greasy snack food available. Eating healthy snacks will also prevent you from getting too hungry, and overeating later. {image via: six in the northwest}

4. Take a 30-minute walk before or after dinner.


Walking, before a meal not only serves as great exercise, it compels you to eat less and eat healthier. The endorphins released during the walk may even make you happier. If you still need more convincing, this video explaining why 30 minutes of walking is a must-watch.

5. Keep a water bottle at your desk.


The importance of hydration can’t be stressed enough. The body is about 60 percent water and when dehydrated, you don’t have enough to function normally. Water removes toxins from vital organs and without it, you lose concentration, feel tired, and may end up with a painful headache.

If you are easily distracted, what do you think is the cause in your case?