Why Can’t I Focus? These 10 Unexpected Habits Could Be Affecting Your Ability To Concentrate

There are a lot of specific traits and habits that lead to success, but one of the most important is one's ability to focus and concentrate on a task at hand. Being able to focus your mind on accomplishing one thing allows you to finish the job strongly and efficiently, in a reasonable amount of time. You need that concentration to get through the points on your to-do list, even those you're dreading. Unfortunately, feeling that focused is extremely difficult for most people, and today's technology, where everything is constantly at your fingertips, doesn't exactly help things. Neither do some unexpected habits you're probably taking part in that are affecting your ability to sit down, focus, and get stuff done.

You probably already have an idea of some common habits that make it harder to get work done: you've heard that not getting enough sleep can mess up your productivity big time, you know that worrying and feeling anxious over every little thing can also take your mind away from the more important stuff, and you're aware that not being organized and clean can make things much more difficult than they need to be. You're also probably definitely aware that social media can make it feel nearly impossible to pay attention to one thing at a time — when Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are available to you 24/7, it's hard to get rid of that curiosity to check them constantly.

But there are other things you're doing every day that could be messing with your concentration, even if you don't realize it. In fact, you may be doing these things assuming that you're actually helping yourself stay on top of your work. Below are a few habits that make it harder for you to focus. While you won't always be able to eliminate them, you can work on partaking in them less often.

1Multi-tasking

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It's easy to assume that multi-tasking is actually helpful — if done right, you can get a few important things done at once, which seems a lot more efficient. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. Multi-tasking is a lot harder than it seems, and research has actually found that only about two percent of the population can do it successfully. So, sorry to say this, but your chances of being one of those people are pretty slim.

Multi-tasking actually divides your attention and focus a little too much, making it easier for you to make mistakes, feel more stressed, and feel less productive. Maybe you'll get three things crossed off your to-do list, but they probably won't be done to the best of their ability, and it will leave you feeling drained. Instead of trying to be a superhero with your to-do list, just focus all of your energy and attention on one task at a time. It may take up more time, but it's worth it for a job well done.

2Going Through Your Emails

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One would assume that checking your email throughout the day would only help productivity. One would be wrong! Actually, constantly looking at your email can be just as distracting as constantly looking at social media. When you're trying to focus on getting one thing done, and a little notification pops up on your screen to show you have an email, you immediately start to focus more on that email than the task at hand. Then you either abandon the task for a few moments or longer — and your focus is destroyed.

If you want to improve your focus, turn off email notifications and dedicate a specific amount of time to focusing on just one task. When that time is up, you can then go into your email and check it out.

3Starting With Your Easier Tasks

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When putting together a to-do list for the day, physically or mentally, what do you want to get done first? Many people start with the easier tasks, assuming it will allow them to put more attention and focus on the more important things once the little stuff is out of the way. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way.

Studies have found that your will power to get everything done decreases over time. That basically means that by the time you're done with the little tasks, your brain is ready to start turning off. You're more likely to feel way less motivated to get the important stuff done, and you'll probably seriously struggle with focusing. So, always start your to-do list with the biggest, most important tasks, and end with the smaller ones.

4Going Into A Lot Of Work Meetings

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Meetings are supposed to keep employees motivated and help their workflow... right? I'm not sure, to be honest, but I do know that a lot of meetings often make it harder for employees to focus their attention on getting their work done. Meetings are a distraction, plain and simple. Sure, sometimes they're necessary, but for the most part, they take up valuable time and keep employees from actually getting their work done. Plus, when you're in a meeting, you can easily get distracted from your to-do list and find other things you need to get done. Eliminating meetings isn't always in your control, unfortunately, but you can learn how to work around it.

5Complaining About Little Things

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Feeling super negative? Then you're probably going to have a really tough time focusing on what needs to get done. According to Psychology Today, "anger and frustration require significant processing power and enable ineffective complaints to become a regular drain on our brainpower." Instead of complaining about small things, like cold weather or the fact that your office chair is uncomfortable, try to just focus on what needs to get done.

6Skipping The Gym

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Maybe you decided to skip out on working out... every day for the last few months. Exercise isn't only about losing weight, it's also about being healthy inside and out. Working out on a fairly regular basis can help you be more productive and focused. Research has found that three months of aerobic exercise helped the brain create new neurons, which can increase and strengthen concentration levels. You don't need to go to an hour long cardio class every day, but try to make time for a long walk, at least. Yes, it takes time out of the day, but in the end, it helps you focus better.

7Sitting In Poor Lighting

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Having trouble getting things done no matter what? It could be the environment you're in. It's no surprise that a noisy atmosphere is going to prevent you from feeling super focused, but another thing that can hurt your concentration is poor lighting. Bad lighting will make you strain your eyes, which can be stressful and distracting, and will also make you feel more sleepy. If you can't improve the lighting in your office, try to sit near a window to soak up some external lighting, or at least take a quick walk outside to re-energize yourself.

8Working Completely On Your Own

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When you really need to get something done, your instinct might be to isolate yourself and stay away from everyone and everything. This might work for some people, but a lot of people find that working with others can be more helpful. This is especially true if you're in more of a leadership role — isolating yourself as a leader can mess with your ability to keep track of workflow.

9Too Much Down Time

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You may have heard that you need to take short breaks in order to keep your attention focused and strong. That's true, but there's definitely a line between a short break and way too many breaks. If you have too much down time, you're going to get bored, which can make you feel more tired and less motivated. Instead, make your breaks more intellectually stimulating, like playing a fun game that still requires your brain.

10Drinking Too Much Coffee

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If you're like me, you probably feel that you need coffee in order to get through the day, let alone focus on one task. According to Forbes, "Overconsumption of caffeine can cause anxiety, jitters, and nervousness. It can also cause an inability to focus, digestive discomfort, insomnia, and irritability." A small amount of coffee won't hurt, and can actually help, so stop guzzling down six mugs before the afternoon is here.