Health.com
August 22, 2017

You know the feeling all too well: Your to-do list is getting longer and you’re determined to check off the boxes, but you just can’t focus. There are tons of potential reasons why you can’t tackle a task, whether it’s a work assignment you need to start or a closet you’ve been meaning to clean out. In this video, we’ll run through why you can’t concentrate—and also provide some simple fixes. Ready to get things done?

One of the most common reasons why people have trouble focusing is because they’re often running on empty. Maybe they’re too tired or too hungry to accomplish what they need to, or they’re not eating the right foods to stay healthy, energized, and productive. For example, too much alcohol or sugar can mess with motivation. Stress, strong emotions, and a lack of interest in the task at hand can also impede focus.

RELATED: 15 Signs You May Have Adult ADHD 

Luckily, the saying “practice makes perfect” applies to concentration too. That is, focus can be improved with training such as meditation. The mindful practice has been shown to sharpen focus both in the short and long term. While you’re at it, try getting an adequate amount of sleep each night and staying away from distractions like TV, social media, and loud noises, all of which can cause your mind to wander. 

If you have a specific task to complete, write out a detailed plan of how you will get it done, scheduling regular breaks to let your brain reset before returning to work. For example, rest for five minutes every time you do 25 minutes of work. Listening to soft, instrumental music may also help quiet your mind and drown out other sounds around you. 

Still struggling to focus? Talk to your doctor if your inability to concentrate is affecting your everyday life. Conditions like ADHD don’t depend on situational factors and tend to be persistent, so they may require cognitive retraining or medication.