Too Distracted? by Fern Weis

10 Tips for Improving Focus and Concentration

Parents are increasingly concerned that they and their children, from toddlers to teens, are losing the ability to focus and stay on task (except when it comes to video games). It doesn’t mean that you all have ADHD, although some may. There are many other causes:

  • inadequate sleep

  • boredom

  • too many distractions

  • focusing on weaknesses

  • hunger

  • poor food choices

  • keeping lists in your head

  • lack of routines

  • doing too much at once

There is no cure for all of these concentration busters. Let’s address the ones we can.

1) Get a good night’s sleep… or the best you can. Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before you turn out your light. Read instead of watching TV. Have that warm glass of milk. (Heating it releases the sugars which produce insulin, which makes you sleepy.) 2) If you’re keeping your to-do lists in your head… don’t. It’s time to write them down. If you forget what you wanted to say because you didn’t want to interrupt, jot down a key word or phrase.

3) Map it out, or use a graphic organizer. With so many appointments and errands, you may forget something. “A study in the journal Science found that the human brain can handle two complicated tasks simultaneously. Add a third, though, and the brain can’t keep up… Map out your day, including errands,” just like a road map. Create an ‘order of operations’ so you can see where you need to be, and when. (Quoted from

4) Create the right environment for you. Some of you need complete silence to work; others need the sound of background music or quiet chatter.

5) Prioritize your tasks. Look at your list. What needs immediate attention, and what can wait? Is it better for you to schedule the tough stuff first, or last?

6) Chunk it down. Many people go into overwhelm because the task is too big. Break it down into smaller pieces. Not only will it help you stay focused and organized, it will also give you a sense of satisfaction when you have completed each step.

7) Take a break. When you are bored, you’re more easily distracted. Plan a break: walk around the room, stretch, dance, get a glass of water. Besides, your brain actually needs a break in order to work more efficiently. It’s called a ‘state change’ and you should have one at least every 30-45 minutes.

8) Avoid fats and simple sugars. Sugar may give you a bit of energy, and then it puts you to sleep. Fatty foods will also drag you down. You don’t need me to list out the better choices. Just choose them instead.

9) Focus on your strengths. It is said that you create more of what you focus on. If you only think about why you can’t accomplish something, you create a mindset that prevents you from succeeding. Think about your strengths. When you had similar challenges, how did you get through them? Use those mindsets and strategies to be productive now.

10) Go outside and play, walk, garden, rake leaves or shovel snow. Your body and brain crave movement and fresh air, so take them outside.

You don’t have to do everything on the list; however, choosing just one and sticking with it can change your focus, outlook, productivity and patience.

Remember, nothing changes until you do. What will you change today?

~Fern Weis, Certified Coach and Middle School Teacher, helps parents break down the walls their teens put up, so they can have a great relationship and better prepare their kids for success in college and beyond. Learn how Fern can help you with your parenting concerns through coaching, classes and workshops at Your Family Matters.