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6 Top Concentration Killers

Straying from the task at hand? Here's how to regain your focus.
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4. Electronic Interruptions

"It’s easy to fall into aiding and abetting in your own distraction by checking your email all the time," Kegan says. "If you’re trying to concentrate, you can lose your train of thought every time you hear 'You’ve got mail'."

We often feel like we need to respond to an email, text, instant message, or voice mail as soon as it’s received. But Palladino suggests drawing some lines so you’re not letting technology control you.

Carve out blocks of time when you can focus on your work without electronic interruptions. Try checking your email at set times each day (rather than constantly), and close your email program the rest of the time.

It may also help to change location. Take your laptop to a spot where you know you won’t have wireless access to the Web for a few hours, for example.

5. Fatigue

Many studies show that loss of sleep impairs attention, short-term memory, and other mental functions. "Your attention falls apart when you’re sleep deprived," Baime says. Sleep needs vary, but most adults do best with seven to nine hours of nightly sleep. Getting at least seven hours of sleep will go a long way toward improving your focus during the day.

Also, try scheduling tasks that need more concentration during the times of day when you’re feeling the most alert. "Pay attention to your own biorhythms," Kegan says, "and learn which times of day you work best."

6. Drug Side Effects and Other Medical Issues

If your concentration problems hamper your ability to function at work or at home, or if you’re also noticing a physical symptom like weight gain or insomnia, tell your doctor. Poor concentration can stem from conditions such as ADHD, sleep apnea, depression, anemia, or thyroid disease. Certain medications, such as those used to treat depression, epilepsy, or influenza (flu) infections, may cause concentration difficulties as a side effect, as well.

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Reviewed on August 28, 2011
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