Do you struggle to concentrate? Most of us do from time-to-time, but for some of us, it feels like our thoughts are made of marshmallow all the time. This is not a good state-of-mind for playing the online casinos. You need your wits about you, especially with fast-paced games, e.g., bingo, or tactical games, e.g., baccarat.
Lack of concentration is one of the biggest reasons that I make silly mistakes when I gamble. And it’s not just gambling where I lose concentration.
I once found an uneaten sandwich in my kitchen cupboard that I’d made earlier. Because I was being lazy, when I’d finished making the sandwich, I’d opened the cupboard door, but instead of taking a plate out, I’d put my sandwich straight on the plate when it was still in the cupboard, thereby cutting out the extra step of taking the plate out and then putting the sandwich on it. Don’t ask me why; it just seemed easier to put the sandwich on the plate while the plate was still in the cupboard.
But something about the process made me have a brain fart and I put the sandwich on the plate, slammed the cupboard door shut and walked off. I walked off slightly dazed as if something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was – the act of closing the door slammed that sandwich right out of my thoughts. It wasn’t until about an hour later that I went back to the kitchen to get a drink, opened the cupboard and found my sandwich. That was a weird time.
I’m sure you have your own stories about how you struggle to concentrate. Fortunately, some things can help. Here are some of my favourite techniques:
Are you easily distracted? I am. The slightest noise can knock me straight out of focus. If there’s a TV on, I’m listening to music, or there are noisy people about, I can end up reading the same sentence in a textbook upwards of 20x and still not understand what the heck it’s trying to tell me.
Honestly, sometimes the words are just gobbledygook and I think to myself, “This was Maths a second ago; why are all the words in hieroglyphics? What flavour tea was that?”
I need to block those distracting sounds out, or I’ll be sitting for hours trying to work out what 2 + 2 is.
Oh yes. A lot of places will tell you to buy foam earplugs, but those places don’t know about Flare Audio. They sell a range of earplugs, and they’re so good that I’ve bought 3 pairs. I have the Isolate Minis for when I need to concentrate, the Sleep Pro for sleep, and the Calmer for when I have to go somewhere busy (I hate background noise and they dampen it without blocking speech).
The only downside I find with them is that you need to buy the foam ends every month or two. It can get a bit expensive, but I think it’s worth it.
Download a Screen Time Tracker
If you spend a lot of time online…Oh, who are we kidding…of course you spend a lot of time online. We’re all addicted to the internet because people designed it that way. Infinite scrolling basically hooks people in the same way that slot machines do.
If you haven’t already, you have to download a screen time tracker to your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop. The apps are available on iOS, Android, and Windows, so there’s no excuse not to (maybe if you use Linux, but I don’t know anything about that). These apps will send you a notification at the end of the day telling you how much time you’ve spent online and on which sites you’ve spent that time.
When your app says, “You’ve spent 12-hours on Reddit today”, it’s definitely embarrassing enough to shock you out of that mindless internet use. It makes you feel like a digital hobo or something.
Spending all day online is bad for your brain. I’m sure that I can feel my attention span shrinking the longer I spend online, and if I’m online for more than an hour at a time, my thinking definitely becomes a bit foggy, like I’m looking at the world through syrup.
The apps are great for shaming you out of that behaviour, and consequently, help to improve your concentration levels.
No one needs to spend 5+ hours online a day.
Kitchen Timer (Pomodoro Technique)
Did your mum use a kitchen timer that looks like a tomato? Mine did, and it’s called a Pomodoro, which means “tomato” in Italian. Anyway, that’s irrelevant. What matters is that you can use a kitchen timer to help you concentrate.
Many studies show that people concentrate best in short bursts followed by short breaks.
The idea is to block out all distractions for 25-minutes. To do this, you use your kitchen timer and set it to 25-minutes. You switch your phone to flight mode, switch the TV off, put the puppy outside 🙁 You get a notebook and pen to jot down thoughts that pop in during your concentration-time that you’re finding hard to ignore, e.g., you suddenly remember you need to check emails, take the bins out, or clean the toe jam from under your nail. It’s as if brains have a way of making you feel that everything’s urgent – any excuse not to work hard. The notebook stops you from being dragged away from your task.
At the end of 25-minutes, give yourself a 5-minute break to do whatever you want. Look at your phone, look at your notebook to see if there’s anything on there you want to do (suddenly, you’ll find that toe jam isn’t the important task it seemed to be when you wrote it down).
If you’re in the zone and want to work longer than 25-minutes, you can, but don’t work for more than 60-minutes without a break.
We call this technique the “Pomodoro technique” and it works. People who struggle to concentrate find that they are much more productive when they use it. This often takes people by surprise because they’re allowed to take regular breaks, and that feels counter-productive. It’s not. Brains need downtime to process what they’re doing.
A “To-Do” List
A “To-Do” list will help improve concentration, but you have to use them in the right way. You need to remember three rules:
- List items as processes and not products. E.g., if you have to read a chapter of a poker strategy textbook, do not put “Read chapter 1” on your To-Do list. Instead, write “Read poker strategy book for one hour” (the time you want to read for is up to you, but break it up using the Pomodoro technique). By doing this, you take the pressure off. This helps you to concentrate better. You focus on the process (reading) not the product (reading an entire chapter).
- Write the list the night before and read it before bedtime. This gives your thoughts time to process overnight. You’re effectively programming your brain to prime itself for the tasks it will have to do tomorrow.
- Don’t add too many things to your list. You should aim to have no more than 5 items on the list. As long as you focus on process and not product, you won’t fail to complete a task because the only completion is the amount of time you spend on it, not whether you finish the task or not.
You can learn more about these techniques from Coursera’s Learning How to Learn. It’s excellent and helps A LOT if you struggle to concentrate.
Try to Be Healthy
Many problems with concentration are due to lifestyle choices. I don’t want to preach too much, but eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, avoiding drama, getting enough exercise, and using relaxation techniques (e.g., mindfulness) will each improve your concentration. And, one of the most important things you can do is to get out in nature. Even if it’s just a walk through your local park, get out every day. Rain or shine, get outside at least once.
If you aren’t very healthy and you struggle to concentrate, then make these changes, but understand that it will take a few months to feel the benefits and upwards of a year to reap the full caboodle.
You’ll read articles telling you to take supplements like fish oil, caffeine, co-enzyme Q10, and Ginko Biloba, to buy fancy equipment, like giant amethyst stones, and to do all sorts of things to help you concentrate. But, actually, the answer is usually simple and it rests in the things I outlined above.
One of the reasons why people don’t like to follow the above advice is because it takes time to implement the habits. Naturally, you’d want to take a pill if it offered you a quick fix, but concentration problems often take time to fix. The above advice actually works, but it’s a long-term game.
It’s an example of the age-old human plight illustrated in Aesop’s, The Hare and the Tortoise.