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10 Ways To Improve Your Focus And Concentration

The critical mental performance skills of concentration and focus are invaluable to former and current athletes. I bet you can probably think of a time in your life where you made a mistake, on or off the field, due to lack of focus or concentration.

Where attention goes, energy flows.  

As you usher in 2018, remember to practice and build the neuro associations necessary for mastering your mind. Consistent performance is the product of consistent focus!

Use the strategies below to harness the power of your mind and attention.

Where attention goes, energy flows.


#1 Use Self-Talk

Self-talk can help to enhance concentration. Positive and instructional self-talk helps you stay grounded and focused in and on the present moment.


#2 Cue Words

Cue words are a form of self-talk that are used to trigger a response. Cue words are especially useful when you are trying to vary or change a movement pattern. For instance, a volleyball player might use the cue words, loaded and balanced, to remind them to wait to react to the attackers on the opposite side of the net.


#3 Present Moment Awareness

Athletes tend to lose their concentration when they pay attention to events and experiences that are in the future, in the past, out of their control, or otherwise irrelevant to the task. Strategies to stay on the now include: focus on your breath, use a mantra, focus on your inner body, become hyperaware of your environment, and surrender to the emotion you are feeling


#4 Establish Routine

Routines can be used before and during an event to focus attention, reduce anxiety, eliminate distractions, and enhance confidence. Routines can help structure the time before the performance and between performances so you can stay mentally focused when it comes time to perform.


#5 Take Attention Breaks

Your mind needs time to rest and regenerate. You can strategically use breaks when practicing a skill or getting any type of work done. Schedule and give your mind a time and place to wander. Start by using intervals. It’s up to you how to break this time up, but here are some suggestions. Work or practice hard for 20 minutes, then break for 5 minutes. Work or practice for 50 minutes, then break for 10 minutes; this is also known as the Pomodoro Method.


#6 Develop A Competition Focus Plan

Athletes can develop competition plans to not only prepare for their events, but also prepare for what they would do in different situations. Plans should focus on process goals rather than outcome goals. Detailed competition plans and rehearsal help you have more confidence as well as perform better. 


#7 Overlearn

Overlearning skills help them to become automatic. Research has shown that overlearning facilitates the simultaneous performance of more than one task by enabling you to free up your attention to concentrate on other practice/game/work relevant stimuli.


#8 Meditate

Begin and sustain a daily mediation practice that works to enhance your ability to be still, focus on different stimuli, and be in a state of observation. You can do this in as little as 2 minutes and gradually work up to more time when able or desired. Mediation has been scientifically proven to increase immune function, happiness, self-control, ability to concentrate, and regulate emotions.


#9 Narrow (Or Broaden) Your Attention

Knowing when to use a broad or narrow focus is more of an art than a science. You must learn from experience and build the skills of shifting focus to most positively benefit your performance.

To Narrow Your Focus: Use lists/outlines/categories, focus on a goal, take it slow.

To Broaden Your Your Focus: Stay optimistic, focus on others/team, scan your environment, gather contrary evidence.


#10 Stop Being A Slave To Your Device

Your phone is a great tool, but it can also create negative attention patterns and be a distraction. If you want to get serious about concentration and focus, you must set your life up to support it. Remove temptation by turning off notifications. You don’t need to be alerted about everything, all the time. Ideally, you want to engage with your phone when you want/need to. By always responding to the ding of somebody/something trying to get your attention, you are negatively training your mind and body to be distracted by irrelevant stimuli. Turn off push notifications and go through periods of putting your phone on airplane mode (especially at night). Trust me, that message, snap, and picture will be there later.

By always responding to the ding, you are negatively training your mind & body to be distracted by irrelevant stimuli.

Attention management is a skill that when trained and executed can elevate an athlete’s performance on and off the field tenfold. To be the best version of yourself and reach levels of optimal performance, you must train your mind and body to work for you rather than against you. Stack the conditions in your favor by taking action on at least one of the strategies above, this week!

Want to maximize your mental and physical performance? Take The Winning Element Assessment to see how you score on these peak performance factors: hydration, nutrition, movement, recovery, confidence, energy management, visualization/self-talk, and resilience! The insight gained from this 5 minute, FREE assessment will help you spot strengths and weaknesses and inspire you to implement new winning habits to level up your performance on and off the court!