focus and concentration exercises

The person that can concentrate can gain full control over his body and mind and be the master of his inclinations; not their slave. 

Last night I was shooting pool. 9-ball actually. I was in a match against someone who wasn’t as skilled at the game as I am. That shouldn’t matter. Because every time I go to the table I should be able to concentrate on playing My Game and not be concerned about the other player.

And yet, when I played my first shot I realized I wasn’t as focused as I should be. When I played my second shot…and missed…I was given the opportunity to take a look at what was happening with me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I needed to get my focus back. Focus so that when I saw a shot I could put the ball in the pocket…or somewhere my opponent couldn’t get to it.

Because of my ability to Concentrate, to block out all distractions, to call on physical muscle memory and to set aside my emotions, when I next approached the table all I saw were the balls, how they laid out, where I should position the cue ball when finished with each shot.

Then I approached the first shot and all I saw was the object ball and the pocket. I allowed my body to do what it needed to do and my mind stayed on the shot. I made it. I won the rack and eventually won the match.

When TV newscaster Diane Sawyer was asked the secret to her success, she said, “I think the one lesson I’ve learned is there is no substitute for paying attention.

Paying attention is about focus. It’s being aware of what is happening, right now, and not allowing distractions or shiny objects to stop you from doing your task or project. Improving your focus can be done with different types of simple exercises. And these exercises aren’t the kind that you need a gym for! In fact, most of the time, these exercises take less than ten minutes to do.

Let’s begin with your ability to focus. Try these simple exercises:

  •    Talk to yourself. It might feel a bit awkward at first, but talking to yourself out loud helps you pay attention, calms you emotionally and tells you to act.
  •    Coffee is good but cardio is better. Caffeine gives you a boost, which makes it easier to concentrate. But it wears off and you may find yourself struggling to focus when it does. A better way to keep your mind stimulated is with physical exercise. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain that affects our learning and memory, which are what help us focus.
  •    Drink water. Mild dehydration can lead to distraction. Being even as little as 2 percent dehydrated can affect your ability to concentrate on cognitive activities.
  •    Get plenty of rest. Sleeping well, whatever number of hours you need, each night will help your body and mind rejuvenate. It will also improve concentration and focus during the day.

Concentration, in the sense in which it is used here, means the ability, through fixed habit and practice, to keep your mind on one subject until you have thoroughly familiarized yourself with that subject and mastered it. It means the ability to control your attention and focus it on a given problem until you have solved it.

Stating it in another way, concentration is the ability to think as you wish to think; the ability to control your thoughts and direct them to a definite end; and the ability to organize your knowledge into a plan of action that is sound and workable. ~ Napoleon Hill

And now for some concentration exercises:

The brain is a muscle. These exercises help to strengthen the ability to concentrate so that when you want to focus your attention on something … a task, an action, a book, a video … you’re able to control your mind and ignore any distractions, allowing you to get more from your activity.

After a little practice, you will find you can center your attention on uninteresting subjects at will. 

When you focus your thought, you increase its strength. The exercises that follow are tedious and monotonous, but useful. If you will persist in them you will find they are very valuable, as they increase your powers of concentration.

It will be necessary to first train the body to obey the commands of the mind. I want you to gain control of your muscular movements. The following exercise is especially good in assisting you to acquire perfect control of the muscles.

You may think these exercises very simple and of no value, but I promise you in a short time you will notice that you have a much better control over your muscular movements, carriage, and demeanor, and you will find that you have greatly improved your power of attention, and can center your thoughts on what you do, which of course will be very valuable.

Exercise 1: Sit Still in a Chair

Sit in a comfortable chair and see how still you can keep. This is not as easy as it seems. You will have to center your attention on sitting still. Watch and see that you are not making any involuntary muscular movements. By a little practice, you will find you are able to sit still without a movement of the muscles for fifteen minutes. At first, I advise sitting in a relaxed position for five minutes. After you are able to keep perfectly still, increase the time to ten minutes and then to fifteen. This is as long as it is necessary. But never strain yourself to keep still. You must be relaxed completely. You will find this habit of relaxing is very good.

Exercise 2Fix Gaze on Fingers

Sit in a chair with your head up and your chin out, shoulders back. Raise your right arm until it is on the level with your shoulder, pointing to your right. Look around, with head only, and fix your gaze on your fingers, and keep the arm perfectly still for one minute. Do the same exercise with your left arm. When you are able to keep the arm perfectly steady, increase the time until you are able to do this five minutes with each arm. Turn the palm of the hand downward when it is outstretched, as this is the easiest position. If you will keep your eyes fixed on the tips of the fingers you will be able to tell if you are keeping your arm perfectly still.

The purpose of the above exercises is to gain control over the involuntary muscular movement, making your actions entirely voluntary. 

The following exercise is designed to bring your voluntary muscles under the control of the will, so that your mental forces may control your muscular movements.

Exercise 3: Concentrate on Opening and Closing Fists

Move your chair up to a table, placing your hands upon it, clenching the fists, keeping the back of the hand on the table, the thumb doubled over the fingers. Now fix your gaze upon the fist for a while, then gradually extend the thumb, keeping your whole attention fixed upon the act, just as if it was a matter of great importance. Then gradually extend your first finger, then your second and so on until you open the rest. Then reverse the process, closing first the last one opened and then the rest, and finally you will have the fist again in the original position with the thumb closed over the finger. Do this exercise with the left hand. Keep up this exercise first with one hand and then the other until you have done it five times with each hand. In a few days, you can increase it to ten times.

Exercise 4: Concentration Increases the Sense of Smell

When you take a walk or drive in the country, or pass a flower garden, concentrate on the odor of flowers and plants. See how many different kinds you can detect. Then choose one particular kind and try to sense only this. You will find that this strongly intensifies the sense of smell. This differentiation requires, however, a peculiarly attentive attitude. When the sense of smell is being developed, you should not only shut out from the mind every thought but that of odor, but you should also shut out cognizance of every odor save that upon which your mind, for the time, is concentrated. You can find plenty of opportunity for exercises for developing the sense of smell. When you are out in the air, be on the alert for the different odors. You will find the air laden with all kinds, but let your concentration upon the one selected be such that a scent of its fragrance in after years will vividly recall the circumstances of this exercise.

The object of these exercises is to develop concentrated attention, and you will find that you can, through their practice, control your mind and direct your thoughts just the same as you can your arm.

Let no day go by without practicing concentrating on some familiar object that is uninteresting. Never choose an interesting object, as it requires less attention. The less interesting it is the better exercise will it be. After a little practice, you will find you can center your attention on uninteresting subjects at will. 

Try out your Will Power in different ways until you have it under such control that just as soon as you decide to do a thing you go ahead and do it. Never be satisfied with the “I did fairly well” spirit, but put forward your best efforts. Be satisfied with nothing else. 

When you have gained this you are the person you were intended to be.


  • Charlene Burke

    Charlene Burke

    Charlene Burke is an Information Professional, Mastermind Group Expert, author, speaker, and host of Get It Done Groups focused on productivity and accountability. She believes that Knowledge and Education are the foundation to personal freedom so makes it her mission to connect people with the resources they need - data, people, information, tools - to succeed. She does this through Business Research, Content Creation, Mastermind Groups, Accountability Groups, and more.