How Do I Improve My Ability To Concentrate?

Part 3: Effective exercises for everyday life

According to Wikipedia, concentration is defined as focusing all attention on one particular activity, reaching a short-term goal, or solving an assigned problem. It is no surprise then, that concentration in chess tournaments is one of the essential keys to success.

KonzentrationIt’s all about not getting distracted, about concentrating on the given positioning for up to six hours, about calculating, estimating, and maneuvering without straying from the subject. As this requires high intellectual effort, many players (even professionals) face problems in the persistence and continuity of keeping up concentration during such long periods of time. Even players like the grandmaster Jan Gustafsson report headaches and difficulties in concentrating after five hours.

The capability to concentrate depends on several influential factors which we will be discussing in the three parts of this month’s column: The body, the mind, and the practice.

Today, in Part 3, Chessimo will introduce you to a few effective exercises that can easily be practiced during everyday life and help you raise your concentration level.

Who sticks to the following recommendations will be able to significantly improve their concentration in practice and at tournaments.

Outdoor Exercises

1. Look at the windows up on house fronts and imagine they were chess fields. Then try to imagine how to move the Knight in order to touch each and every window once. This can easily be practiced in rooms with tiles on walls and floors also.

2. If you have bad sense for direction or lack spatial perception, the following exercises might be helpful (the also help develop an intuitive sense for positioning on the board):

  • Imagine rooms, buildings, and ways that you have passed, maybe on your way to work or home, or whilst shopping), from a bird perspective. Try to sketch a ground plan in your head.
  • Look at objects in your surrounding and imagine they were folded from a single piece of paper. Try to figure out how you would have to unfold the object and what the sheet of paper would look like.

3. When going to work or the local supermarket look for small stops on the way, such as the next massive tree, bus stop or other things that you pass on the way. When you start walking count your steps from one to five. Then begin again, counting from one to six. Then from one to seven, and so on. Once you’ve reached one of your predetermined stops start from the beginning. Also count your steps while climbing stairs or every third step when running.

4. Whilst driving: Read the license tag of the car in front of you and build a sentence from its letters. Example: PC3 – I47F ‘Playing Checkmate Is Fun’

Indoor Exercises

1. Focus on counting a certain letter while reading a newspaper article, an online blog, or anything else. Advancers can focus on two or three different letters without losing track or being distracted from comprehending the content.

2. Whilst listening to the radio or watching television reduce the volume so that you are only able to understand what is said in a state of high concentration. Begin with only a short period of time, just a few minutes, as this is extremely exhaustive. Over time you will be able to stretch this period of concentrated listening.

3. Pick a word that is often said on the radio or television (with, and, but, ..). Take fifteen minutes of your time and count how often this particular word is said.

Exercises With A Partner

1. You have a nice colleague with whom you are often stuck in long meetings? Team up and use this time to work on your concentration capabilities while having fun! Sit across from your partner and make a small gesture, such as scratching your ear, folding your arms, or tapping on your coffee mug. You partner will then repeat your gesture and ass another. You take turns repeating the previous gestures and adding new ones.

2. Use a cozy evening in front of the TV for some brain jogging. While watching a movie together, add all the numbers that are mentioned in your head and compare results afterwards.

3. Completing each other’s sentences is not only power of soul mates. Play a game with your partner, child, colleague, or friend in which you take turns saying words that must add up to an adequate sentence. Ideal would be the creation of a small story.

Exercises On Paper

1. Take pen and paper and write down the shopping list with your left hand (left-handed people must use their right hand) or learn a new font, such as Old German or Old English. This process requires a high amount of concentration.

2. Take a handful of spaghetti and let them fall onto the table like Mikado Sticks. Then draw this formation from any perspective and try to catch all the lines and angles in the right dimensions. Soon you will be able to do this while talking to a client on the phone.

3. Write short notes, for example at work, I mirror writing. With a little practice you’ll be able to even do it while phoning a customer.

Exercises With Your Body

Who wants to improve the interaction of the two hemispheres of the brain, is best advised to do this with crisscross exercises.

1. Touch your right knee with your left elbow and then your left knee with your right elbow. The classical Jumping Jack is also good practice.

2. Crisscross exercises work perfectly behind the back too: Touch your left foot with your right hand and the other way around.

3. It draws less attention if you do small crisscross exercises, for example at work. Try making small and subtle crisscross moves with your fingers and hands, or with your feet underneath your desk. Tracing the lines of an 8 with your eyes is also an effective exercise that strengthens your memory.

4. Who recognizes a decrease in concentration abilities (fatigue, exhaustion) in tournaments or other moments in life can regain energy with the stimulation of several different acupressure points. Take your earlobes between index fingers and thumbs and slightly pull on them. Work your way up to the tips of your ears and gently pull them to the sides. Repeat this massage two or three times.

To conclude, we can also recommend practicing particular sports and learning methods of muscle relaxation that have severe impact on one’s concentration capabilities. Some of these are Yoga, Tai-Chi, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.

written by Sarah, translated by Birthe