Improving Focus – Focus can be broken down into two parts: attention and concentration. People often use these terms synonymously with focus, however, there is an important distinction. Attention is the direction of your focus determined by your goals, needs, motives, interests, priorities, and values.

Concentration is the amount of focus you have, which is ultimately determined by your level of energy. If these subtle differences are unclear, think about the way in which people talk about focus. When someone says, “pay attention,” they’re telling you where to focus. When they say, “concentrate,” they’re telling you to increase your level of focus. This distinction is important because it illustrates the two ways of improving focus—give it better direction and increase the amount of it.

Here are some general ways to improve focus:

Change gears

In poker, “shifting gears” describes a player’s ability to change how they’re playing against a specific opponent. The same strategy can be used to improve your level of focus, especially when playing live. Think of focus as similar to shifting gears in a car. When you’re involved in a hand, consider your focus to be in 5th gear. When you’re not in a hand, you can shift into 3rd gear to save energy since you don’t need to be picking up on every single detail at the table. As long as you remain in the flow of the action, you will be able to decrease or increase focus as needed.

Listen to music

When attempting to optimize their focus, players often wonder whether or not they should listen to music while playing. The answer is, it depends. There are no hard rules around listening to music. A player might benefit from it when they’re slightly unfocused, but that same player might find it distracting while playing their A-game or when they’re feeling tired. The best thing to do is experiment to find out if and when music can be beneficial, and if it is, what type of music works best for you.

Meditate

Many players are skeptical about meditation, but recent research has shown that it can increase a person’s ability to discern fine detail and allow them to sustain focus for longer periods of time. If you think about it, meditation forces you to concentrate on doing nothing, which is tough to do, but if you do it regularly it will improve your overall ability to focus.

Minimize distractions

Before you start to play, there are a number of easy ways to improve your focus, or at least prevent major focus issues. They are predominantly environmental—closing down Skype and web browsers, putting your phone on silent, and getting food before you play. Often the biggest focus killers are the easiest ones to preempt and manage before playing a hand.

Exercise

Many poker players have quite a sedentary lifestyle. Recent research has shown low-intensity exercise can increase energy levels in sedentary young adults by up to 20%. If you’re lacking enough energy to sustain long periods of focus, consider adding exercise to your regular routine.

Set and adjust goals

The most focused poker players tend to be the ones with clear and precise goals. One of the simplest ways to improve focus, without having to constantly be thinking about it, is to set better goals or fix conflicting goals. This will get your attention pointed in the right direction and increase your level of concentration. So before you play, try to set at least one goal on how you plan to play in this session, as it will give you something to measure your level of focus on throughout the session.

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