Mental Health

How Do You Cope When You Just Can’t Concentrate on Anything?

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

A version of this blog post originally appeared on Medium.

Sometimes it seems like I can’t focus on much of anything.

I wouldn’t say my focus has always been fantastic. At least, not when it comes to the long-term. I tend to get excited about an idea, maybe even a little obsessed with it, and then abandon it as soon as it gets boring to me or something else catches my interest.

I thought maybe this would get better as I got older. But I think it might be getting worse. Or maybe it’s more that my short-term focus is also struggling. It seems like I can’t focus on much for more than a few minutes at a time. Even right now, when I am supposed to be focused on writing, something that I allegedly love to do, I have nine other tabs open so that I can easily flip from one tab to the next when whatever I am looking at becomes boring.

There are some exceptions. If I’m reading a book or watching a TV show that I am interested in, I can focus on that for longer stretches of time. So could it be that there is just too much in my life that I am trying to focus on that I don’t find interesting?

I’m not sure if I really am getting worse at concentrating on things, or if I am just becoming more aware of this tendency, and more bothered by it as I get older. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, since I have always been a little flighty when it comes to pursuing interests or goals.

When you are a kid or even a teenager, this behavior can be blamed on age. Maybe the tendency to give up on something the moment it stops being interesting or gets difficult doesn’t seem like such an issue. After all, there is plenty of time to grow out of it.

But when you are an adult, this penchant for getting distracted by new ideas all the time can be annoying at best and damaging at worse. When you can’t stay focused on a goal for more than a few months or weeks, or even days, it makes it hard, if not impossible, to ever get anything done. Achieving professional success or personal fulfillment is hard enough as it is. It’s even harder when you can’t maintain focus on your goals.

I think part of the problem also comes from the fact that there is just so much I want to do. I want to write a novel and also learn photography and also play the piano and learn Spanish and figure out how to maybe grow herbs and have a little garden on my porch and read about 512 different books. And that’s just the start of the list.

We live in an era where it is easier than ever to learn the things that we want to, thanks to technology. So as soon as I get a new idea for something that I want to learn or do, it’s hard to keep myself from abandoning my current projects and starting the new, seemingly more interesting one.

Ultimately though I know that this way of being is only going to lead to more frustration, since I will never actually reach any of my goals if I’m always skipping around from project to project, never staying long enough to finish anything.

And I would really, really like to end this post with some kind of sound advice or a game plan for how I am going to improve. But one of these other open tabs looks a lot more interesting, and I have to go click on that now.

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