Monday, 19 December 2011

8 Things Everybody Should Know About Concentration

People all over the world struggle consistently with concentration and is a huge cause for frustration whether it be in school, at home or in the workplace. Just how can we put our minds into gear and make ourselves concentrate better to be more productive with our time? The 8 points below are taken from an excellent article written Scott Scheper, and can be read in full here.

1. You can’t start concentrating until you've stopped getting distracted

The phrase above is self-explanatory. Yet, it’s amazing how most people look for some crazy, obtuse solution for the reason why they can’t concentrate. They reason, “I just have ADD. I can’t concentrate.”  In the late 80′s, two researchers asked themselves a chicken-egg question. (“What came first the chicken or the egg?”). Their version centers on distraction and boredom. They asked themselves, “What came first, distraction or boredom.” What they found is rather subtle, yet it’s profoundly significant. They found that distraction leads to boredom (not the other way around). This displays that we must cut out distraction in order to get focused; or else, we’ll get bored.
2. Just do one important thing per day
Scientists also found that we can only focus on one thing at once. Nobody does that. We’ve always got something going on in the background of whatever we’re doing. We’ve always got two-dozen tasks on our to-do list. On top of this, we’ve got a handful of projects that we try and finish simultaneously. When you've got a mountain of paperwork on your desk, the best thing to do is clear it all off. Pick it all up and place it in a drawer. Do anything required to get it out of your sight. After this, kick your feet up and daydream. Yes, I'm serious. Daydream and ask yourself the following question: “What’s the most important thing I can do right now?” Once you've identified the item that will actually make a difference, do it. Try and make it a goal to do just one critical thing per day. This habit proves much more effective than living the routine everyone else lives: doing many insignificant things a day. They live on fooling themselves into thinking they've added value.
3. Chunk into three’s
Most of the time your one important thing that you can do per day takes more than just one action. Oftentimes it takes a series of smaller steps to accomplish. For this reason, it’s very helpful to chunk activities into sets of three. If you set out to accomplish one important item without a plan, you’ll be just as ineffective as the crack-berry work-a-holic running around the office making copies. Outline your three-step to-do list using an offline to-do planner (which we outline in another chapter); or if you’re working online, use a three-item FocusList to keep you focused on the task at hand. Click here for a simple, effective, downloadable To-Do List.
4. Questions that kill procrastination
The brain processes meaning before detail. This is where procrastination stems from. Your boss, professor or co-worker tells you that the task on your desk is important, but your brain doesn’t yet agree. If you push forth anyways, and embark on the task before understanding its meaning, you’ll end up frustrating yourself and wasting time because you may have to do it all over. For this reason ask yourself the following questions: 1. Does this really need to be done? 2. Can I delegate this?

5. Be Smart With Your Time

The Pareto principle is founded on a theory that 80% of effectiveness is driven by 20% of our activity (or causes). I argue that it’s more like 99%:1%. It’s amazing how many insignificant tasks we’re constantly filling our lives with. Don’t make it your goal to involve yourself with 20% of meaningful items during the day. It gets too confusing, and your untrained mind will still end up taking-on too much. As stated above, just do one important task per day. Say no to everything else–even your boss. Be humble, but be logical.

6. Mind Maps

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s critical to allow the mind to disentangle itself by mapping out your thoughts on paper.

There’s two types of mind maps: (i) PS Map, and (ii) Fear Map

7. Blame something

Other times, sitting down to concentrate is as simple as blaming a simple object for your inability to concentrate. As we discussed above, lazy people are those that blame almost everything on their environment. You don’t want to do this, as it’s not a long-term, sustainable solution. However, in instances where you can’t get excited to actually pump blood to your prefrontal cortex (phase 1 of concentrating), a simple object can help you out. Such an object would be coffee, a drink, a Bonsai tree or a walk. You can reward your mind for concentrating by saying, “OK, mind, here’s the deal–it’s hard to concentrate on this right now, but I’ll pick up a bonsai tree, which will create a more compelling environment to concentrate.” You’ll find that this object-based motivator actually works.

8. Interest

Researchers found that concentration is not a gift. It’s not about intelligence. It’s not about being a prodigy with a gifted memory. It’s not about possessing the ability to recall an insane amount of facts (That’s what Google’s for). Researchers found that concentration is driven by interest, and interest is driven by attitude. If your attitude towards a specific project swells with interest, intrigue and passion, concentration is astonishingly easy.

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