Concentration? It’s critical if we’re going to feel like we’re doing well at what we set our minds to. We need to concentrate when we read, concentrate when we listen, concentrate on the tennis court or the telephone, at the gym or over the chess board.
Concentrating on work? How do we manage with all the interruptions and distractions now the norm, not to mention the expectation of doing more with less?
When I was a kid, game shows like Concentration and Password were popular entertainment. They actually required concentration in order to succeed at beating one’s opponents. These quiz shows gave way to flashier spectacles of course, including rowdy costumed audiences on Let’s Make a Deal and the pressurized spectacle of a much more recent Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
How anyone could concentrate with the stakes so high (or such large audiences) beats me… especially because I am a lover of silence when I truly need to focus.
What Helps Us Concentrate in a Chaotic World?
For some of us, learning something new demands incredible concentration. For others, it comes easily. In contrast, what is simple for many of you — meditation — requires a sort of concentration that is an extraordinary effort for me. (The best I’ve ever achieved is a few deep breaths.)
So what about concentration to do more reps at the gym or outsmart your adversary before you find your queen in check? How do we create pockets of calm — or an ability to shut out the commotion — in order to better accomplish our objectives?
This bit of wisdom on concentration offers some tips. And during a week when everything unplanned was competing for my attention and making a mess of my planning, I recognize a few tools I used to manage to keep my head in the game.
- Eliminate distractions
- Notice when your mind wanders (then pull it back)
- Switch things up when you’re tired
There are more, so check them out.
What wasn’t on the list that helped me out this week?
When Children Teach Their Parents
It’s heartwarming when a parent begins to learn from their child, and this is happening increasingly often as my college son relates to me more as an adult and less as a child. In fact, he saw me at moments this week when my concentration was broken by interruptions, and his suggestions were simple but extremely effective.
Among his techniques as he saw me working with more than 10 open windows on my laptop and simultaneously viewing emails on my phone —
- Work some amount of time on paper to ease my eyes
- Find a way to physically categorize the tasks I was working on
- Brain “downtime” – a half hour of TV or better yet, get some fresh air!
Tough tough tough on the eyes! Even changing devices can offer some relief.
Categorizing? This combined with his first suggestion was brilliant. It was also extremely effective. As soon as I printed out a few resources, spread them on my work surface so I could see them all at once, I was able to divide and conquer. I immediately doubled both pace and productivity on my most complicated tasks.
My son’s last recommendation was as simple as they come. A walk around the block renewed my energy and improved my focus.
Tricks of the Concentration Trade
A few of my own concentration tricks that generally are successful include:
- Moving around, even for 5 minutes
- Changing to a standing work position
- Making lists that facilitate re-prioritizing
- Using lists to break things down into smaller tasks
- Repeating an encouraging mantra in my head
- Finding a place of quiet, especially in the morning
- Not procrastinating
It can be as simple as repeating “you can do this, you can do this” in a measured inner voice.
And that last?
While I know many people who procrastinate, unless we’re talking about cleaning the house, I am definitely not among them. If anything, I prefer to “pre”crastinate; I find that putting things off only stresses me out, which equates to yet another impediment to concentration.
Whatever we may be striving to do — win a game, push through fatigue at the gym, learn something new, make a tight deadline — motivation helps! Whether it’s visualizing the goal or imagining relief when you’re done, reminding yourself why what you’re doing is important can ratchet up the ability to block out distractions.
And let’s not forget that hunger, fatigue and pain will also compromise our efforts. All the more reason to master a few tricks that will work for us.
Did Someone Say Holiday?
Now, officially it’s a holiday weekend in the US, but when you work for yourself, “official” holidays don’t mean a great deal. For me, this weekend provides an opportunity to work in blissful silence and optimal concentration. Believe it or not, that strikes me as both pleasant and satisfying. (It does help when you enjoy your work!)
Then again, when I need those breaks, I’ll hope for blue skies and a gentle breeze so I can mosey around the block. And if that’s not an option, while game shows no longer hold much interest for me, as evening wears on, I just may indulge in a chick flick for my “brain downtime.”
Somehow I suspect that concentrating on George Clooney or Ryan Gosling won’t demand much effort.
When your focus is constantly shredded by noise, the phone, or kids and spouse when you’re working at night — what tricks do you have to hang on to your concentration? Are you already “concentrating” on your downtime, or enjoying a wonderful weekend?
You May Also Enjoy