“Concentration is taking your mind off many things and putting it on one thing at a time.”
cardeo // drink a lot of water // good sleep – pre requsite
pomodoro 25 minutes hard concentration, 5 minutes break. repeat 3 times then stop for longer
“Focus is a muscle, and you can build it,” says Elie Venezky, author of Hack Your Brain. “Too many people labor under the idea that they’re just not focused, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Once you drop this mistaken belief, you can take a much more realistic approach to building focus.”
- prepare your brain – minute or two to sit and just be. calm.
- take time to identify what deserves your focus for the year, for the month, for the week, and for the day. Then look at your calendar and block time dedicated to focus.
- unplug for 30 minutes
- get a coffee – French physiologist Astrid Nehlig found it does increase physiological arousal, which makes you less apt to be distracted and better able to pay attention during a demanding task.
- play ambient music w/out lyrics.
- regular short breaks in 50 minutes.
Focus is the key to productivity because saying no to every other option unlocks your ability to accomplish the one thing that is left.
Most people don’t have trouble with focusing. They have trouble with deciding.
Instead of doing the difficult work of choosing one thing to focus on, we often convince ourselves that multitasking is a better option. This is ineffective.
What is impossible, however, is concentrating on two tasks at once.
Multitasking forces you to pay a mental price each time you interrupt one task and jump to another. In psychology terms, this mental price is called the switching cost.
Switching cost is the disruption in performance that we experience when we switch our focus from one area to another. One study, published in the International Journal of Information Management in 2003, found that the typical person checks email once every five minutes and that, on average, it takes 64 seconds to resume the previous task after checking your email.
In other words, because of email alone, we typically waste one out of every six minutes.
Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy for Focused Attention
One of my favorite methods for focusing your attention on what matters and eliminating what doesn’t comes from the famous investor Warren Buffett.
Buffett uses a simple 3-step productivity strategy to help his employees determine their priorities and actions. You may find this method useful for making decisions and getting yourself to commit to doing one thing right away. Here’s how it works…
One day, Buffett asked his personal pilot to go through the 3-step exercise.
STEP 1: Buffett started by asking the pilot, named Mike Flint, to write down his top 25 career goals. So, Flint took some time and wrote them down. (Note: You could also complete this exercise with goals for a shorter timeline. For example, write down the top 25 things you want to accomplish this week.)
STEP 2: Then, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and circle his top 5 goals. Again, Flint took some time, made his way through the list, and eventually decided on his 5 most important goals.
STEP 3: At this point, Flint had two lists. The 5 items he had circled were List A, and the 20 items he had not circled were List B.
Flint confirmed that he would start working on his top 5 goals right away. And that’s when Buffett asked him about the second list, “And what about the ones you didn’t circle?”
Flint replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
To which Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
I love Buffett’s method because it forces you to make hard decisions and eliminate things that might be good uses of time, but aren’t great uses of time. So often the tasks that derail our focus are ones that we can easily rationalize spending time on.
The first thing you can do is to measure your progress.
Unfortunately, we often avoid measuring because we are fearful of what the numbers will tell us about ourselves. The trick is to realize that measuring is not a judgment about who you are, it’s just feedback on where you are.
The second thing you can do to maintain long-term focus is to concentrate on processes, not events. All too often, we see success as an event that can be achieved and completed.
If you look at the people who stay focused on their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s the commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event.
If you want to become significantly better at anything, you have to fall in love with the process of doing it. You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want.
Focusing on outcomes and goals is our natural tendency, but focusing on processes leads to more results over the long-run.
How to Improve Concentration
Choose an anchor task. One of the major improvements I’ve made recently is to assign one (and only one) priority to each work day. Although I plan to complete other tasks during the day, my priority task is the one non-negotiable thing that must get done. I call this my “anchor task” because it is the mainstay that holds the rest of my day in place. The power of choosing one priority is that it naturally guides your behavior by forcing you to organize your life around that responsibility.
Manage your energy, not your time. If a task requires your full attention, then schedule it for a time of day when you have the energy needed to focus. For example, I have noticed that my creative energy is highest in the morning. That’s when I’m fresh. That’s when I do my best writing. That’s when I make the best strategic decisions about my business. So, what do I do? I schedule creative tasks for the morning. All other business tasks are taken care of in the afternoon. This includes doing interviews, responding to emails, phone calls and Skype chats, data analysis and number crunching. Nearly every productivity strategy obsesses over managing your time better, but time is useless if you don’t have the energy you need to complete the task you are working on.
Never check email before noon. Focus is about eliminating distractions. Email can be one of the biggest distractions of all. If I don’t check email at the beginning of the day, then I am able to spend the morning pursuing my own agenda rather than reacting to everybody else’s agenda. That’s a huge win because I’m not wasting mental energy thinking about all the messages in my inbox. I realize that waiting until the afternoon isn’t feasible for many people, but I’d like to offer a challenge. Can you wait until 10AM? What about 9AM? 8:30AM? The exact cutoff time doesn’t matter. The point is to carve out time during your morning when you can focus on what is most important to you without letting the rest of the world dictate your mental state.
Leave your phone in another room. I usually don’t see my phone for the first few hours of the day. It is much easier to do focused work when you don’t have any text messages, phone calls, or alerts interrupting your focus.
Work in full screen mode. Whenever I use an application on my computer, I use full screen mode. If I’m reading an article on the web, my browser takes up the whole screen. If I’m writing in Evernote, I’m working in full screen mode. If I’m editing a picture in Photoshop, it is the only thing I can see. I have set up my desktop so that the menu bar disappears automatically. When I am working, I can’t see the time, the icons of other applications, or any other distractions on the screen. It’s funny how big of a difference this makes for my focus and concentration. If you can see an icon on your screen, then you will be reminded to click on it occasionally. However, if you remove the visual cue, then the urge to be distracted subsides in a few minutes.
Remove all tasks that could distract from early morning focus. I love doing the most important thing first each day because the urgencies of the day have not crept in yet. I have gone a little far in this regard in that I have even pushed my first meal off until about noon each day. I have been intermittent fasting for three years now (here are some lessons learned), which means that I typically eat most of my meals between 12PM and 8PM. The result is that I get some additional time in the morning to do focused work rather than cook breakfast.
The Ivy Lee Method
- At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
- Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
The Eisenhower Box: How to be More Productive
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
Urgent tasks are things that you feel like you need to react to: emails, phone calls, texts, news stories. Meanwhile, in the words of Brett McKay, “Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.”
In my experience, there are two questions that can help clarify the entire process behind the Eisenhower Box.
Those two questions are…
- What am I working toward?
- What are the core values that drive my life?
Playing certain types of games can help you get better at concentrating. Try:
- crossword puzzles
- jigsaw puzzles
- word searches or scrambles
- memory games
A 2018 study looking at 29 people found evidence to suggest an hour of video gaming could help improve visual selective attention (VSA). VSA refers to your ability to concentrate on a specific task while ignoring distractions around you.
A 2017 reviewTrusted Source looked at 100 studies examining the effects video games could have on cognitive function. The results of the review suggest playing video games may lead to various changes in the brain, including increased attention and focus.
A 2011 reviewTrusted Source of 23 studies found evidence to suggest mindfulness training that emphasizes attention focus could help increase attention and focus. Mindfulness can also improve memoryand other cognitive abilities.
do a concentration workout: DOODLE FOR 15 minutes