Concentration. It’s a learned skill, one we are trying to instill in our children (with varying degrees of success).
The ability to concentrate, to stay on task, to laser your focus to the issue at hand is a skill of real value, in my book.
I’d like to think about how we can increase or enhance our powers of concentration – especially where they matter most – in our relationships and in our livelihood.
1. Have you ever been speaking to someone about something that was important to you, and you gradually lost their awareness? Their eyes glazed over, or they looked elsewhere, and seemed to completely lose focus on what you were saying?
I notice when my husband does this – and have been known to start talking about the pink polka-dotted elephant that flew past my window this morning… somewhere in there he realises I am talking rubbish and re-focuses his attention on me, with a sheepish look of being caught out.
And I am certainly no saint. I know there have been occasion when I am meant to be listening to someone, and something else has caught my eye (happens sometimes when I am on the phone, and dont have eye contact to keep me grounded) or my mind has played word associations with something they have said, and voila – I’m off in my own little mind, tuned out from what they are saying.
And because relationships are important – this is something I try consciously to avoid. When I am with a person and they are speaking, I try to maintain eye contact wherever possible, as this stops me drifting off into my own little world.
When I am on the phone, I find that turning away from the computer screen and focusing off into the distance (with a ‘soft focus’ because most of my senses are with my hearing) aids in keeping my attention.
2. It is difficult to concentrate on a task at work when you are not enthused about it. I think that’s a given. But there are a few little things you can do to increase your staying power:
- clear off your desk – if there is no other paper on my desk besides that which I am working on, I find it is a lot easier to concentrate
- dont have reminders beeping at you unless they are to remind you to stop concentrating on this because you should be somewhere else… and then, if you do have an appointment that you are likely to forget once you get immersed in your current project, a beeper to remind you is a great idea – that way you dont need to keep checking the clock to see if it is time to leave yet or not
- dont check email constantly – for me, this means shutting down outlook when I am working on the computer on other issues, because that little envelope in the bottom right corner can be a huge distraction to my focus on the task at hand
- set yourself deadlines to get things done if you are the sort of person that works best to a deadline (especially where you work for yourself, and there are no external or boss driven deadlines to keep you on task)
- manufacture accountability – if setting yourself deadlines doesnt work, ask someone to play boss and check in with you on your progress
- do something you love – when you are doing something that inspires you, you are much more likely to stay on task and your ability to focus becomes laser like.
- stay hydrated – keep water nearby and dont load yourself up on stimulants like caffeine and nicotine – when your adrenal system is wired, it’s much harder to concentrate on the task at hand
- keep a notepad nearby and if you find yourself thinking about something else you need to do, forgot to do, or would like to do, make a note of it and get it out of your mind. That way you can keep your focus on the task at hand, knowing that you havent forgotten that item and it will still safely be there when you have time to deal with it
What do you do to help you concentrate? Or do you think it’s overrated as a skill?