When starting a new task we don’t always have a step-by-step guide on how to accomplish it. We are uncertain and a bit insecure. Like a pioneer exploring new terrain without a map, we are very aware of the things around us and hence more susceptible to distraction.
Or do you secretly love distraction? In recent years and with the use of mobile technology our brains have adopted to constantly scan our environment and shift our attention rapidly. This has established a behaviour of distracting ourselves, even if there is no external interruption. We all used to be able to concentrate, but in the electronic corporate world many of us have unlearned it. Now it will be like learning to ride bike again after ten years.
~~~ Concentration – Sprints That Count ~~~
The verdict of many studies is clear: conscious attention cannot be divided. Trying to multi-task ends up in things taking significantly longer and at lower quality of work. Prof Medina’s book explains this.
You need to be able to multi-task! Contradicting the above? No! In today’s world that is driven to be efficient, there is a necessity for most of us to work on several assignments in parallel. But this doesn’t mean that you work on them at the same moment. Don’t work on two projects at say at 1:37 pm. But it is ok to work on project A from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm and then on project B from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm.
On the pages on “Planning” we have established daily time blocks of 90-120 mins for focussed work. The challenge then will be to make best use of this time. When was the last time you were fully immersed for such a long interval? Or have you ever caught yourself jumping to another task or checking emails when the task at hand got difficult or a decision had to be made?
Exercising concentration is like running or any other exercise. You start small and improve until you are at the level you desire. Therefore, the best way to get better at it is to actually exercise it. There are some great apps for little money that can help track your progress.
~~~ Types of concentration ~~~
1Quiet and uninterrupted concentration is required for your important tasks. The aim here is to focus on one problem in depth. Any interruption will throw you back. If you are unable to focus, you will distract yourself and waste important time.
2When we are fire fighting, working issues, emails we need a different type of concentration. Ever started responding to an email and then switched to the next one when you didn’t know how to continue the first mail? It requires focus and concentration to bring small tasks to an end before you move onto the next tasks. If you catch yourself having many concurrent windows opened on your computer screen, then you know you have to improve on this type of concentration.
3Group situations often need a different type of focus. Just because you are in a meeting or talking to others, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be concentrated. The opposite is true. Good listening skills require good focus. Learn to concentrate in these inherently distracting situations and stop wasting your own and other people’s time.