The more completely you concentrate, the stronger your mind becomes. ~ Anonymous
Completing any project or task with your undivided attention feels great. Getting lost in reading a book or working on personal projects is one of the most rewarding feelings. I used to pick up a book on Friday and read it in one sitting. Unfortunately, I somehow lost my ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
Why is it so hard?
Concentrating or focusing on something sounds very easy to do but it is extremely difficult. The reason it’s difficult is because our attention is demanded million times a day. Sounds kind of strange at first but hear me out. When you walk down the street, how many billboards scream for our attention? The colors on the billboard are designed to attract our eyes so we may buy their products. This doesn’t stop at billboards, but exist in every part of our lives. TV commercials, Radio, Newspaper etc..
Corporations fork out billions of dollars in research to determine our psychological “push” button for buying. They research colors, sounds, smells, emotions, lifestyle etc…. and use this research to promote their products. We “tune” these advertisements out of our mind because we see them all the time.
The blank mind
I went on a meditation retreat for 5 days near my hometown. For 5 days, I didn’t watch TV, have a cellphone, book to read or a radio. My mind was completely free of any outside interference. As I was driving back home into the city, I was shocked by the amount of ads, street signs and noise there was. 5 days in meditation had made me realize how much my focus was being stolen by these trivial things.
Meditation to save the day
Researchers at University of Pennsylvania have broken down concentration into 3 subcomponents; managing task/prioritizing, voluntary focus and alert to the environment. They used these 3 components in a study to determine if meditation can really help people concentrate better.
They found that if you meditate for 30 minutes a day, your ability to concentrate and focus improves gradually over time.
How to improve Concentration
Before you start working on anything remove any distractions from your working area. This could be a TV, video games, a clock or a pet. Get rid of them all. Your environment impacts your ability to focus dramatically because any distractions near-by will tempt your procrastination.
Keep it simple
Sometimes the project itself can be very intimidating and forces us to procrastinate. The mind becomes overwhelmed trying to figure out how to start the project. Finding a solution becomes very difficult.
To combat this, break the project down into very small components/milestones. The milestones do not have to be a significant part of the project but a single piece. By breaking each task down into simple actionable items, you can reflect on the grand view of the project and take charge in the right direction.
Your mind is on 24/7. Even when you are sleeping it is still “on”. When you concentrate on a project, your mind is working very hard to find solutions. Just like when you exercise to push your body, your mind is doing the same thing with the project. Like exercising at the gym you take rest between sets, you must also rest your mind. After you complete an allotted time of work for 30 – 45 minutes, take a break for 15 minutes. Watch something that will lighten up your mood and help you relax. After come back even stronger to finish the task at hand.
Time to concentrate
Concentration is a challenging task to do. Even as I write this article, my mind was running in 100 different directions. But with the practice of meditation and simple concentration tips mentioned above, you will be able to focus in no time.
What are your techniques to concentrate better?
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