“Concentration is the faculty that creates aces, supermen “. Victor Pauchet
The ability to stay focused is one of the most useful qualities one can learn.
When we know how to focus effectively, we enrich our thinking, we find relevant solutions, we make better decisions, and we convince more easily and get better results.
In this article, we will see how to focus to be more productive.
It is now accepted that multitasking does not work. Several studies show that our brain is unable to effectively focus on several complex things at once.
One of the studies carried out by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research discovered for example that people who tried to do several tasks simultaneously made 3 times more errors than people who focused only on one thing at a time.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology has also indicated that multitasking made us lose on average 40% of productive time. By constantly switching from one task to another, you actually waste a lot of time re-focusing.
Even more worrying, multitasking would negatively impact our brain functions. A study by Clifford Nass of Stanford University found that people who used to work on multiple tasks at the same time had much more difficulty concentrating on one task at a time and that their brains worked less well when they were trying to do it.
When we are used to multitasking, we reduce our attention span, and we retain information less well. It has even been proven that this could temporarily lower our IQ by 15 points.
To stay focused, we must, therefore, avoid multitasking at all costs and seek to maintain our attention on one thing at a time.
Staying focused is largely about eliminating distractions. It is fairly simple to recognize these types of distractions and usually just a few good tools and reflexes to eliminate them.
We can for example:
- put our phone in airplane mode.
- use applications such as Freedom to block all sites that may distract us while we work.
- Use RescueTime to calculate the time you lose every day.
- Write an attention charter so as not to waste time in meetings, to stop being interrupted and to waste time with gossip.
- Use noise-canceling headphones and listen to music that boosts our productivity to eliminate noise distractions.
These solutions eliminate most of the distractions we all know. However, there are other types of distractions, that are much more difficult to spot and eliminate. As they appear to be productive instead.
Writing a meeting report, for example, editing videos, coding a mobile application, learning a new language … are activities that may seem productive at first. And they are in some cases.
Only if our goal is to write a book, for example, they are actually distractions because they divert our attention from the actions that we should take to accomplish our goal.
To avoid these kinds of distractions, it is important to define our goals clearly and to remember them constantly to avoid getting distracted.
Create an optimal working environment
Our brain tends to get distracted by its environment when tasks become difficult. To stay focused, one can either decide to discipline oneself (which requires a lot of energy and will) or else purely eliminate distractions from the context in which one finds oneself which is much easier.
A great way to do this is to unclutter our workspace by keeping only what is essential. The empty water bottle on our desk, the half-finished cup of coffee, the hand cream, the pieces of paper, the packaging… do nothing to help us do our job better, so why keep them?
By eliminating them or keeping them out of our field of vision, we are less likely to be distracted by them which allows us to stay more focused.
Setting up an optimal work environment also means putting everything in its place. By storing our things in very specific places, we are able to find them more easily and quickly.
We no longer waste time searching for a particular case or interrupting our colleagues to find out where the object X, Y or Z has gone.
Here are some exercises and activities that we can do regularly to improve our concentration:
Meditation: Meditation is the best exercise to improve our concentration. There are many types of meditation. The easiest way to start is to focus on your breathing. You just have to close your eyes and draw our attention to the good and the good of our breath. When we feel that we are picking up and our mind is thinking of something else (what it will do), we should calmly bring our attention back to our breath. By constantly training to refocus our attention, we improve our cognitive endurance.
Reading: Reading books regularly or long articles without interruption is another great way to practice focusing. Today we spend a lot of time “zapping”, going from applications to applications, from site to site… We often only read the first sentences of articles, we only watch the first seconds of videos or we listen to than the first verses of music. We actually spend a lot of time “on the surface” and we don’t give ourselves the chance to explore. By reading a dozen pages daily without interruption, we not only improve our concentration but we also discover subjects in depth.
Doing cognitively challenging activities: Certain activities are excellent for stimulating our brain and our concentration. We find for example writing, programming, design or even logic games. This type of activity forces us to think in detail, to use our logic, to create connections and to reflect.
If you want to be able to reach the finish line on D-Day, you have to train for several weeks. With each training, you learn to breathe and find your rhythm but also to strengthen your muscles and work your mind. After enough time and effort, you develop enough endurance to run an entire marathon.
Improving our concentration is a bit like training to run a marathon. You have to exercise regularly, to be able to focus deeply, quickly and for long periods. This is how we develop our cognitive endurance.