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How to Improve Concentration

How to Improve Concentration

“I have an important project to work on.  Hang on, there’s a new text message on my phone.  Oh great, here’s an email from Steve.  He’s got tickets for Friday night.  Better check for directions on how to get there.  Now back to that article… I’m hungry. Let’s make a little snack.  Cereal or toast?  It’s sunny outside. I’ll go and put the dirty clothes in the washing machine–it’s a good day to dry them.  Oh, my phone is ringing, who could that be?”

A recent survey by the University of California estimated that the average person’s mind receives 35GB of information each day.  Thirty years ago we only received 15GB of information a day, half of what it is today.  We receive continual interruptions and have to process double the information that we used to, so it is not a surprise that our concentration spans are shrinking.  The Internet has made our ways of thinking very fragmented, jumping from website to website and having to process information but never to remember it.

The Downside of Multitasking

“What I have tried to do is actually eliminate multitasking, because when I try to do more than one thing at once, I end up reaching the end of the day and usually having none of them done,” says Tim Ferris, the author of the book The Four Hour Workweek.

When concentration is spread thinly, it is very counterproductive, causing both the amount and the quality of work to suffer.  Psychologist Dr. Glenn Wilson discovered that workers who were regularly distracted by phone calls experienced a ten percent drop in their IQ.  Perhaps even more interesting, psychologist Richard Nisbett discovered that Chinese-American students with an IQ of 100 achieve the same academically as white American students with an IQ of 120.  Nisbett said, “this is a result of their more focused attitude when it comes to school work.”

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It is possible to train the brain to become more consistently focused, which will lead to consistent results over a period of time.  “Motivation is essential but not enough. You also need consistency in your motivation,” said Arsene Wenger, Manager of the Arsenal football club.

The benefits that a person can get from consistent focus are unimaginably great, including achievements, wealth, relationships, confidence and career.  If a person can cultivate a great focus then that person will begin to take control of their life and not live a life of reaction.  When you are clear in where you want to go, a whole new world of opportunities will open up to you.

Here are some simple habits that can help you improve your ability to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Meditation –

I thought I’d attempt scare away the weak of you with this first point!  If you aren’t willing to try meditation, I can assure you that aren’t reaching your potential in both your career and happiness.  Meditation is not a religious thing; it is just a tool to improve concentration.  Just ten minutes a day can reduce stress, increase happiness and improve concentration.

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Eat a whole foods diet –

If your body’s nutritional needs haven’t been met, then your body won’t allow your mind to concentrate.  Instead, the body is going to send messages to your brain telling you to go and seek out food.  Avoid stimulating foods and ingredients that you don’t recognize.  Instead focus on lots of fruit and vegetables plus clean carbohydrates like brown rice, potatoes, quinoa, oats and bananas.

Hardest, most important task first –

Pick this task to do first and get it out of the way.  Typically after midday people’s concentration starts to wane as they get tired.  Getting your most important and difficult task out of the way first will allow you to do the other, easier tasks after lunch, such as responding to emails and doing design work.

Turn off all distractions –

Make sure your phone is on silent and Outlook is closed.  Give your important work your undivided attention.  You will be amazed at how much you can get done.

Take breaks –

Sustained attention is the level of attention that produces consistent results over time.  The typical adult can’t sustain focus for any longer than forty minutes, although they can choose to re-focus on the same task.  The more you train yourself to focus the easier it will become to focus for longer and longer periods of time.  Initially take a quick toilet or water break ever forty minutes and then re-focus on the task.  A few days later take a break every fifty minutes and a few days later take a break every hour and then re-focus.  Keep expanding your focus comfort zone by gradually increasing it.  Set a countdown timer on your computer to beep after reaching a certain time so you know when to take a break.  If you don’t do this, then forty minutes will pass and you might start to check emails and websites without realizing it, and before you know, it your mind is lost in the information vortex of the Internet.

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Concentration music –

The best music to help stay focused when working on a task is music with a slow, regular rhythm that has no singing.  Type ‘concentration music’ into YouTube and you will find some great one hour long tracks to listen to when working on a task.  In concentration music, the chords typically change every eight seconds.  This slow chord change trains the brain to develop a longer period of focus.

Regular exercise –

A healthy body creates a healthy mind.  Daily exercise will get the heart pumping and the blood flowing around the body to the brain.  Exercise also produces endorphins which make a person “feel good.” When a person is feeling good they will find it easier to concentrate.  When the body is not happy, it will send signals to the brain which will reduce concentration.

Create habits –

A person only has a certain amount of “will power” available to them each day to spend on tasks.  Turning a task into a daily habit will stop the task requiring will power to do it.  Instead, the brain will accept the new behavior as a subconscious task.  Habits don’t require will power because they become automatic behaviors that the person does every day.  It typically takes thirty days to turn a new action into a habit.  Setup the beginning of your day to look something like this:

  • Wake up at x time
  • Breakfast
  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Go for a run
  • Shower
  • Start concentration music and timer, then begin work on hardest most important task
  • 40 minute toilet and drink break
  • Re-focus on hardest, most important task
  • 40 minute toilet and drink break
  • Re-focus to finish the hardest most important task for that day
  • Check email
  • Break for Lunch

You will get more done by lunch time than most people can do in a whole day.  The “after lunch” part of the day can be spent on easier tasks, like emails, design, organization and maintenance tasks where less concentration is required.

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A daily to-do list –

Before going to bed each night, list the tasks you want to do the following day.  Make sure you list the hardest, most important task first and then other subsequent tasks.  Having a clear focus of your goals for that day will make it a lot easier for you to concentrate.

Stay Hydrated –

Scientists from the University of Connecticut have found that even mild dehydration alters a person’s mood, energy levels and mental function.  Dehydrated young men experienced difficulty with mental tasks, memory and increased anxiety and tension.  During each forty minute break remember to pour yourself another big glass of water to help maintain concentration.

Best,

Robert King

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Last Updated on November 12, 2018

Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life?

Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life?

Don’t we all want to live a full, happy and satisfied life? For some of us, it need not be a long life as long as it’s been a fulfilling life of achievements, happiness and no regrets. But, how many of us actually go on to experience that entirely? It sometimes sounds more like a pipe dream–a fantasy rather than reality.

And then you’ll also get comments from some, saying that this ‘fulfilling life’ is only possible if you’re so rich that you don’t have to care about working, paying the bills or providing for your family. While there is some truth to that, I’m happy to say that financial freedom isn’t the only answer to living a fulfilling life.

Living a Fulfilling Life is Within Reach

Anyone can pursue a life of fullness, and it all starts with the willingness to learn. How many years has it been since you last attended a class in school? If you’re well into your adult years as a working professional, chances are it’s been a while. Do you remember the times where you had to wake up for early morning lectures? Or the times where you were rushing through a paper or project? And, of course there were the endless exams that you had to cram for.

As a young college student, I remember looking forward to the time when I would finally be done with school! No more homework, no more grades to worry about, no more stress! The learning was finally done and I could enter the working world.

Not so much!

Now that I’ve finally entered the working world, there are moments where I do wish to be a student again; it seemed less stressful then!

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There is simply so much out there that I still need to learn and experience. Yet I find myself pressed for time. With family commitments, my business and my own social life to juggle, I’ve had to keep on finding for new ways to learn and absorb new information efficiently. Over the years, I’ve found that by learning new skills and knowledge, I was able to find answers and solutions to my problems, which allowed me to achieve a greater sense of fulfillment.

Learning Never Ends

The truth is, learning never ends. Generally speaking, it is true that a formal education and the resulting qualifications are important in securing good jobs; jobs that allow you to excel, earn more and perhaps become more successful in our chosen career. But going to school is only one type of learning. All throughout your life, you’re learning in many ways. All these experiences shape and grow you into the person that you are today.

There are many opportunities to further your knowledge and develop the skills you need throughout life. Knowledge can be acquired and skill-sets can be developed anywhere. However, lifelong learning is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude to learning both for personal and professional development.

Many people overlook the fact that learning can take place anywhere and in many forms. Most would tend to think of learning as the years spent in a learning institute, which occurs mostly in their younger days. And once you go out into the working world, your ‘learning’ ends.

This is not how it has to be–in fact, lifelong learning is a gift that keeps on giving.

The Importance of Lifelong Learning

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Why is it important to become a lifelong learner?

A lifelong learner is motivated to learn and develop because they want to; it is a deliberate and voluntary act. Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities, and improve our quality of life.

You’ll Remain Relevant in the Workplace

With advancements in society today, the human life expectancy continues to increase, which means more people are also retiring at a later age. So no matter what stage of life you’re in, being a lifelong learner brings its own rewards. It means we can get more personal satisfaction from our lives and jobs as we understand more about who we are and what we do.

This can lead to better results and a more rewarding working day in turn. Whether it’s for advancing your career, a personal interest or wanting to pursue new dreams, learning automatically pushes you forward towards progress and enhances your wellbeing.

You’ll Increase Your Earning Potential

From a financial point of view, a more highly skilled and knowledgeable worker is an asset to any company. This also leads to faster promotion with associated salary increases.

Someone who can offer more expertise will be of more value not just to employers but also to customers. Expertise is also, often, a key quality of an effective leader.

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And since you’ll constantly be accumulating knowledge, you’ll have an edge on those who don’t value lifelong learning and can’t bring as much to the table. Your extra knowledge will translate into transferable skills, which means you’ll always be primed to blow the competition out of the water.

Learning Gives You Options

Of course, one of the most rewarding reasons for continuous learning, is that it gives you options! Successfully changing career path in mid-life and spending time informally developing expertise is more common than ever, especially during rapidly changing market conditions.

Whatever your age, it’s never too late to start fresh in life. When you start educating yourself and exposing yourself to new knowledge and information, you widen your opportunities. This will allow you to do more than what you may currently be doing, or give you a way out if you’re not happy or fulfilled with where you’re at now.

Our economy is shifting increasingly towards short-term and part-time contracts with more flexible work-patterns. We have to adapt to changes going on in the work-world, make more of ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zones, and break the false ideas about our potential and how we believe life is going.

Gain More with Cornerstone Skills

You may be well into your career, but feel like somehow, something is still missing. Or maybe you’re not entirely happy with where you’re at in your career path and feel it’s time to reflect and perhaps do something new. Or you might be thinking of retiring soon, and thinking about next steps after retirement.

The learning never needs to stop!

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This can be your chance to go after a dream or interest that you’ve always had (but never had the opportunity, or time, to pursue). This could finally be the time for you to create the change that you know you should have made ages ago.

Why not take the first step to learn about 7 important Cornerstone Skills, which will help take your life to the next stage?

Whatever situation you’re in, having these 7 Cornerstone Skills will no doubt equip you to tackle the challenges of life much more efficiently. Don’t let age, your limitations or a comfort zone stop you from seeking greater rewards and self-improvement.

Transformation and change is in your hands–you have the power to make big things happen, and we can help teach you the skills. Don’t let life pass you by! It’s time to pursue a fulfilling and happy life.

Featured photo credit: Joseph Chan via unsplash.com

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