External Environment | Nutrition, Physical Exercise, and General Health | Focussing your Mind | Exercises to Increase your ability to Focus and Concentrate
“The powers of the mind are like the rays of the sun. When they are concentrated, they illumine.” Swami Vivekananda
By Focus and Concentration we are referring to our ability to engage in an activity with all our attention and without the distractions, internally and externally, that make us less effective. This relates both to our getting on with a single task for an extended period of time, and also to our ability to keep our mind focussed on that task whilst we are undertaking it.
Our continual wandering and restless mind is constantly claiming our attention, wasting our time and energy on unimportant matters, and holding us back from achieving very much. In western societies there has been an eroding of attention span over the past few decades with many people now having an attention span of about 8 seconds. If you let such an attention span dominate your life you will be continually distracted and struggle to get on with important tasks, except where they become a crisis.
People who are able to sustain their focus for long periods of time get far far more done and are far more creative than those who can’t. Just a couple of hours of concentrated focus on one task at a time will often get more done than a whole day of vague dissipated thought.
Other benefits of an ability to concentrate and focus include having improved self-confidence, better memory, fewer troublesome thoughts, and a greater peace of mind and inner strength. You will be better able to cope with and interact with the world in general.
There is some overlap between topics covered below and topics covered under the topic of Motivation and Willpower.
The environment around you plays a significant role in your ability to concentrate. This is both in terms of how comfortable the environment is, but also in terms of various ‘triggers’ that may be motivational or may be de-motivational.
Your ability to focus and concentrate is impacted by your general state of health and also your specific state at the time you are trying to concentrate.
We can all learn to sustain our focus and concentration if we make the effort to do so.
By thinking of your mind as a muscle you can get into the habit of regularly looking to strengthen it through practice, just as you might do for your body. This is partially about just making the effort to focus when you need to do so, but it’s also about explicitly doing exercises aimed at increasing your focus and concentration.
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Reminder on taking tests: It’s not about trying to prove you already know it, it’s about learning. Thus regularly repeat the tests, even if you think you know them. It helps make the answers instinctive.
Consider the statement: ‘Multitasking enables us to get much more done.’ Which one or more of the following is/are closest to be being true.
a. Yes, we can progress a number of activities at the same time much quicker than if we tackled them just one at a time.
b. Yes, but only if you are young. As you get older your ability to multitask deteriorates, but the young are able to switch much quicker between tasks and are thus able to get much more done through multitasking.
c. Yes, but if varies from person to person.
d. Yes, but you need to practice. The more you practice the better you will get at it.
e. Yes, but it depends upon the type of task. If you have two difficult complex tasks to be done then multitasking between them is not effective. However if you have a difficult complex task, you can multitask with much simpler tasks.
f. Only in a very limited manner. By multitasking between relatively simple tasks you can keep your interest up longer than you would if you tried to do them one at a time.
g. Not under any circumstances. Our brains simply don’t multitask and anyone who thinks they are more effective when multitasking are simply kidding themselves.
List out some of things you can do to your environment to make it more conducive to being able to focus and concentrate:
You are about to settle down to some intellectual activity. What can you do to increase your likelihood of staying focussed.
Which of the following are generally good for improving your focus and concentration:
• Ensuring you have a big meal at lunch time
• Regular physical exercise
• Memory improving exercises
• Learning to multitask
List down 5 very specific exercises you can undertake which would help with a general improvement of focussing and concentration skills.
You’ve been focussing on a task for about 20 minutes and your mind is starting to wander. List some suggestions about what to do about it.