In the age of instant gratification, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain concentration. Whether you’re in another marathon meeting or on a critical sales call, it is important to stay engaged. With the temptation of instant messaging, Blackberry, cell phone, the Internet, or even day dreaming; it is more of a challenge than ever to stay focused on the task at hand.
Why are we so distracted?
We have become a society that is inundated with interruptions. There are two driving forces that converge to make Americans even more susceptible to a lack of concentration than others. First, we are capitalists. Businesses want to sell you something as often as possible. So, wherever you are, there are advertisements tempting you to open your wallet. Second, we are addicted to technology. Related to our consumer-driven economy is a focus on having the latest and greatest technology. We are intense in our desire to have the coolest gadgets.
This has created an entire generation with an attention span of about 30 seconds. This is how we have been conditioned. Like an athlete training for an important competition, it is possible through repetition to be conditioned to exhibit specific behaviors. With the Internet, TiVO, text messaging, e-mail, and changing billboards; our attention is being divided more than ever. We have acquired an ability and a need to switch rapidly between activities. However, this ability is often counter to what is required to be successful.
The Formula for Focus
In the same way, you have been conditioned to switch your attention between tasks rapidly, you can condition yourself to concentrate for increasing periods of time. There are two methods that will increase your ability to concentrate in as little as 15 minutes a day: interval and resistance training.
Interval Training. Step One: Go into a quiet room with no distractions. Step Two: Sit down comfortably in a chair with a back. Close your eyes and place your palms on your thighs. Step Three: Inhale deeply, hold for a couple of seconds, and then exhale. Repeat this action for 2-3 minutes paying special attention to path that your breath takes. Follow it in your mind’s eye through your nose or mouth down your through into your lungs, then back out. Focusing on your breathing helps to clear your head. This is also an effective exercise to calm you down when you are nervous as well. Once you have established a clear connection of your mind to your breathing, move onto step Four. Step Four: Breath normally for about 10 minutes keeping your mind clear. At first, it will be very difficult to keep thoughts from overwhelming your attention. This is normal. This is a sign that you are breaking the habit of a short attention span. Over time, you will be able to keep your mind focused on what you want for longer periods of time.
Resistance Training. This method is less formal but just as effective. It is analogous to lifting weights. The more you lift, the stronger you become. Keep this image in your mind as I explain the process. Step One: Engage in a project that will take longer than 15 minutes to complete. Step Two: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Step Three: Work exclusively on this project for the full 15 minutes. You will be tempted to check your phone, your e-mail, get a drink of water, etc. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. If you are, just pick right back up where you are an continue. You can practice this process multiple times during the day. This method works by engaging your ego. By setting a target, you will tap into your desire to win, which will temporarily put off your emotions.
So there you have it, by using these methods, you can improve your ability to concentrate in just 15 minutes a day!
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