Last Updated on
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” – Alexander Graham Bell
- ) Introduction
- ) Precursors to success
- ) Concepts related to attention
- ) The 4 pillars of an intense work ethic
- ) Further propositions for a focused state of mind
- ) Conclusion/Related reading
In our ever-growing world, most of us tend to sprint from one mundane activity to the other, whilst not even paying close attention to the given task at hand.
This sort of negative habit is somewhat being steadily reinforced due to all sorts of man-made assets, such as mobile phones, television and so forth, for they provide little hits of dopamine (a “feel good” hormone) every time they are being used.
“Multi-tasking is the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”
In a society, where multi-tasking is being praised on a regular basis, it appears to be common practice to “solve” several tasks at once.
Said course of action tends to go hand in hand with a plethora of disadvantages concerning the given individual processes that are being tackled at the same time.
Instead of finishing one task in a worthy way, and then moving on to the next one, solving several tasks at once usually ends in all of them being completed in a dilettantish manner and accordingly gives rise to less than stellar outputs in terms of quality.
A trait, which should prevail no matter the cost, for it is quality, not quantity which yields the highest returns and accordingly distinguishes the average joe from the high flyer.
If one where to tap into their inner well of focused attention and act in an appropriate manner, one can only dream of the unforeseen improvements in all aspects of their life.
This piece aims to explore some key concepts regarding focused attention and its implications on our very state of mind.
2) Precursors to success
If one were to distinguish two abilities as a precursor to success, then they would be surely:
a) Being able to master hard things in a swift manner
Automatization is occurring at an astonishing rate.
More and more menial tasks are being replaced by means of developing and furthering technological advancements, respectively achievements.
Whilst cognitively demanding tasks are still somewhat exempt from this silent process of gradual replacement, one shall not dismiss the rise of artificial intelligence and its effect on the future of mankind as a whole.
Thus, the ability to master difficult things in a quick fashion is indisputably the way to go in terms of avoiding the path of obsoleteness.
b) Being able to generate output at a high level in regard to both quality, as well as speed
You simply have to produce in order to stay relevant, for talent without its proper application is useless.
You have to outperform your competitors in any given field, if you want to exceed, moreover so if said field falls within the domain of less demanding work in terms of cognitive usage.
The person who actually makes full use of their abilities and does so at a fast pace will always be preferred to somebody who either half-heartedly uses their latent talent or takes way too long to generate tangible results.
Ultimately one can not thrive without the ability to learn and produce at a certain rate.
Taking both prerequisites for success into account, it is not hard to stumble upon the link which binds these chains of life mastery – namely undivided attention.
3) Concepts related to attention
Simply looking at attention as one giant concept without considering its various subparts would be akin to a fool’s errand, for focus per se constitutes a concept far too broad for it to be confined into a single domain.
This part offers you an overview regarding a wide array of concepts in terms of attention, as well as some practical implications.
One of the most important aspects of staying focused still remains concentrating your mental efforts on a specific process.
Diversifying and thusly quasi-nullifying your mental engagement should be avoided, if you are intent on creating substantial work in any given field of expertise.
The immediate environment often plays a much bigger role regarding our attentional spans than most assume at first.
Our prehistoric brain has to decode and interpret external stimuli in a constant manner, which also implies that everything within our limited area of perception (in regard to all senses, that is), is being subconsciously tended to.
Said subliminal attentional split is a result of the innate tendency of our most important organ to scan the environment for potential dangers.
Whilst scattered pencils and stray sheets of blank paper may not pose any immediate threat whatsoever, one shall not dismiss their impediments concerning our cognitive department.
Distractions in our environment, as minuscule as they may initially appear, are always to your detriment with reference to the ability to focus and actually diminish said capability in the long run, for every time an action is being performed, the neuronal pathway regarding said execution gets stronger, thus making a specific habit pattern easier in the long run to repeat, but also harder to get rid.
Neuronal plasticity may therefore also work against your best interest.
Moving from one task to the other without completion may seem insignificant at first, but this sort of behavioural pattern may quickly haunt you on a subliminal level and diminish the overall quality of your work in an insidious way over the long run.
Jumping from task to task without closure still leaves some resources regarding the attentional department of your cognitive functions on the first task. Your brain is basically hammering away at the previous problem, even though you have already moved onto the next task, which results in an incomplete devotion of mental efforts regarding the fulfilment of the current work.
Said concept also coincides with the so-called “Zeigarnik effect” – a mental interference, which basically connotes the fact that unfinished problems may lurk in the back of our minds and thus impair our attention.
After spending a certain amount of time of undivided focus on a given task, the subsequent exhaustion following this mentally strenuous activity leaves your cognitive functions in a temporary state of subconscious impairment, which makes it well-nigh impossible to absorb new pieces of information in an effective manner.
- ART – Attention restoration theory: In order to replenish your mental batteries concerning the attention span, you can try a scenery-change. Spending time in nature can allow you to continue on focusing on your current project, whilst simultaneously offering the benefits of spending time with mother nature.
This theory goes conveniently hand in hand with the next concept of focused mental efforts.
Whilst a life endowed with all sorts of productive endeavours may seem too daunting to pass on at first glance, one shall take special heed when it comes to taking time off on a regular basis.
Tackling your next few grand projects in a consecutive matter may stretch your mental muscle to the limit, which is precisely why scheduling time blocks to simply unwind are not only inducive to productivity, but should also very much pose a given in the toolbox of a goal-oriented individual.
- UTT – Unconscious thought theory: Your subconscious tends to process problems during your times of mental relief.
Coincidentally, this theory also correlates nicely with another proposition regarding the two types of attention in relation to mindset: namely the focused, as well as the diffused mindset.
A brief excursus on mindset
The focused mindset constitutes a sharp, laser-like focus, which is basically pointed at a specific part of the whole picture.
Au contraire, the other part of the equation, namely the diffused mindset, kicks in during our mental downtime and basically takes into account all impressions concerning a specific problem, sans our active focus.
It is most important to switch between those two attention-based mindsets insofar as to maximize your effectiveness, but this is a topic which I will cover, in greater detail, in a future post.
Creating a so-called “shutdown ritual” may be of great benefit to those of you who tend to start many long-term projects at once.
This habit may help you free up mental space by writing down things that need to be done, inasmuch as to take care of them later on.
Generally speaking, one should always place a blank sheet of paper within their imminent grasp, for if an interesting idea arises, it should be noted instead of simply leaving it to chance, where it, more often than not, may be forever lost in the seemingly endless abyss of mental clutter, which one accumulates throughout their continued being.
Our minds have evolved to keep the energy expenditure as low as possible, which is why they tend to rehash certain aspects of a topic which are already known to you – much to the detriment of actually making progress in terms of accumulating new knowledge.
Said evolutionary mechanism can only be tackled by trying to be mindful from time to time and redirecting your limited pool of attention toward the next part of your current undertaking, if you were to take heed of your dwindling attentiveness.
This state of mind, respectively being, refers to a specific phase, which may be achieved by stretching one’s abilities to their fullest in a voluntary effort to create something deemed worthwhile.
It is during this peculiar stage of productivity-laden bliss that one achieves the best results. Said temporary way of conducting oneself can be attained by means of cultivating an intense focus, for it is this type of immense attention which ultimately grants one the capability of becoming fully enmeshed in one’s workload.
4) Pillars of an intense work ethic
Whilst the previous section gave you an overview about some major underlying principles in terms of our attention span, this part of my piece will offer you some viable approaches, aimed at maximizing your inherent ability to focus deeply.
“All activities, leaving importance aside, consume some limited store of time and attention.”
Focus on the most important aspects
Every assignment consists of parts which are not as vital as others. Focusing on those minuscule parts may pose a hindrance in the grand scheme of things, for time can in these specific instances be better spent on more yielding parts of the puzzle.
Basically, one shall not commit the mistake of neglecting Pareto’s law, which fundamentally states that 20% of your work accounts for 80% of the results.
Act on the lead measures
There are 2 discriminable forms of measures, which one can act upon:
Lag measures = thing you’re ultimately keen on improving
Lead measures = measures the courses of action that will drive success on the lag measures
It is important to identify the lead measures and act on them, for these steps pose your own stairway to heaven in terms of fulfilling your aspirations.
Keep a compelling scoreboard
Instilling a sense of competition through keeping score embodies a terrific way of rekindling the flame of grit in one’s heart that may have been previously gone extinct by means of giving into excessive self-complacency.
It not only constitutes a public place to record and track your lead measures, but moreover grants you the ability to conceive your accumulated working hours, tangible results and ultimately helps you determine the number of hours regarding immense, focused work, needed per result.
Create a cadence of accountability
Regularly checking on your progress should be self-evident, since it not only gives you the possibility of recalibration but also grants you an overview about your own shortcomings and at long last allows you to determine how much time you still have to invest inasmuch as to reach your goal.
Yet, many individuals fail to hold themselves accountable, which is precisely why you should consider creating a group of like-minded fellow human beings, who are just as keen on getting on the blissful upward stream of success as yourself.
Conducting regular meetings and keeping track of each other’s progress is highly conducive when it comes to realizing your dreams.
5) Further propositions for a focused state of mind
As the abovementioned points have already been sprinkled with applicable solutions to achievement-related problems, I would like to touch on a few more topics related to focus, respectively neuronal activity regarding attention.
Our novelty seeking attitude
The human mind has evolved to be ensnared by the charm of novelty, for in generations long gone, reacting to new stimuli such as potential sources of food, or possible predators meant the difference between living to see another day and paying the debt of nature.
Due to the excessive shift of our landscape (not only in a scenic way, that is), this sort of ingrained survival mechanism is no longer needed in this kind of overbearing manner.
Yet we still revel in newness, as petty as the related triggering inducements may appear. Switching from one piece of neuronal freshness to another will slant your ability to stay focused, for your brain will eventually become accustomed to novelty.
This is precisely why you should pay special heed when it comes to indulgence appertaining to technology – social media, newsfeeds, instant messengers and the like may disguise themselves as some sort of harmless quick relief during times of focused intention, but this cannot be further from the truth.
These wolves in sheep’s clothing will slowly but surely not only chip away at your ability to remain focused for extended periods of time, but also result in attention residue, as explained previously.
One way to combat this insidious nuisance in an effective manner would be to split your day into blocks and devoting specific timeframes to time spent using the internet.
Adhering to these “phases” in a strict fashion is imperative to honing your focus and building up your mental muscle.
Bundling your mental efforts and exerting them on a particular piece of work only encompasses one side of the coin, which leaves one half of the whole picture shrouded in a thick veil of mist.
Although an immense focus on its own serves as a powerful companion to the nascent dream achiever, it would be most foolish to use this sort of accompaniment in a half-hearted manner – that is, utilizing it without taking into account the best approach towards retaining pieces of information.
Our minds are not built to think/memorize in abstract terms, which is why one should use sensory, as well as visual stimuli in order to achieve the highest degree of retention.
Utilizing those external influences in conjunction with emotions still remains the best approach to storing new mental inputs and is therefore highly advisable.
On time expenditure
Imposing boundaries in the realm of time is another great way of making sure that you will finish your deeds in a seasonable manner.
It is most important to remind yourself of Parkinson’s’ Law, which pretty much states that the time allotted to a task will be used up completely and shall consequently be chosen carefully.
Delegating ten hours of your most valuable asset to a task which may very well be finished within five hours is obviously not the wisest course of action and will henceforth only result in your expending said limited resource much faster than necessary.
6) Conclusion/Related reading
Cultivating immense focus in our distraction-flooded world is akin to boarding Noah’s ark and will allow those who sharpen their saws of attention to not only stand out but also rise above those who simply cave in at the slightest hint of novelty.
It is one the most redeemable qualities you can achieve and will surely pave your way to unleashing your full potential in more than one area of life.
There are definitely many more ways of improving your ability to focus, but I have decided to outline those I deemed most valuable and applicable.
You should pick those most fitting for your specific case and concentrate on optimizing them as much as possible, to reap the biggest rewards. For utilizing a few tools and mastering them is way better than bringing your whole gear to every job and using it in a half-hearted kind.
If you wish to learn more about improving your focus, I recommend the following book:
Please consider sharing this post, as well as making sure to subscribe, so as to stay on your path towards becoming unleashed!