Unlocking the Brain: The Key to its Tremendous Potential
Our attention span has shrunk by nearly a quarter in the last 15 years, leaving us with a lower ability to focus than a goldfish. Currently, we have an attention span of 8 seconds as compared to the 9 seconds of the goldfish.
This change seems to have started out about the same time as smartphones hit the market. This has a host of implications: on an individual level, it directly affects our personal performance as we are distracted more easily at work, find it more difficult to stick to one task, and rarely expend as much time as we should perfecting a task.
This detriment has made it necessary to relearn focus and concentration if we are to be more productive in our personal and business affairs.
The loss of our concentration span happened autonomously without us realizing it. However, cultivating focus and getting back to where we were 15 years ago will not happen the same way. We need to put in the work if we are to learn how to focus.
Learning how to direct all your concentration to one task to the exclusion of all else is a skill that must be steadily cultivated. Without focus, we tend to fall into unproductive patterns of doing what feels easiest, or what makes us look busiest, or more commonly juggling three half-baked tasks in the name of multitasking.
Luckily, cultivating focus is not as difficult as it may seem. It can be done by playing brain games such as crossword puzzles or chess and even just cooking or driving. The thing with focus is that it rests less on what you are doing as opposed to how you are doing it.
The goal of learning how to focus is not to create a quick fix to get you through a few jobs but to find a way to nurture the skill so it permeates your whole life. One way to do this is through meditation.
Before you dismiss meditation as Eastern mythology, keep in mind that research has shown that brain patterns for those who meditate change for the better making them less prone to distractions. Meditation is the perfect practice for cultivating focus as it is rooted in directing your attention to one thing and can be done anywhere.
The best way to start a meditation practice is by directing your focus to your breath. Observing each inhale and exhale for a short period of time cultivates the practice necessary to focus on more difficult tasks. Once you have consistent practice, you’ll find that your concentration at work significantly improves.
People tend to use meditation and mindfulness interchangeably, which is actually inaccurate. While meditation rests in stillness and is often practiced while sitting or unoccupied, mindfulness exists in the heart of activity.
Mindfulness is essentially the practice of concentrating your attention on the task at hand while putting aside any distractions. The trick to mindfulness is to practice it as often as possible. Everything can and should be done mindfully and this immensely increases the value of the task, from cooking to washing the dishes and even to listening.
The important thing to keep in mind is to focus fully on the task without juggling it with another. Mindfulness is a great way to deal with pressure when handling projects at work and is essential to building the skills necessary to successfully see it through.
Play Some Attention-Training Games
Learning to focus doesn’t have to be dreary or monotonous. Because the brain is a muscle, the parts you constantly use will grow and become better suited to their jobs. Attention training games are great because they exercise the centers of the brain that control focus and distraction.
The best advice is not to rush to the games that claim to be dedicated to increasing your attention span but games that challenge you. There are a number of developers who claim their games increase focus but as research on this is still divided, what you need is simply a game that requires all your focus to play it.
The classic game of chess is a good choice as it requires a huge amount of concentration not only to create your strategy but also to anticipate your opponent’s next move. This skill, once cultivated, can be applied to other areas of your personal life as well as your work life with greater ease.
A Little Curiosity Goes a Long Way
Chances are high that your trouble with focus stems from the age-old ailment of boredom. It goes without saying that you can’t be expected to keep your focus on something that does not spark your interest. The best way to surmount this is to become more curious about what you are doing.
This helps you take a greater interest in what you are doing. Look for more ways to perform a task better and faster. The best way to ignite your curiosity is to take up the attitude of a child again by asking a lot of questions.
You may be surprised that even seemingly easy jobs such as drying the dishes have a host of questions attached to them that you don’t yet have the answer to. This will help you focus more on the job.
The brain is our most important and guarded asset and we should not allow it to deteriorate. Focus is one of the things that we are losing due to modernity and it is high time that we change this.