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There is way too much going on around you and inside your mind. It’s no surprise that attention makes only a short appearance in the day and is hard to sustain. Our experts tell you how to rise above the distractions and improve your efficiency.
One thing at a time
You are working on a project against a fast-approaching deadline and your boss comes and hands you another to complete. In the middle of this, your wife calls and asks you to help out with an address she cannot find. Your target is to complete these three tasks, say, within an hour. Multi-tasking would mean you giving 33 per cent of your efforts to each of the three tasks and the quality of output will be low for all three tasks with more time spent on each of them. Life coach Captain Vinod Nair suggests you prioritise what is most important for you. “By doing so, you will be giving 100 per cent of your brain to one task at a time, focusing on it and accomplishing it twice as fast,” he says.
Whenever you are in the middle of a task and are tempted to give up, push yourself to do ‘five more’. This means don’t switch off, instead wait five more minutes, read five more pages or work five more minutes. Doing this will help build mental stamina just as sports persons push past the point of exhaustion to up their physical strength. When your mind is finally giving up, insist on reading a book or writing a project brief or solving a balance sheet problem for five more minutes. This will build mental endurance over a period of time and help you accomplish a given task with greater ease.
See and feel, really
Artist Frederick Franck said, “When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.” Your mind may be wandering through a hundred random thoughts, but it always knows to treasure a great sight. So when your mind is far away, it will help to look around and for a change, actually see everything around you. Admire the painting on the wall, revel in the beauty of the sculpture that has always escaped your attention, or just look again and closely at a loved one you tend to take for granted. This will make it come alive in your mind’s eye. Having white noise in the background such as instrumental music will help you ignore the more distracting stimuli from your surroundings.
Recharge with eustress
Nair advises indulging in activities that boost the eustress, which is basically the good stress. “You can feel eustress after engaging in a challenge, riding a roller-coaster, watching a scary movie or having sex,” he says. Eustress doesn’t carry the same type of damage as chronic stress. In fact, in the state of eustress, energies of the mind are highly focused and organized during which you can pull off tasks with competence. What also greatly aids concentration is the glucose metabolism in the brain, which is at its peak after breakfast. Concentrate on the most important or difficult tasks during this time.
To do or not to do
Fix a time in the day for worrying. When you are about to begin a job that needs your complete attention, worries tend to float into your brain. Tackle your brain’s never-ending preoccupation by telling it what to worry about and what not. Just remind yourself that you will worry about that unpaid bill exactly at 7 pm, and not now. To-do lists alleviate your brain’s anxiety — once written, you’re free to forget them. Assign every task a strict time-span. Tell yourself, “For the next 30 minutes I will focus on formulating the client brief for tomorrow’s presentation at office,” is a better bet than worrying about the worry. That said, taking short breaks between demanding tasks helps keep your mind alert. “Even a short break of 5-10 minutes every two-three hours improves efficiency of the brain with sustained attention,” says Dutta.
Rewire your brain
Just before you start, focus on your breathing for five to 15 minutes each day and it can make a significant difference to your attention spans in everyday life.From the experiments conducted on those who meditate, Dr Varsha Dutta, consultant clinical neuro-psychologist at Dr Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, found that meditation increased activity in the brain regions used for paying attention and decision-making. “The experiments have shown that people who meditate, which is a mindfulness technique, are able to switch attention between tasks more efficiently than people who do not. Meditation has rewired their brain processes in such a way that their attention spans have increased more than average.”
When the communication between the two brain hemispheres is efficient, you are able to accomplish tasks with greater attention and proficiency. Scientific experiments have shown that horizontal movement of the eyes from left to right while watching a target on the move for at least 30 seconds can help improve communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Try this type of eye movement by watching a certain car move in the traffic.
Stop putting off tasks and errands by simply asking yourself these questions whenever you are about to postpone any work: Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so that it’s not on my mind? Will it be any easier later? The answers to these will give you an instant check on how this task will keep getting counter-productive the more you delay. And oh, the guilt of not getting it done, that will make its home in your head too.
Author: Ankit Ajmera