Achieving effective single-tracked concentration is a difficult feat - often more so for some than others. As someone who belongs in the former group, I've taken it upon myself to become an archeologist, searching for the lost artifacts that comprise what it means to hone the skill of simple concentration. Admitting it's a common problem in an increasingly hyperactive world full of social media, advertisements left and right, and a never-ending stream of emails in inboxes to name a few, I aim to dig deeper into the cause of distractions and multitasker syndrome. myHCN presents, Mindful with myHCN: Climbing Towards Concentration.
The spotlight goes where you want it to go.
One does not "lose concentration". One can never really lose it. It's embedded in our mental DNA. A common occurrence is that a mental beam of focus is merely redirected to something else - oftentimes something that doesn't actually require your immediate attention. This is what ends up becoming a distraction. Distractions are a byproduct of a highly active mind seeking to spread concentration extremely thin. When you try to concentrate on too much, you are exerting the wrong type of effort (in all different directions), allowing the mind to go into overdrive, and inevitably allowing for sneaky gaps in your steady stream of focus. These gaps are where the distractions like to go hang out and steal the spotlight.
Plot twist: The spotlight only works well when you shine it in one distinct direction.
We all have experienced issues with concentration and finding balance. There comes a point when you may be invested in actively working on one thing, but energetically you are thinking about ten other things you need to do or plan for. This makes us highly prone to distractions. Rather than become super judgmental of the jumping monkey mind, put your efforts into the pursuit towards an improved ability of concentrating on one thing at a time.
In the yoga and meditation books, there is an ancient Sanskrit phrase - yogas chitta vritti nirodhah. Don't worry about pronouncing all the words correctly, but in rough translation the phrase means, "mindfully still the fluctuations and waves of causing the mind chatter."
However, you don't have to become an expert at the ancient Sanskrit language or yoga poses to work towards improved concentration! Easing into the simplicity of chipping away at one thing at a time, is a work in progress that can become an integrated part of your routine in a few small simple steps.
Here are 10 practical tips for you:
1. Keep the desk as a workplace, not a storage place
2. Turn your worries into your action steps
3. Rehearse in your mind exactly what you're going to do next
4. Make daily job lists to prioritize these tasks
5. Use rewards to motivate you every time you accomplish a goal
6. Use regular regimented exercise as a method to clear the mind
7. Find a quiet, distraction-free place to work and/or study for an hour at a time
8. Give yourself a starting and finishing time for major jobs
9. Begin addressing every problem by first dividing it into smaller parts
10. Listen carefully to others, and reflect what they say to ensure clarity in communication
Concentration can be fragile, affected by external factors or self-generated reasons depending on where the gaps stem from. Take time to identify the point of initiation, or the exact point from which the distraction enters your field of vision. Be patient as you start gradually climbing your way towards the peak of concentration. It won't come without falls, scrapes, and occasional rerouting, but it will be well worth the process
Have some of your own tips? Comment below to share!
About the Author: Neha Sharma (HCC'15, Northeastern University '15) is a health care professional in public policy, Medicaid reform, and actively advocate for co-integration of primary care and behavioral health. Aside from her traditional health care career pathway, Neha is a certified yoga & meditation coach with vested interest in bringing mindfulness practices to health care professionals and patients.