Concentration Precedes Success

by Daniel Ngari on February 23, 2009

Concentration means intense mental effort directed at a specific objective. It also refers to great and constant diligence and attention. It is very difficult to succeed without concentration. A mind that concentrates is a beautiful mind. It is a mind that will get results and give you power to overcome challenges.

Intense Concentration

Directing intense mental effort to an issue has the same effect as shining a magnifying glass on a piece of paper on a hot summer day. Just as huge forest fires can be ignited by that piece of paper, intense concentration can produce a formidable level of success.

Intensely concentrating at the issue at hand helps find solutions that would not otherwise be found. Concentrating on a problem and getting rid of distractions helps identify the quickest path to success. How long can you concentrate with intensity?

Sustainable Concentration

Intense concentration quickly leads to mental fatigue and is not sustainable for extended periods of time. I am fairly capable of intensely focusing on an issue with absolute intensity, but that only lasts for minutes. I used to be really frustrated with this and kept trying to improve my concentration. That was until I discovered a better way of doing things that I explain to you below.

How long can you intensely focus on one issue to the exclusion of everything else? Is it in seconds, minutes or hours? Most people can only concentrate for minutes before their mind takes a safari.

Once you have identified how long you can intensely concentrate, then you can then create a workable system around that. You can schedule breaks to rejuvenate at specific intervals. You can also arrange your work in cycles; some that require intense concentration, followed by those that do not need such intensity.

I do that all the time on my job when writing computer programs. First I really focus to find an angle for solving the problem, and create the action plan for tasks that do not require much intensity. Then I drop my intensity and just do the work, more or less in zombie state. It is the same for any goal that you may have, from financial freedom to weight loss.

Remember intense concentration is not sustainable. When you can intensely concentrate, do your best to create an action plan that you can undertake half asleep. Can you think of another unique way of sustaining your concentration?

The Fallacy of Multitasking

Computer operating systems are designed to multitask.  Humans are not. Many people tell themselves that they can do more than one thing at a time. In many cases, that is just fallacy that ends up chewing up time, especially when switching from task to task.

A computer can download a file, be printing at the same time, be computing numbers on a spreadsheet, be playing a song and be backing up data at the same time. The computer processor is able to perform some tasks in the background and do more than a human can.

Some people argue that multi-tasking is possible, and give the example that you can be able to stretch your hands, swallow or blink at the same time. While that is true, such tasks do not require intense concentration. Tasks that require dedicated attention suffer when someone tries to conduct them simultaneously. There is a good reason why many governments ban PDAs and phones while driving. We are only able to intensely focus on one thing at a time.

People who appear to be multitasking are only performing one task after another, and switching back and forth. You can gain more efficiency by consciously focusing on the task at hand, finishing it, or at least taking it up to a particular level, and then taking on another.

The Attention Age Doctrine

Our world has become busier and busier. With more TV stations, Radio Stations, Websites, Blogs and other forms of interruptions in the daily life. We become inundated with new ways of simplifying life, but  in reality the time saving devises such as phones and email end up chewing up more and more of our time.

Rich Schefren wrote the Attention Age Doctrine where he explained in detail how more information makes us dumber, and explains how all the interruptions in life lead to a drop in productivity.

He talks about information overload as a thief of productivity gains that we so much seek. Information overload and constant interruptions of the modern world reduce our intensity of concentration.

Improving Your Concentration

  • Avoid Distractions – Determine what you want to concentrate on. For example, I wanted to concentrate on writing this blog post today. Distractions would include getting on the phone with a friend, or jumping on YouTube to watch music videos. You need to exclude anything that is not within the confines of what you want to do, for the entire period that you want to concentrate for. What kind of distractions do you currently have?

  • Conducive Environment – If you want to memorize a speech, you would most likely not do it in a bus. Finding an appropriate environment for your task will help avoid distractions and give you a better chance for concentrating. If you are studying for example, find a place that is comfortable to seat, adequate lighting etc. What kind of environment do you need to effectively concentrate?

  • Realistic Goals – Setting realistic goals with realistic time lines helps avoid worry and anxiety. Give yourself ample time to do your job or perform a particular task without feeling overwhelmed. Are your concentration goals realistic? How can you refine your goals to avoid being overwhelmed?

  • Continuous Improvement – Understand your current concentration threshold and keep improving it. Do not expect miracles; just keep improving the length and intensity of your concentration. Remember practice makes perfect. What effect would continuously  improving your concentration have on your level of success?

  • Reward Yourself – Every time you concentrate and meet your objectives, reward yourself. Your brain will start associating concentration with reward. You will then find yourself concentrating more and more. One form of reward you can give yourself is a rest. Learn to relax your brain after the concentrating with intensity. What other ways can you reward yourself for improving your concentration?

Conclusion

Concentration means focusing on a single idea or action with intensity. Concentration helps you solve problems and come up with the fastest path to attain your goals.

Avoid the fallacy of multitasking by completing one task before embarking on another. Be aware that information overload can be a drain on productivity.

We all have different levels of concentration. Concentration can be improved through practice and avoiding distractions. How will you improve your concentration today?


{ 9 comments }

Judy March 16, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I could never multitask while brushing my teeth; should i stop seeing that as a minus?:-) Good constructive articles mister, keep them coming…..

Wilson Odhiambo March 4, 2009 at 12:16 am

If there were same interesting and realistic article, then this of yours. keep it up brother and if you don’t mind, lets share more.

paula February 25, 2009 at 8:34 am

Concentration!!!!!!! Wow.. never loked at it this way… Everytime I have do something I have to conc……
Dan are you concentrating?????? …. lol

Colin February 24, 2009 at 8:54 pm

You have explained the concept as comprehensively as you can and by all means i do not disagree with you, yet i find it too ambitious. Do you mean to tell me each time I have to perform a task that I need to concentrate on I will need to find the ideal environment?

Njeri February 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm

good stuff Daniel, its interesting the way you put things into perspective.

Brenda Njeru February 24, 2009 at 9:27 am

I needed that!

Rachel February 24, 2009 at 6:00 am

Concentration, as you said is really based on individual ability. I think you are either born with it or not.Great achievers are usually born with plenty of drive and concentration. As for the rest of us, we can only work with our limited abilities and hence takes a lot more effort competing with those of greater ability!

Joy February 24, 2009 at 4:23 am

i have a whack concentration.. thanks for the tips, i know they will be an asset!

James Adolwa February 24, 2009 at 1:51 am

Thanks again…good thing you exposed the myth on multitasking… next time someone says I have a one track mind… I will take that as a compliment bcoz it will mean that I am exhibiting a strength in concentration

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