Concentration is the art of staying focused and turning a blind eye to life’s inevitable roll-call of distractions. It’s fair to say that most people have the skill nailed down to the level of blind aggravated badgers. That is, they’re pretty bloody useless at it.
But that’s okay, concentration is an acquired skill. We’re going to look at several methods of improving your focus to the point where you can process the day’s challenges like Ivan Drago on a cocaine kick. Ready?
First things first, I think it’s important to address the sick twisted cousin of concentration. His name is Procrastination and he is a highly destructive force of nature. As my favourite saying goes, “Procrastination is masturbation, you’re only ever screwing yourself.”
Damn right, you are.
Like all good talents worth having, the first step is to acknowledge that you’re sick of life without it. Ask yourself, “How much more would I be able to achieve if I could just focus my energies and get done what needed to be done?” The answer is enough to spur some fighting talk, but realising the New Filthy Rich You isn’t going to happen without some seriously hard yards.
Here are some concentration must-haves that will help you through the struggle.
Binaural Beats and White Noise
In a utopian world lead by yours truly, office workplaces around the globe would have their radios ripped out and replaced by white noise generators.
If you’re not familiar with white noise, let me bring you up to speed.
One of the easiest ways to lose concentration is to be distracted by noise. It could be the neighbour’s dog, the traffic outside or even your partner mashing up dishes in the kitchen.
If two people are talking simultaneously, you will probably struggle to focus on one of them.
If 500 people are talking, the combined frequencies will create a blanket of sound – similar to white noise – where additional noises will go undetected by your conscious mind. For example, if somebody drops a plate in that crowd of 500 voices, you aren’t likely to distinguish the distraction from the existing blanket of noise.
For an excellent white noise generator, check out Simply Noise. Loop the noise while focusing on your important tasks and you will find it much easier to concentrate for sustained periods.
Binaural beats go one step further. They involve two tones being played at different frequencies to create what is known as the entrainment of brainwaves. Binaural beats, as seen on The Unexplainable, can have radical effects on your state of mind and there is an entire industry upon itself of enthusiasts – myself included – who find them excellent for concentration purposes.
In Thailand, there was nothing I found more cleansing than a twenty minute session in the sauna. It’s amazing how meditating for a short period each day can do wonders for your ability to focus. It’s like recharging the batteries and resetting your mind to focus on tasks that are relevant in the present.
While not everybody is lucky enough to have a sauna strapped on to their apartment, you should easily be able to find twenty minutes in your day where meditation is possible. Use binaural beats to send your mind and body in to a sleepy trance, and let your anxieties melt away.
When the time comes for being focused and energetic, you should find yourself feeling much less irritable.
Achieve Optimal Health
A healthy body is a healthy mind. I hate to sound like I’m judging your personal right to eat shit, or to refuse any exercise that extends beyond rolling out of bed. But if you can’t look after your body, take on the right nutrition and crucially – commit to enough physical activity – then you’re going to have a hell of a time capitalising on the vast reserves of brain power at your disposal.
Before dismissing the following advice out of hand, set yourself a target even if just for one time only. See if it makes a difference…
Eat something nutritious for breakfast, and then exercise before you start work.
When the body has been physically awakened, lethargy is much less likely to affect your concentration levels. Science has proven so time and time again, but you know what? Screw science. Get off your arse and try it yourself.
Thoughts are Optional
I’m a big believer in our ability to choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to be influenced by. If you’re not fully concentrating on the task at hand, it’s all too easy to become bogged down by distracting thoughts.
Anything from “What am I going to salvage from the fridge for dinner?“, to “I really hope I get this done before X Factor comes on” to “Oh look, some cute kittens on YouTube”
Most people play the victim to these thoughts. But how am I supposed to control what I’m thinking?
The solution is to become self-aware to the point where you can acknowledge exactly when your mind is starting to wander. As soon as you feel your concentration waning, refer to an authority voice in the back of your head. Ask where the thoughts are coming from. What desire is allowing them to materialise?
An excellent way to combat these distractions is to treat them as intruders from a mind other than your own. You’ll be much less inclined to waste your time on YouTube if you interpret the thought as an act of sabotage from your most bitter enemy. Does that sound slightly extreme? Try it! Treat the bad traits as remnants of a separate vicious entity.
90% of resisting a distraction is your ability to find a neutral voice that acknowledges and sees the distraction for what it actually is. The other 10% is how fast you act to remove it.
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