At X-Stand™Nation, we think it's so important to do the work that moves you. That kind of impactful work requires real focus. If you find it difficult to focus and truly concentrate, you are not alone. In fact, the distraction driven world we live in is having a significant, negative impact on our brains. As a follow-up to my post on Productive Meditation we cover a strategy from Cal Newport's book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, that will help us reclaim our brains.
You'll struggle to deepen your focus if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.
Much in the same way that athletes must take care of their bodies outside of their training sessions, you’ll struggle to achieve the deepest levels of concentration if you spend the rest of your time fleeing the slightest hint of boredom.
Are You Chronically Distracted?
Clifford Nass, the late Stanford professor who conducted landmark research studying the effects of multitasking and attention switching, has called multitaskers “suckers for irrelevancy”. He warned:
“So we have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand… they’re pretty much mental wrecks.”
When your brain grows accustomed to this type of interrupted work, it becomes difficult to switch to a focused, flow state when you need to concentrate. But there is hope! Here are three strategies you can implement to retrain your brain.
Embrace Boredom. Say What??
When you are in line at the grocery store, what do you do? Yep, me too. The problem is checking Flipboard, email, and Instagram does nothing to help us develop our mental muscles and in fact, it does the complete opposite causing us to temporarily lose IQ points. I need mine.
We must develop the habit of fighting urges to compulsively seek immediate gratification when we experience a nanosecond of boredom. When we work deeply, we will get bored, and we will need that mental muscle to be strong enough to help us push past it.
Fight the urge to engage in these distracting activities when you are in line at the grocery store, watching your kid’s soccer game, or waiting for a friend to join you for lunch.
Be present. Breathe. Think. Observe.
Admittedly, this has been incredibly hard for me to do. It’s like breaking an addiction, which in and of itself is disturbing and underscores the importance of developing stronger mental muscles.
But let's be honest….
What tweet or email could be more important than being present in your life at this very moment?