Maybe it's because we're in Virgo season, but it does not escape me that 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, I aim to dig deeper into the cause of distractions and multitasker syndrome.
The spotlight goes where you want it to go.
One does not "lose concentration". You can never really lose it. It's embedded in your mental DNA. A common occurrence is that your 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.
My mind is nuts. Actually completely bonkers. I've had issues with concentration and finding balance for as long as I can remember. When I'm working on one thing, I think of the ten other things I can be doing or planning for. This makes me highly prone to distractions, and is one of the big reasons yoga and meditation have become my life vests. Rather than become super judgmental of my monkey mind, I am actively pursuing an improved ability to concentrate on one thing at a time.
yogas chitta vritti nirodhah - Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 1.2
Patanjali was no stranger to the mind's insatiable desire to wander. Sutra 1.2 translates to stilling the "chitta" or waves & fluctuations of the mind through disciplined yogic practice. However, you don't have to become an expert at the Ashtanga primary series to achieve this. Easing into the simplicity of chipping away at one thing at a time, is absolutely a work in progress that can become an integrated part of your routine in a few small simple steps.
Here are 10 practical tips I've found to be helpful:
1. Keep the desk as a workplace, not a storage place
2. Turn worries into 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 is birthed. 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 arduous process.