Disconnect from distractions

How to systematically develop your personal ability to do quality work.

The ability to produce quality work and the ability to quickly master hard things is an important requisite in today’s work environments. The process of using rapidly changing technologies requires that you hone the ability to learn increasingly complex set of relevant skills. To be able to transform these skills into valuable results, your attention needs to be focused without any distractions. But in today’s technologically advanced world, producing quality work at an optimal rate has become a difficult task as we embrace distractions at various levels and this decreases our ability to do high quality and meaningful work. The main culprit being the culture of connectivity where one is expected to respond quickly to a mail or to a message. Checking mail and social networking sites, surfing the web, and visual mediums have become major obstacles in cultivating a deep work habit.

Here are certain behaviours that distract you from quality work.

Multitasking

Trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously, your attention remains divided. There will be a residue of your attention that remains when you switch from one task to another. Those who experience attention residue after switching tasks are more prone to distractions.

Constant need for connectivity

Workplaces with trends like active presence on social media might create more opportunities to collaborate but they do so at the cost of many distractions. We increasingly becoming the victims of online distractions. They fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate. They tend to pull your attention thereby weaken your willpower to focus on important things.

Unstructured thinking

Without any built-in goals, rules and challenges you cannot produce work of real value. When you lack planning and cannot figure out what you should be working on and for how long results in shallow work and short-term gains.

Busyness

By sending and answering mails at all hours, scheduling and attending meetings constantly, instant messaging within seconds when someone poses a query —all these behaviours make you seem busy but do not always result in high value work.

Lack of priority

Our dependence on connectivity results in paying attention to irrelevant things. When you lose focus on really important things, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong instead of what’s right giving into frustration,stress and triviality. These shallow concerns take up most of your time thereby keeping you away from doing quality work.

Many of us assume that we can transform our working life from distracted to focused overnight and that we can switch between a state of distraction and one of concentration as needed, but once you are wired for distraction, you begin to crave it and it becomes difficult to bring your focus back with one time decision to think or work deeper. Your brain becomes accustomed to on-demand distraction and is hard to change the habit even when you want to concentrate. You will struggle to achieve higher levels of concentration unless you disconnect yourself from these distractions.

You have to make your deep work a priority to meet your personal and professional goals. By integrating the habit of doing high quality and meaningful work into your schedule and supporting it with routines and rituals, you will be able to achieve your concentration ability.

The following strategies can help you maximise your personal ability to produce quality work. By adapting to some personal work habits, you can take more effective action towards your goal of achieving real results.

Schedule your work

Scheduling eliminates shallow obligations by having a highly valued professional or personal goal. By dedicating some clearly defined stretches of time to vital tasks, you can leave the time for not so important ones. By developing routines, by making sure little bit gets done on a regular basis, you can fit deep work habit whenever you can into your schedule. To make most of your time, build rituals of the same level of strictness.

Focus on your ‘priorities’

Your work should be aimed at small number of important goals. Simplifying and focusing on priorities will improve your intensity to get valuable results. Identify a small number of outcomes to pursue with your quality work hours. Spending more time doing quality work may not generate lot of enthusiasm. Instead have a specific goal that would return tangible benefits.

Work on the ‘lead measures’

Lag measures describe the thing you are trying to improve and lead measures are the hours spent working on your important goals. Lag measures cannot immediately generate a noticeable change in your ability to reach your goal. You cannot change your behaviour as the performance that driven them is already in the past. Lead measures on the other hand, turn your attention to improving the behaviours you directly control in the near future and will have a positive impact on your long-term goals.

Keep a scoreboard

By recording and tracking the hours spent doing quality work or your lead measure, creates a sense of competence and drives you to focus on these measures even when there are distractions. Keeping track of quality work hours with simple tally of tick marks maximises your motivation. Your scoreboard can help you understand what leads to bad days of work and most important, to figure out how to ensure a good score for the days ahead. This way, you can disconnect with your distractions to keep a compelling scoreboard and can create a pattern of accountability.

Set deadlines

Set expected time of completion for your important tasks on your priority list. You can motivate yourself by setting a countdown and can work with greater intensity and with no distractions. You can plan on taking occasional break from focus to give into distractions. By providing interval training for the attention centres of brain, you can minimise the number of times you give into distractions.

Apply the ‘law of vital few’

Many different activities can contribute to you achieving your goals. According to the law of vital few, only twenty percent of theses activities provide the bulk of the benefit. By listing some of your distinct and beneficial activities for each of your life goals, the top two or three such activities only make most of the difference in whether or not you succeed. Try to list only those which are specific to your goal.

Structure your ‘leisure time’

Don’t use networking tools for entertainment when it comes relaxation as they weaken your mind’s general ability to resist distraction thereby making it difficult for you to concentrate later when you really want to. Structure your leisure time by filling your free time with something of more quality than instead of allowing your mind to be lost in unstructured web surfing and other distractions. If you give your mind a quality alternative, you’ll end the day more fulfilled and can begin the next day more relaxed.

Finally,

strengthen your distraction-resistant muscle by practicing productive meditation. You can do this when you are occupied physically but not mentally by focusing on a single well-defined professional or personal problem or a hard task. When faced with hard tasks, your mind will attempt to avoid them by looping over and over again on what you already know. By structuring your thinking, you will be able to redirect your attention to the next step and will be able to set a specific target for your attention. This way, you can strengthen your distraction-resistance and sharpen your concentration.

Conclusion

Distraction remains a destroyer of deep and meaningful work. Try and optimise your efforts and keep them structured by following above mentioned strategies.

Take back the control of your time and attention from the many distractions that attempt to steal them by making your deep goal a mental priority.

Build Strong Memory

Memory is an essential pre-requisite of all learning. Building strong memory improves thought system and intellect.

 

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Memory is an important aspect of your ‘self’ and is formed by your mental habits.

“The human brain can remember events, skills, habits, and experiences. The sum of what is remembered is called a memory”-Frank Knoll

Memory loss is often attributed to aged and elderly. As you get older, you lose your imaginative skills. However, in recent years, there is a sharp increase in the number of people reporting memory related issues irrespective of their age. Majority of these cases are associated with lifestyle dysfunctions, over dependency on technology, and information overload. Tension and stress further weakens our memory system.

It is interesting to know that the left side of our brain deals with logic, language, numbers, and sequence, while the right is connected with visualisation of images, colour, and awareness. However, both can undertake all kinds of activities. You shouldn’t say that you do not have the capacity to learn or that you are weak in a certain subject. In fact, it may be because you have not developed an interest in that particular subject. By improving your memory you can use both sides of the brain.

Impressions of all mental and physical actions, observation and Visualisation in our subconscious mind creates our memory.
Our memory system has the ability to retain impressions of past thoughts in the form of attitudes, moods, or resolves. Memories are not duplicate impressions of earlier events, but reconstructions of earlier events.

Understanding memory

Memory is an active process and depends on what your brain chooses to remember and for what duration. There are three stages by which clear memory is formed.

Registration: Registering the information by the perception of sense organs forms the short-term memory system. This is very limited and should be used for registering the information clearly. Otherwise, the waste and negative information might replace it.

Retention: This is the process of storing the particular information for longer duration and this involves visual images and association with words or other experiences such as smell or sounds.

Recollection: The information stored up is brought up into conscious mind when required. This further depends on the state of the mind which helps to recall the full information stored.

Depending on the above stages, each information is processed and stored by our brain based on its intended use. Memory can be further classified.
* We tend to forget certain information as soon as it has served its purpose. This is termed as Working memory which usually lasts for few minutes to few hours and cannot be retained for longer hours.
* There are certain memories that occur at particular time and place. We register and label them with time stamps and in certain context. This is Episodic memory which allows your brain to travel back to that place and time when you try to recount that event.
* Procedural memory involves deliberate acts of learning and we can eventually recall without deliberation. For instance learning how to play a musical instrument or learning to drive.
* When we learn Information based on facts and related to general knowledge, it is stored in the brain. This is Semantic memory. This can be retained for longer time and depends on the practice and differs from person to person.

Why do we forget?

Lack of Attention
Attention directs mental activity to register an object or situation. Not being able to pay proper attention to anything forms a weak impression on our memory. In the absence of clear attention, no clear impression and therefore no clear memory to recall.

Lack of Mental exercise
We get mentally out of shape when we stop challenging our minds. This happens when we opt for habitual solutions instead of purposeful thought or when we confine ourselves to limited range of interests. Your ability to make decisions, to solve problems, to concentrate and to think creatively depends on how well you exercise your mind.

Lack of Physical exercise
Our bodies are very much a part of our learning as learning is not an isolated brain function. Every nerve cell is a network contributing to our memory and our learning capability. Complex movement stimulates complex thinking. Lack of these movements leads to low memory.

Lack of Interest
Interest is important for concentration and thereby for improved memory. Things, which we are deeply interested in, are remembered without conscious effort. Lack of interest leads to interference of other thoughts and activities which distract us from giving undivided attention to a certain subject or situation.

Lack of Sleep
When we are sleeping, brain consolidates, revises information, builds and strengthens pathways for particular memories. If you routinely deprive your body of sufficient sleep, your longtime memory will eventually deteriorate. Many harmones that are important for healthy brain functioning are secreted during the night time. Any interruption to this will make it difficult for us to recall even those memories that are retained.

Lack of Emotional Clarity
When we are emotionally upset or worried, we cannot concentrate and register the information properly. Emotional distress shrinks working memory and so diminishes the ability ṭo think and imagine clearly. Our memory and emotional states are closely linked. All our confusions are emotional ones and they befog the mind and rob it of it’s clarity.
“A clear mind remembers, a confused mind forgets.”

Lack of Relaxation
Moḍern lifestyles compel multitasking and can lead to too much work, loads of information to process, and less time to rest or relax which reduces our concentration power and creates stress. General and unwanted information leads to more confusion and loss of memory. Very less energy is spared for sharpening the mind and becomes dull and less receptive.

Lack of Relevance or Understanding
We remember what is relevant and important to us. The more relevant, the better we understand, the better we learn and the better our memory system retains and recalls when necessary. Lack of association, relevance and understanding results in non-comprehension and loss of memory power.

Few techniques to improve your memory.

Create strong impressions: Various impressions of past,present and future converge upon the mind. For stronger impressions, you need to involve all your five senses. When the impression is stronger, the memory recall will be faster and easier. Stronger impressions are formed when more than one sense is involved. Create impressions of positive and necessary information which further strengthens same impressions in your active memory.

Create interest: Improve your concentration by strengthening your interest. This compels you to give undivided attention and to concentrate by excluding other thoughts that might interfere. When you have clear-cut goals and when you know what you do helps you achieve your goals, you will automatically develop an interest.

Concentration: Develop the habit of reining your mind every time it wanders to other things. Concentration automatically leads to stronger impression. Try to build habits such as mindfulness and other habits that are conducive to concentration. A quiet mind is the best guarantee of concentration.

Unclutter your mind: Overwhelming your brain with unwanted and too much information will make it difficult to encode the information in the form of memories. Unclutter your mind by scheduling, organising, setting goals, planning for next day and preparing a ‘to do’ list. This way you can free your mind from unnecessary burden.

Association: Association helps improving your memory. The mind has a tendency ṭo associate the new to the old that were similar.
“Here’s a basic memory rule: You Can Remember Any New Piece of Information if It Is Associated to Something You Already Know or Remember” – Harry Lorayne.

Create memory technique of comprehension: Comprehend the subject of interest under six headings that is why, where, what,when, who and how. Try to understand by asking these questions. It is a permanent way of remembering.

Build positive emotional memory: Emotional memory is the memory attached to past events, people and places. Positive thoughts with positive emotions create healthy mind and receptive mind for better memory. By creating positive emotional memory, you can recall successful solutions to the similar problems of the past.

Remain stress free : Stress reduces brain functions such as memory, intellect, and even brings premature old age. It affects our concentration and learning ability all of which are essential for effective performance at work. Remain stress free for better recollection. This can be achieved most naturally when both the body and the mind are relaxed. Deep breathing and other meditation techniques help you remain stress free thereby enhancing memory power.

Mental and physical exercise: Some of the simple games we played as children can help tone up the brain and reinforce the functions of sequential thinking, logic and remembering the names and dates. Crossword puzzles or a round of scrabble offer as an excellent method of mental workout. Swimming or other physical activities stimulate brain synchronisation. Rhythmic movements such as dancing, skating, or walking also improves the memory.

 

 

 

 

Focus: A key to unlock your potential

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“No matter how well informed you may be, no matter how highly developed are your intellectual abilities, without right focus and concentration you cannot achieve perfection.”

Your focus determines the experiences you have and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Each time you focus negatively on things, your brain solidifies its habitual pathways and distracts and takes you away from your abilities. A positive focus increases your potential by not wasting your attention levels and gives you better access to your abilities.

To achieve life of your desired experiences, you need to strengthen your positive focus and should stop focusing on negative pathways. With right focus, you can manage yourself and your time in a more productive manner. Concentrating on the activities you choose enables you to create a life of your choice by devoting more time to your priorities.

Essence of right focus

Focus is not only essential in our professional life, but also is important in our personal lives. We need right focus in order to develop some skills to improve things and solve problems in our day to day life.

The ability to focus develops a strong will which can be applied to change your habits or mindsets in order to improve your productivity. Strong will to focus weakens the distractions thereby inhibiting the wrong impulses and improves self-control which leads to good emotional adjustment, better interpersonal skills, and adaptability.

“Those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional turbulence. The power to disengage our attention from one thing and move it to another is essential for well-being.”

Power of right focus

One essential quality for the success is the ability to concentrate entire thought upon the idea you are working on. All achievements in any line of work is the result of having right focus. Practicing focus management lets you explore by disengaging yourself from distractions and search for new possibilities. This makes you flexible to choose what is important to you and does not let distractions derail your aspirations and intentions.

By improving your focus, you can gain more skills to do better work each day.
Focusing and directing your attention to the right things and the ability to guide the others attention in the rightful direction also develops your leadership skills and makes you a good decision-maker.

Focus is developed by making conscious effort and it takes great mental strength but once learned takes you closer to the realisation of your dreams.

6 Keys to build right focus

1. Set a clear goal

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
Zig Ziglar

Know what you want by setting clear goals and purpose. When you have a clear goal, you know what will get you closer to it and what won’t and you don’t get caught up in distractions. This way, you don’t end up wasting time on things that hold you back. Knowing your purpose is sometimes all you need to build your focus.

“ Focus is not just selecting the right thing, but also saying no to the wrong ones.” Whatever is relevant to your goal gets priority.

2. Develop a strong will-power

The will- power can guide your inner focus towards achieving your goals. “It acts like a beam of light. It does little if gets scattered, but if you use it to focus, it can work like laser.”

An extrinsic motivation can only keep you focused for short time, but you need to develop a strong will to build right focus to act on your goals for longer time and to keep you on the right path tuning out distractions. Apply the will power to focus on desired habits.

3. Have better self-control

“Focus on your potential instead of your limitations.”– Alan Loy McGinnis

All of us have different tendencies. One wants us to advance towards our dreams and goals and the other wants to pull us back and distracts. Both natures try to gain control. The one that we focus upon gets cultivated and decides what we become.
Focus on your abilities and not on your limitations or fears. Choice lies with us whether we allow the inner self to control us or whether we will be controlled by the brute within us.

4. Practice gratitude

Be thankful to what you have. This creates the right focus on your abilities to achieve your goals. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you weigh yourself down by self created negativity. Practice being unattached to the results or outcomes of your tasks. Focus on what is in front of you and on the process, this creates a clear vision. Appreciate yourself everytime you apply right focus each day to accomplish these goals.

5. Avoid multitasking

Some of us scatter our focus trying ṭo get too many little things done instead of focusing on higher priority tasks. When jugglers keep objects in the air at once, they focus on only one object in any given moment, if they scatter their attention among all objects, they may drop all of them.

Multitasking leads to inefficiency and creates stress. So focus on your priorities and handle them one at a time. Do those things more slowly and completely to maintain and gain more focus.

6. Practice being in the moment

Most days, our minds are in ten different places at any one time. As soon as we try to focus, thousands of undesired impulses rush into the brain and try to disturb us. By developing present moment awareness you will be able to reclaim your focus and will be able to unlock your full potential. Devote time to practice mindfulness and try doing your daily activities as form of meditation by concentrating and doing them slowly and completely.

Finally, commit to yourself by eliminating multitude of distractions in your life by concentrating on only those activities that have power to make a difference in the way you want to live or work. You can direct your attention towards finding your focus and develop the confidence to stay committed and motivated to achieve your goal. A sustained focus refines your efficiencies and improves your overall performance.