Tag Archives: concentration

Concentration and Focus

You might recognise this… reduced concentration (getting in to a task and sticking with it) and ability to focus (example would be when interacting with people)

I’m not certain whether the original cause is actually related to depression, and/or the fact that I’ve been “online” for 25 years… with more recent technology it’s pretty easy to make the point that through the way we work it, it can easily mess with our ability to focus. We tend to work on an “interrupt” basis, that is we start some task but at any point a number of things can pop up (sometimes literally), ring, go blip or otherwise draw our attention. I believe this is messy and while I don’t want to ditch my online presence I’m thinking about ways to remedy this. I think it’s possible, I just need to act less immediate – basically turn off the blips. It’s often tempting and an excellent procrastination tool, but it’s not good.

With regard to focus, I’ve made the observation that I can’t keep looking at a person I am talking with, specifically while in listening-mode. I hear and take in what they’re saying, but I find myself frequently looking at things nearby before refocussing (head doesn’t move) – that’s in part apparently a thing that visual-spatial people do (school kid looking out the window instead of at teacher may actually be paying really close attention), but I’ve found that it has one very serious problem: you miss the bodylanguage. And that’s apart from the conversation partner possibly getting upset with your apparent lack of attention for them. Whatever the cause(s), I’d like to see if I can improve my focus.

I’ve been looking in to exercises that can help with these things, and most are fairly simple and straightforward but utterly boring things: stuff like focusing on an idea (mentally) or point/item (physically) for a set period of time, timing the duration of the focus you can maintain, refocussing your mind on the topic, and thus training your brain to get better at it. It’s valid, but not much direct fun and that leads to neglect rather than commitment 😉

Today I found another option: juggling. I was at a kiddie medieval festival with my daughter, and one of her things for the day was “jester school” and parents/carers were allowed to partake. We did diabolo and basic juggling. I’ve always wanted to learn juggling but never had a live tutor for it. I think the “task” of juggling covers all the skills that need to be trained (concentration, focus) and it’s fun! Plus, if you get better at the skill, the juggling improves so there’s a very direct external feedback mechanism that can even be shown off to others in an entertaining way… all win! 😉

See this ABC Australia video for some basic hints on juggling. What she doesn’t tell there is that the arm action should keep your elbows still, and the point your eyes should focus on is about in front of your forehead, that’s where the crossover balls get aimed. Google for other tutorials (text/diagram pages might help in addition to videos). At this stage I can’t yet say I can juggle, but even the basic steps are good exercises so I’m going to stick with it and see where it leads!

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on all of this: jugging as an exercise for other stuff, causes for focus/concentration problems, etc. Everybody is different, and these things tend to not get talked about but it’s stuff many of us struggle with in some way so it’s really important. Thanks!

Getting to sleep

A friend taught me a very useful trick to use when you really want to get to sleep but your brain can’t stop bouncing around randomly.  Start counting and visualise each number, tracing it out in your visual space.  Replace each number with the word ‘sleep’ before going on to the next.  Or imagine it like a count-down strip in an old film reel, with the number 1 being surrounded by a clock face sweeping out the time to the next number.  Slow that time down between numbers.  Or write the words out in your head.  Or count in a foreign language, again tracing the words out in your head.  Try binary or trinary.

The key detail here is to not just think of the number but to visually map it out in your visual space, so it involves more of your brain to trace each number.  If you also involve a picture or a word that you have to put between each iteration, it forces your brain to concentrate on one thing.  And that’s really the key to that ‘brain pinball’ feeling – stopping every bit of your brain firing randomly.

The other technique I’ve used is to count up in series.  Powers of two or three, the Fibonacci series – there are plenty of other arithmetic (and a few simple geometric) progressions that you can use to focus your mind.  Now that I can count up to 2^24 from memory it becomes more of a challenge, but it’s a good way of concentrating to stop your thoughts randomly running all over the place.