This is an article on productivity and mindfulness by Radhika Cosley
Here are five simple exercises that will help you get a feel for the art of concentration. Remember to stay relaxed. Yes, you may have to tear your attention away from alluring distractions. But you’re sure to find that the state of deep, relaxed concentration is soothing, renewing, and can even be blissful.
Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, was able to remember a phone number hours later after just glancing at it. He said that all it takes is concentrating with enough energy. When he would put his mind to something, he usually wasn’t even aware of what was going on around him.
1. Find a peaceful setting
If possible, set aside a room or a corner of your living space that is quiet and free from distractions, where your TV and computer aren’t visible, your phone is silent, and other distractions are beyond arm’s reach.
If you don’t have a free space, hang a curtain or place a screen in a corner of a room, so you won’t be able to see the busy world outside. If need be, you can simply sit facing a blank wall, where you can’t see anything immediately distracting.
2. Set a goal
Close your eyes for a moment. Think of a reasonable expectation for what you’ll be able to accomplish. A good way to decide what’s reasonable is to estimate how long the task will take – and double it, because unforeseen delays will be unavoidable.
Write down your goal, so you can refer to it if you become distracted. Think of the many reasons the task is worth investing your time and concentration and write them down. The founder of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most successful woman-owned business says she finds it a lot easier to achieve her goals if she writes them down as soon as she thinks of them. A Chinese saying is: “The best memory is not half so firm as faded ink.”
3. Do one thing at a time
If you try to do two or more things at once you won’t get either of them done more effectively – you’ll simply ruin your concentration by dividing it, so you’ll take longer to get both tasks done, and you’ll make more mistakes. A study at Stanford University found that “chronic multi-taskers” had poorer memories, were more easily distracted, and were less able to switch easily between tasks.
By focusing on just one thing in small matters, you’ll find it becomes easier to concentrate while facing big challenges.
4. Take a break – and drink a glass of water
At first glance, taking time off would seem to be counterintuitive. If you plan to work longer than an hour, though, it will actually help your concentration to get up and walk around for 5-10 minutes, preferably outdoors. This will increase the blood flow to your brain, which will help you think more clearly, and will relieve the frustration of working past the point where your brain gets tired and wants to rebel.
Drinking water will prevent dehydration, which leads to dizziness and tiredness. A study of athletes found that those who were dehydrated lost up to 40 percent of their strength.
Many meditation techniques are based on focusing the mind on a single thought, mantra, or object, which can noticeably improve your concentration, even if you only practice it 10 minutes a day. Here is a simple technique you can try.
It’s good to remember that the most important thing in concentration is not, in fact, to force the mind to concentrate, but to become deeply relaxed and intensely interested in whatever you hold your attention on.
Swami Kriyananda often said that the mind tends to follow whatever feelings are uppermost in the heart. By cultivating positive, expansive feelings such as love, compassion, and kindness we find that the mind becomes easily focused.
For a day, or a week, try doing one thing at a time. When you sit down to a meal, focus entirely on the meal, and even avoid talking if possible.
Whatever you do, put your full attention on it. At the end of the day or week, check how you feel. Are you more relaxed, more peaceful? Did you accomplish more than you expected? If you make one-pointed concentration a habit, you’ll notice that you find your activities more enjoyable. Instead of seeing concentration as a strain, you’ll find that it becomes a very fulfilling part of your day.