I have recently realised how challenging it can be for me to pay attention. Not in a one-on-one sense, but in a way where I am truly present in each moment and can achieve the true feeling of being in the moment.
I’ve started personal training this year and each time I have a session with my trainer I start to talk about things around me, almost as though I’m not concentrating. What I didn’t realise until this morning is that encourages her work me harder! This got me thinking about attention.
There’s some interesting research that has been done about shifting attention from one task to another. It turns out that you and I and every other multitasker are not multitasking at all. We are all, in fact, serial tasking. We actually, shift our attention from one task to another in rapid succession.
As an example, you might shift from writing something on your computer to checking something on your phone and then quickly shift back again, believing that it is happening simultaneously.
That’s where we’re wrong.
Therefore, so-called multitasking is not effective or efficient and is actually non-existent!
The research demonstrated that when we shift focus from one task to something else, the change is not fast or smooth. What actually happens is a lag time when your brain has to pull itself away from the first thing and move to the next. Although this change feels like it happens in an instant, it takes up to 40 per cent more time than single tasking – especially for tricky tasks.
There’s so much around about bio hacking and productivity hacking. Below are some attention hacking tips that are both personally recommended and professionally advised. Choose one and try it. Choose the next one and try it. Make it easy and take it step-by-step. Learning to focus and to undertake one focused piece of work after the other is a life-long skill.
- Work in time bound increments then have a break; 25-minute work chunks with a short break is the optimum for attention.
- You can build focus, it’s a muscle like any other.
- Learn how to shift your breathing from your chest (anxious) to your belly (focused), specifically at the start of each of your time chunks.
- Work when you are naturally the most alert; use your body and energy to your advantage.
- Turn off all of your notifications on every device. Opt-in to social media only when you choose, not as a distraction habit.
- Try a stand-up desk. The ability to move around uses more energy and reduces some of your need to distract yourself.
For me and my personal training, the hack I am going to concentrate on is my breath. That should help me focus and feel more in my body, and then my attention will be on the exercise that I am engaged in rather than the cute little poodle that walks past in the park.