Top 5 Tips to Improve Your Concentration

From Sam Horn
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When TV newscaster Diane Sawyer was asked the secret to her success, she said, "I think the one lesson I've learned is there is no substitute for paying attention." Are you thinking, "I agree, but HOW do we improve our ability to focus and maintain attention -- no matter what?" These five FOCUS tips can help you concentrate better -- whether you're working in a busy office, studying at school, sitting in a meeting, or trying to finish a project. F = Five More Rule There are two kinds of people -- those who have learned how to work through frustration, and those who wish they had. From now on, if you're in the middle of a task and tempted to give up -- just do FIVE MORE. Read FIVE MORE pages. Finish FIVE MORE math problems. Work FIVE MORE minutes. Just as athletes build physical stamina by pushing past the point of exhaustion, you can build mental stamina by pushing past the point of frustration. Just as runners get their second wind by not giving up when their body initially protests, you can get your "second mind" by not giving up when your willpower initially protests. Continuing to concentrate when your brain is tired is the key to S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G your attention span and building mental endurance. O = One Think At a Time Samuel Goldwyn said, "If I look confused, it's because I'm thinking." Feeling scatter-brained? Overcome perpetual preoccupation with the Godfather Plan -- make your mind a deal it can't refuse. Yes, the mind takes bribes. Instead of telling it NOT to worry about another, lesser priority (which will cause your mind to think about the very thing it's not supposed to think about!), assign it a single task with start-stop time parameters. For example, "I will think about how to pay off that credit card debt when I get home tonight and have a chance to add up my bills. For now, for the next thirty minutes from 1-1:30 pm, I will give my complete focus to practicing this presentation so I am eloquent and articulate when pitching this proposal to our VIP clients." Still can't get other concerns out of your head? Write them down on your to-do list so you're free to forget them. Recording worrisome obligations means you don't have to use your brain as a "reminder" bulletin board, which means you can give your undivided attention to your top priority task. C = Conquer Procrastination

Don't feel like concentrating? Are you putting off a task or project you're supposed to be working on? That's a form of procrastination. R. D. Clyde said, "It's amazing how long it takes to complete something we're not working on." Next time you're about to postpone a responsibility ask yourself, "Do I have to do this? Do I want it done so it's not on my mind? Will it be any easier later?" Those three questions can give you the incentive to mentally apply yourself because they bring you face to face with the fact this task isn't going away, and delaying will only add to your guilt and make this onerous task occupy more of your mind and time.

U = Use Your Hands as Blinkers Picture your mind as a camera and your eyes as its aperture. Most of the time, our eyes are "taking it all in" and our brain is in "wide-angle focus." We can actually think about many things at once and operate quite efficiently this way (e.g., imagine driving down a crowded highway while talking to a friend, fiddling with the radio, keeping an eye on the cars beside you, and watching for your exit sign.) What if you want to switch to telephoto focus? What if you have to prepare for a test and you need 100% concentration? Cup your hands around your eyes so you have "tunnel vision" and are looking solely at your text book. Placing your hands on the side of your face blocks out surroundings so they are literally "out of sight, out of mind." Think about the importance of those words. Want even better news? Does the name Pavlov r-r-r-ring a bell? If you cup your hands around your eyes every time you want to switch from wide-angle to telephoto focus, that physical ritual becomes a Pavlovian trigger. Remember? Pavlov rang the bell, fed the dog, rang the bell and fed the dog, until the dog started salivating as soon as he heard the sound of the bell. Similarly, using your hands as blinkers every time you want to narrow your focus teaches your brain to switch to "one track" mind and concentrate on your command. S = See As If For the First or Last Time Want to know how to be "here and now" and fully present instead of mindlessly rushing here, there, and everywhere? Frederick Franck said, "When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted." Evelyn Underhill said, "For lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day." I constantly relearn this lesson. One time I was giving my sons their nightly back rub. Although I was sitting right next to them, I might as well have been in the next country because I was thinking of the early morning flight I needed to take the next day and wondering if I had packed my hand-outs, if my ticket was in my purse, etc. Suddenly, my unfocused eyes fell upon my sons and I truly SAW Tom and Andrew as if I was looking at them for the first time. I was immediately flooded with a sense of gratitude for these

two healthy, thriving boys. I felt so blessed to have been gifted with such wonderful sons. In an instant, I went from being absent-minded to being filled with a sense of awe and appreciation for their presence in my life. Next time your mind is a million miles away, simply look around you and really SEE your surroundings. Study that exquisite flower in the vase. Get up close to the picture on the wall and marvel at the artist's craftmanship. Lean in and really look at a loved one you tend to take for granted. This will "Velveteen Rabbit" your world and make it come alive in your mind's eye. What people have said about concentration
• • • •

"I used to think the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body, and then I realized, 'What is telling me that?'" - Emo Phillips "I'm getting so absent-minded and forgetful. Sometimes in the middle of a sentence, I . . . " - Milton Berle "Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind." Leonardo da Vinci "Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are." - Jose Ortega y Gasset I would go without shirt or shoe sooner than lose for a minute the two separate sides of my head." - Rudyard Kipling "It's not that I don't want to listen to people. I very much want to listen to people. I jut can't hear them over my talking." - Paula Poundstone


About Sam Horn Sam Horn is the author of ConZentrate. Sam's four books from St. Martin's Press have received critical acclaim from Investors Business Daily, Publishers' Weekly, Chicago Tribune, Readers Digest, and Washington Post, and have been published in more than twenty countries including China, Japan, France, Canada, Israel, and Germany. Foreign Service Journal said, "If you use the strategies outlined by Horn, it will change your attitude, the attitude of others, and the way others treat you." Sam has had the opportunity to speak to more than a half million people in more than 35 states since 1981. Her keynotes, training workshops, and conference presentations consistently receive excellent evaluations for being full of fun, real-life ideas participants are motivated to use immediately at work, at home, and in their community. She was the top-rated speaker at both the 1996 and 1998 International Platform Association conventions in Washington DC, and won the 2003-2004 Outstanding Capital Speaker Award.
Things You’ll Need: • • • Electronic Personal Organizers Wall Clocks Calendars

• • Step1

Personal Organizers Stopwatches

Create a space designated solely for work. If that space is your desk in a work office, for example, use it only for work ' step away from it when taking breaks or eating. Step2 Form a strong association between working and your desk to make concentrating easier. Step3 Remove surrounding distractions. Turn off the ringer on your phone and, if possible, shut down your computer if you will be tempted to surf the Web. Step4 Assemble all the materials you will need (books, paper, charts). You want to avoid getting up to retrieve materials and distracting yourself. Step5 Set a specific production goal and give yourself a manageable chunk of time (perhaps 1 to 2 hours) in which to achieve this goal. Step6 Create pressure by scheduling meetings or other interruptions to force yourself to work more effectively during a shorter period of time. Step7 Reward yourself after each period of intense concentration with a small break.

Tips & Warnings
• • Work at a time of day when you know you are alert. Work with another person nearby ' someone whose work habits you respect and who will not distract you ' to encourage yourself to concentrate more fully. Try to stop work at a natural breaking point or after some sort of accomplishment, which will make returning to work easier. Write notes to quickly jog your memory when you resume. Try jotting down ideas as you think or notes as you read. The act of writing can force you to devote attention to the task at hand and discourage your mind from wandering. Writing also helps you process and clarify information.

• •

Develop an interest in your work, from which concentration naturally follows. Avoid expecting to work with maximal effectiveness for long, unbroken stretches of time, as there are limits to anyone's powers of concentration

How to Improve Your Memory
By eHow Education Editor Rate: (26 Ratings) Scores of books, videos, Web sites and seminars are devoted to memory enhancement. The steps below summarize the main points of most techniques; refer to the Related Sites for more specific and detailed memory tips.
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Instructions
Difficulty: Moderately Easy Things You’ll Need: • • Step1 Make sure you're alert and attentive before trying to memorize anything. Step2 Understand the material rather than merely memorizing, if it's the type that requires deeper comprehension. Step3 Look for larger patterns or ideas, and organize pieces of information into meaningful groups. Step4 Pens White Paper

Link the new bits of knowledge with what you already know. Place what you learn into context with the rest of your knowledge, looking for relationships between ideas. Step5 Engage your visual and auditory senses by using drawings, charts or music to aid memory. Step6 Use mnemonics ' devices such as formulas or rhymes that serve as memory aids. For example, use the acronym 'HOMES' to memorize the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior). Step7 Repeat and review what you've learned as many times as you can. Apply it or use it in conversation, as continual practice is the key to remembering things in the long term.

Tips & Warnings
• • • Things that interest you are easier to remember. Try to develop an interest in what you're memorizing. Your memory and thinking will function much better if you're in good health, well-rested and properly hydrated. Try writing down or reciting aloud what you've memorized ' this can help etch it into your mind.

How to Improve Your Concentration

In concentration we marshal all our dispersed energies into focusing on just one thing. When mastered, concentration can be of unimaginable benefit in our life; through concentration we can increase our productivity and give ourselves greater peace of mind. These are some suggestions for improving your concentration.

One-Pointedness
Concentration means that we can focus on one thing, to the exclusion of all else. Our concentration may involve writing or working on a particular problem. Whatever our activity the most important criteria is to give all our focus, concentration and attention solely to the activity at hand. Concentration becomes hopeless when we get distracted by several different things at the same time; to improve our concentration we must stop trying to do several things at once. If you are writing an article, don’t be thinking about what to say to your boss later in the day. If we can develop one-pointedness we will develop a tremendous intensity that enables us to achieve our tasks much quicker.

Learn to Control Your Thoughts
The main stumbling block to concentration is the inevitable distraction we get from our own thoughts. It is random, uninvited thoughts that distract us from achieving pure concentration. The only solution is learning to control and quieten our thoughts. The first thing to be aware of is that we do have the choice to welcome or reject thoughts; we should not feel a helpless victim of our own mind. The second thing is we need to consciously watch our thoughts and prevent ourselves following any train of thought that detracts from our concentration. If we casually begin a project, it is easy to begin daydreaming and lose focus; what we need to do is be very determined to concentrate without distracting thoughts. When we have this intention and determination it becomes much easier to concentrate.

Practice
Concentration is an activity like any other. Clearly the more we practice, the better our concentration will become. We wouldn’t expect to be a strong runner without doing some training. Similarly, concentration is like a muscle, the more we exercise the stronger it becomes. There are specific concentration exercises we can do, such as focusing on a small point

of an object; but life itself presents innumerable opportunities to sharpen your concentration. The key is to always take opportunities to heighten our powers of concentration.

Meditation
The practice of meditation will definitely improve our powers of concentration. Actually, when we try to meditate, it is concentration that is the first thing we need to master. A daily period of meditation gives us the chance to specifically work on concentration techniques. This can involve concentrating on a candle or just concentrating on our breathing. These exercises are simple but effective.

Change is as Good as a Rest
It is difficult to concentrate on one thing for an extended time period. Sometimes, the best solution is to give ourselves frequent change. If we concentrate on one task for an hour, we can then move onto something different. This change in activity enables us to use different qualities, therefore, we can maintain our powers of concentration without becoming tired of one activity.

Physical Alertness
The powers of our concentration depends a lot upon our physical well-being. If we are tired, unhealthy and afflicted by numerous minor ailments, concentration will be more difficult. Of course, concentration is still possible; it is just more difficult. However, we have to try to make life easy for ourselves; we need to give a high priority to our physical health - getting sufficient sleep, staying physically fit. Undertaking exercise will help develop our concentration. It will help if we lose weight, clear the mind and create a sense of dynamism. If you struggle to concentrate, we need to think of a holistic solution; good physical health and fitness will definitely help develop our powers of concentration.

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