How To Concentrate

Rodin's The Thinker

I took most of August off. Well, sort of. You see my boys are 11 and 9 and I reckon I’ve got about 4 or 5 summers left at most before they won’t want to be hanging around with their Dad. That’s not much and they were only born the other day.

So although making good progress with my world domination masterplan, I am not yet at the stage where I can actually just bunk off for a month.

I had to do some worky things…   

So I got up at 6 every morning and I worked until noon. Six hours. With a ferocious focus on high-payoff activities and no bloody email, trivia, nonsense, Angry Birds or anything. I switched everything off at noon. On the dot.

My boys are still at the stage where they sleep for 11 hours a day. So they get up at around 1030, climb down from their high-rise beds into their computer chairs, wake up their computers that have been on constantly now for at least a year and continue their mission to rid the planet of zombies, naughty pigs, insurgents etc etc.

I feed them around 1230 and then we’re off out for fun and games in the sunshine. Hurray!

After a month of this…

…I am a bit tired I have to say but I spent a lot of time with the boys and they were looked after by their Dad and not their Nanny.

So all-in-all August was a success and it’s amazing what you can get done in 6 hours when 6 hours is what you have and you know what your high-payoff activities are. You will be streets ahead of the mass of people who are distracted by anything and everything as they float through life on the currents.  

You need to concentrate though…

…which is not always easy.

So here’s how to do it…

Your body…

Drink water and eat as soon as you get up. I resisted this for years. Decades. I read recently on the BBC website that thirst is a poor measure of dehydration. This is true. It is also said that most fatigue is caused by dehydration and almost all sore heads. So now I drink loads of water. Tap water. In a wine bottle or three in the fridge. Sometimes it’s boring. So I squeeze in some lime juice. I’m that crazy.

Eating…although I did get through the first twenty years of my career on the breakfast of champions…3 Marlboro Lights and a double espresso, this had to stop and it did for me some time ago. I need to get some calories in me first thing. I still never feel hungry in the morning but I eat something, even if it’s just a horrible protein shake thing that fitness nuts eat.

Your place…

A quiet place with a door that is shut. With a ninja secretary outside who is licensed to kill all unscheduled interlopers. Now some of my friends who remain in the corporate world tell me that secretaries are no more and the current vogue is to get the high paid staff to book their own travel and other tasks (dumb dumb DUMB) so you may need to be your own ninja secretary when someone says “have you got a minute?”

Your mind…

You need a clear head which means no unprocessed junk cluttering up your neocortex and stealing your brain’s bandwidth. So make sure you have processed all the trivia.  

Use blocktime. When was the last time you spent 6 focused hours on one thing? This really works.

And give yourself a reward at the end of the session. It doesn’t matter how small. Your psyche will thank you.

6 Responses to How To Concentrate

  1. Eilidh Milnes September 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    I played darts for the first time on Saturday. It was an interesting experience for a total novice. I reflected on the way home form the pub that the big difference between the good and the very good players was the ability of the latter group to concentrate and focus.
    Thanks for another good post.
    Ever Positive,
    Eilidh

    • Mark Nugent September 12, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Yes they say the greatest skill for the top athletes (and darts players) is to be present – there in the moment, and nowhere else. Tough to do.

  2. Robert Sloss September 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    A slightly different point. It was the birth of my children that taught me how much time I wasted before. I suddenly had about 10% of the time to do the things that used to take all my non work time. Guess what I did all the things I did before and still had time for more. What did I do in that 90% of free time? Think about doing things but not doing them.

    Work is meant to expand to fill the time allocated to it, well so does non work, lack of time forces you to focus, if only you can have the same discipline when the time is available.

    • Mark Nugent September 12, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Hi Robert – it would be easier for us to focus and do our jobs in 4 hours a day if our conditioning (and boss!) allowed us to walk away at lunchtime everyday with a clear conscience but a lot of people struggle with that – they need to work “hard” and “long”…

  3. Lily Newman September 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Another great post Mark – pleased to see you managed to have some fun in the sun with your boys. It reminded me of a very wise comment from an old comedian of mine who remarked on how much time I was spending planning my business and living in the future, whilst forgetting to enjoy the present with my, then, 6 month old son.

    He said,

    “Lily, never mind bulding a business to change the world and give you the money to buy all the expensive toys, computer games and trips to Disney. Love is spelt T.I.M.E. and there is no greater gift that you can give your son.”

    It’s been a mantra of mine ever since, and, as the owner of a small business, I work like a demon, focusing on what’s important to ensure that I can carve out time to be with an 11 year old who will only think I’m cool to be with for a few, very short years. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Mark Nugent September 12, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Lily – hope all is well.

      Yes I am afraid for me staying in the present is a real challenge…switching the damn machines off at 6pm helps though!

      Mark

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