Focus on one thing at a time to create clarity.
Research tells us that we can only focus on one thing at a time… Who do you know that focuses on one thing at a time? Nobody does that! We all constantly multitask to get things done. Also, we do it unconsciously. When you are in your car, you may be sipping on a cup of coffee while driving and talking on the phone to a friend – that’s multitasking. Or… You could be sitting at your desk, typing away while you are on the phone with a work colleague and working through your to-do list. The secret to intelligence is to do one thing at a time; this habit proves much more effective than making the assumption that activity is achievement.
Activate your executive brain
Research has recently revealed that the true sense of intelligence emanates from one’s ability to control their selective attention. This is the prefrontal cortex at work and it acts as an ‘executive’ for the decision-making process, weaving past events to present experiences in order to make the best choices. The prefrontal cortex is involved in a wide variety of functions, including:
- Focusing and organising attention
- Complex planning
- Problem solving
- Social behaviour
- Planning for the future
- Forming strategies
- Impulse control
- Control of intense emotions
- Inhibiting inappropriate behaviour
- Initiating appropriate behaviour
- Considering and prioritising
The ability to ignore external distractions is partially influenced by the prefrontal cortex.
Multitasking is making us dumb
Science shows us that multitasking makes our work 50% less valuable and it takes 50% longer to finish. Think about it… is it possible for us to go left and right at the same time? Or is it possible for us to experience happiness and sadness at the same time? It is physiologically impossible for the brain to multitask.
Therefore, the brain doesn’t multitask; it shifts your attention. This constant rapid shifting of focus and attention dilutes its effectiveness significantly.
If you can work and improve your ability to strategically allocate your attention, your brain will improve. By creating this habit over a period of 21 consecutive days, your brain will rewire itself. As you exercise concentration and selective attention, your mind rewires itself to support your new habits. You get better and better at concentrating when you concentrate.
So how do we get more intelligent, savvy or successful? Easy. You have to invest time on you; your first point of focus is to remove all distractions.
Develop a routine and stick to it! Quick tip – turn off all electronic devices. Actually allocate time for your distractions such as:
- Social media
- Phone calls
- Video games
- Instant messaging
Be smart with your time. The Pareto principle is founded on a theory that 80% of effectiveness is driven by 20% of our activity.
The biggest secret is saying ‘no’
That’s right – practice saying no daily. How often do you say ‘yes’ when really you want to say ‘no’ and then you get frustrated that you have made a commitment that is taking you away from your project or away from investing time on you? Saying no can be hard. You don’t want to be seen as rude, or difficult or unhelpful. So don’t give people reason to think that at all.
Smile and politely say one of these alternatives:
- Can I get back to you?
- Can I think about it?
- Unfortunately, it’s not a good time right now.
- Maybe another time.
- Sounds great, but I have other commitments.
- Could you please give me more information before I decide?
- Thank you, but no thank you.
- I’d love to, but I can’t.
- Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t.
- Another time might be better.
- I’m not sure if I am the best person for it.
- I’m trying to cut back on commitments.
- I won’t be able to dedicate the extra time needed for this project.
Get into the flow
Concentration is driven by interest, and interest is driven by attitude. If your attitude towards a specific project is desirable and swells with enthusiasm, interest and passion, concentration is astonishingly easy.
A core component of concentration is to build a range of purpose-driven habits that enables you to seamlessly step into ‘flow’ – where you are fully immersed in that very moment, with absolutely no effort. We can get into a state of flow through fully-absorbed focus or concentration on one thing. Creating this daily habit for yourself will bring you success.