“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” – Paulo Coelho
“Focus. Pay attention. Concentrate,”- how frequently do you have to hear these phrases? If you don’t hear them than all the better but in case the answer is pretty often, we would like some of your attention.
People get frustrated when they can’t focus on work. While lack of concentration may sometimes feel like one of the incurables, there actually are a handful of ways to enhance your focus. So let’s hop in for a jolly ride through the focus boosters.
Object Based Meditation
The mechanism behind this exercise is quite obvious really. If you stare at something for long enough, you can tell a heck lot more about it than you could at a single glance.
But observation is not the only key to this vault. You need concentration as well.
Remember that day when you drooled over a book for an hour but didn’t learn a thing.
Anyway, the point is you need to concentrate on what you do and it’s not always going to be something you are into.
Notice that, when we like something it is easier to work through it. Otherwise, time passes like an insect trapped in amber.
These are the situations where voluntary attention comes into play.
Attention can be of two types; voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary concentration is like a reflex. Your days run as smooth as they do because of involuntary concentration.
It’s the reason why you can enjoy your ice cream while swatting aside the random bluebottle with ease.
Truth is, even when you are not thinking of anything in particular, your mind is still active. It’s just regarding something else at the moment.
A person’s volition is just as mortal as s/he is. To train it is to train your will.
One of the common ways of getting better at something is to reiterate, repeat; do the same thing again and again.
So, stare at a certain object for a particular amount of time (making sure it is not something you like).
If you are concentrating on something you like, it’s not really helping since your mind goes into autopilot. Better to use something of boring disposition.
We thought it would be best to use an algorithm or, a set of rules for description. So, there you go.
Steps of Object Based Meditation
- Select any plain object, something inanimate is preferable.
- Start off with a period of 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t make it too short because volition becomes unnecessary.
- Do not make it too long either as it will tire you, be moderate.
- Increase your gazing time every few days or maybe once in a week. But remember, neither extremity is advisable.
- In case you are wondering, there is always a voice talking in our heads. Believe us; it is never going to cancel out. In fact, it’s the sign that you are alive. Don’t attempt shutting it out.
- To clarify, the aim of this exercise is not to stop thinking but to think solely of the object in question. Your purpose is to centralize your inner voice on the object.
- If your thoughts lose direction, turn back to the object as soon as you realize it. Another word, don’t rush it, act gently.
- Go in-depth, question yourself about it, answer to yourself, engage with the object and that only.
- Keep going until the fixed time is over, resist the urge to check the timer.
Alright, this might sound neurotic but it is actually good for you. Whether you are as quiet as a boa constrictor or as jumpy as Scooby-doo, we all have a natural fidgetiness within.
It’s what helped our predecessors to survive the era of paleoliths. It’s instinctive, an inborn ability.
Gaining authority over this instinct without practice is rare. That doesn’t mean you cannot try, it is difficult, not impossible. But first, find some comfy furniture.
For your benefit, we are describing the process step by step.
- Once comfortably seated, we want you to go still, focus on your body, and remember to set a timer. An initial period of five minutes is recommendable.
- Set your pair of eyes on the body; don’t let your mind wander. You can pick a chant (in your mind) if you want, “Do not move”. Otherwise, don’t waste your words.
- Main thing is, you must not doodle on the walls of your mind. Stay out but stay confined, limited.
- If you have managed to do this properly for five minutes then take ten or you can just adjust the time to your liking. But whatever you do, do not overdo it. Everything has a limit, doesn’t matter how great.
Your nerves can feel up to only a definite intensity of pain. If sensations go beyond that, pain levels start to drop. We call it the pain barrier.
Similarly, your brain has a sort of focus barrier. So once you’ve gone far enough, let it be.
Running on a Fixed Track
Some are probably thinking, “Hey, it’s just running”. Some probably do it every day. So, you are thinking, how’s that going to help?
Well, we are happy to inform you that running has additional benefits other than increased stamina, enhanced bone & muscle density and better flexibility.
Maybe you have never looked at it this way. But when running towards a specific object your mind is focused on it. Generally, we only experience this at moments of crisis, like when your kid is going to topple or your tea is going to spill. That is also for a very short span of time.
If we can channel this focus into longer-term events, we become more aware of what we are doing, when, where etc.
Again, it’s very possible that you do run up to a fixed mark routinely but your conscious might be living that time elsewhere.
So start today and if you already have, try not to muse over that latest music video or, whatever. It is best to start small, you know.
Most importantly, be attentive. Show the track some respect and the track will respect you.
Breathing meditation, which most people know about, is simply a breathing exercise. Then again, it’s not as simple as it looks.
When you hear the word meditation, you possibly see this person sitting with his legs folded, chanting something like ommmmmm……….In truth, the chant doesn’t have to ‘om’.
It can be anything you prefer but the simpler the better. In fact, if you’re up for some more truth, mantras are not entirely compulsory.
Just breathing will do. Now, getting to the actual technique, we thought it would be helpful if we presented an algorithm.
Note that certain rules may vary. For example, the procedure of meditation below does not consider the use of mantras.
Also, for optimum results you should eat around 2 hours before or after meditation. Otherwise, your oxygen gets used up for digestion.
How to Perform Breathing Meditation
- You may sit in any pose you like, even with legs folded. While some object that meditation can be done standing up too, it’s best for beginners to sit. The reason being, a starter may not have the calm of mind necessary.
- Lips pursed, you shall only inhale through the nose and exhale the same way.
- Take deep breath. Deep breaths are characterized by the fullness of lungs. So, take your breaths slowly but fully. Speed does not matter.
- There should be no exchange of breath through the mouth.
- While breathing, try to rule out other thoughts.
- As blocking multiple thoughts may be difficult, we suggest you rather focus on your breathing.
- Catch the rhythm, feel the air coming in and going out. Imagining your breath to be a river can be useful. When inhaling, the river flows upward. While exhaling, it becomes a cascade.
- When all thoughts are clear and you are deep inside your palace, your own breathing becomes the sole obstacle to freedom of the psyche. So, gradually it becomes shallower, shallower and shallower…….
- In the process of shallowing breath, you may feel a slight pressure at the middle of your temple. As you are probably guessing, that sensation is what many call the ‘third eye’.
What you should know is, if you desire to reach that state of mind is, your breathing will never completely cease; that’s medically wrong.
It will just become very slow. Also, don’t despair should your third eye project fail. It takes years of practice to attain it.
But third eye or not, research has shown that breathing meditation can do wonders for a person’s concentration.
Many might know what a pomodoro is but let us save it for the time being. First, let’s try to define the Pomodoro technique/ method.
This process comprises of quadruplets of uniform periods. For revitalizing, short & regular pauses between consecutive phases of work are encouraged.
These short but regular breaks tend to induce the flow of concentration in the user. They give you respite, keep you motivated while providing an overview of how far you have gotten with your work.
On the other hand, incessant & monotonous activities always keep a door open for boredom. Losing enthusiasm can greatly hamper productivity.
Mental focus has a limit. It can be directed at a single task for only so much time. After that, it starts to crash, your attention strays.
Imagine someone being trapped in a cage with a tiger. But tigers don’t feed unless they get hungry. If they do.…….just stop visualizing.
The trick is to keep the tiger well fed. Give it a piece of venison now and then and it will make do. Your work is to keep the tiger from eating the person; the pieces of deer meat are your brief intermissions.
This other guy in the cage personifies all the homeless thoughts seeking harbor in your mind. Yes, every once in a while you let the tiger some chunks off the wonderful person. But a chunk too many could be hazardous.
If your breaks lengthen excessively, it ruins the intent for productive work.
To keep the system running, you go four rounds with 3 to 5-minute intermissions. In between each set of quadruplets, you take 15 to 30 minutes off, that is, a chunk off the big guy.
And that my friends, is how to not train a tiger. We repeat, do not try this at home or your nearby zoo.
How to Apply the Pomodoro Technique
- The only instrument you need is a timer. Set an alarm for 25 minutes later.
- Having completed the first quarter, take a 5-minute break.
- During this short interval, don’t move around unnecessarily. Save the victory tour for later.
- Simply observe your work, see how much you have put off your plate.
- Repeat these steps for another three quarters.
- Take a larger break after completing four quarters, time ranging from a quarter to half an hour is good enough.
- If interrupted in the middle of work, either postpone that or attend your work later. When starting over, perform a new quadruplet or, batch of pomodoros.
That is how to perform one bout of the Pomodoro technique. You may do as many as you can handle or is required. Once you have already started a session, don’t stop halfway; complete it.
In the case that your work finishes before a session is up, try to keep ahead. Finish the session with some extras. It’s called overlearning.
Well, we promised you some etymology and so here we are. ‘Pomodoro’ is actually Italian for tomato. Surprise!
This method is an invention of Francesco Cirillo who happened to use it as a student himself. His device was a tomato kitchen timer and so the name.
Now that we have covered our quintet of focus booster, it is time for the pleasure-pain of goodbyes. We sincerely wish you have found this article helpful. Hope to catch you later.
Tanya Walton is a sports enthusiast and blogger @sportificent.com. When she is not blogging you will find her reading novels or playing with her cat, Muffin.