The most critical skill you need to develop in order to achieve your goals, and instill in your children from the day they are born, is the ability to focus.
From the moment we wake up in the morning, we are surrounded by technologies that attack our attention. Our smartphones and tools such as social media or YouTube – which can be highly useful when used correctly – have become weapons that exploit and extinguish our lives, due to their algorithms targeting the human's weakest point: Our instinct to reach the most pleasure in the shortest way.
Even in this article, I have had to use 3 paragraphs, 1 underline and 1 italic text format just so far.
Why? To get your attention!
Only moms multitask
If you have a habit of watching videos while eating or using Netflix and Instagram simultaneously, likewise if you are thinking about the game in the evening while your girlfriend is talking to you, I'm sorry to report that you will probably be dumped soon and more importantly, you suffer from concentration difficulty.
The primary skill that can put the average person by leagues ahead of their peers is the ability to focus on a single task for a long period of time.
Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson notes that for a novice, somewhere around an hour a day of intense concentration seems to be a limit, while for experts this number can expand to as many as four hours — but rarely more. In other words, this is not about drinking coffee after coffee until sunrise and finishing projects minutes before deadline; the secret is to be able to do the same job for 4 hours without the slightest distraction and without noticing how time flies.
Speaking of coffee...
Why do you think the use of coffee, which is actually a legal drug, is so widespread and facilitated, especially in workplaces, and even encouraged by sophisticated machines spread around for free? Because your bosses need your productivity, brought on by that temporary doping of alertness and focus that caffeine provides.
Cal Newport states in his famous book Deep Work:
If every moment of potential boredom in your life — say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives — is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where it’s not ready for deep work — even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration.
Newport also says that our will is not a manifestation of our character that we can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires. Therefore...
Since our will works like a muscle and can get tired, it means that we can also strengthen it by using it more. This is exactly what you need to do to increase your ability to focus.
Now, let's focus our attention to these simple daily applications:
- Do not watch anything while eating.
- Turn off your phone's 5G/wi-fi while working.
- Do not open more than 2 tabs at a time in your web browser.
- Don't go to the bathroom with any electronic device (you can read a book if you're bored).
- The best ideas come either on the toilet or on a walk. Do not use your phone while taking a walk, and if possible, do not take the phone with you at all.
- Don't fiddle with your phone while watching a game or movie (if it's that boring, turn it off and watch something else worth your time).
- Turn off all your non-vital notifications (i.e. let it ring only when someone calls you).
- When people are telling you something, don't think about how to answer them when they are finished (or the game tonight) – just listen.
- Do not sleep more than 7 hours, or 8 hours if you are very tired.
- Learn breathing exercises and make it a habit to practice them first thing in the morning.
- Do not skip a task until you have finished it, even if it is arbitrary (do not pour coffee before you are done reading the newspaper; coffee first, then the newspaper).
- Eliminate distracting objects and any dysfunctional accessories in your work environment, or 'hide' them in a corner where you cannot see them directly.