All of us have had the experience of doing too many things at once. Of driving while listening to the radio, eating a burrito and talking to a friend all at once. While it’s amazing that human beings can juggle so many things at once — a testament to our versatility — it’s also a fantastic way to end up with salsa in your lap, or even to get into an accident. (Check out Werner Herzog’s heart-rending documentary, From One Second to the Next, about the perils of driving while texting.)
Other situations may not be quite as dangerous, but still there are drawbacks to splitting your attention. Imagine college students say, trying to win at a video game; drink alcohol; listen to music; talk to several friends; eat a pizza; and flirt with potential sex partners at the same time. While that can be fun, they will probably fail or do poorly at most of them. Simultaneously doing a good job at so many activities is hard. And the old adage that anything worth doing is worth doing well, is still as true as it ever was.
The antidote to doing too many things at once is, of course, to only do one thing at a time. That’s the most basic definition of concentration: doing one thing at a time.
Doing one thing at a time is probably the most basic habit of concentration, and one of the most powerful. It is the easiest thing you can do to create a massive increase in your ability to focus.
The term for working with split attention is multitasking. Multitasking enjoys a great reputation currently, but he fact is that we are never actually multitasking. Instead the brain switches between each task quickly, and does each activity in succession. The trouble is that each task switch actually has a cost overhead. It’s not easy for your brain to switch tasks. It takes time and invokes a second level of executive functioning, meaning that you have to use a lot of resources to switch tasks. This task-switching overhead can actually become quite a drain on your overall effectiveness. You’ll do each thing much worse than if you had done it on its own. And the task-switching overhead multiplies exponentially with the number of things being juggled.
That means when you reduce the number of things you are mentally juggling, the cognitive cost is vastly reduced. Just changing from three objects to two objects frees up a tremendous amount of overhead. The best, however, is to reduce the number of things you are doing or thinking about to one at a time. This lowers the juggling overhead to zero, and allows you to focus 100 percent of your brain on a topic.
Develop a habit of doing one thing at a time.
Living in a world of distractions is nothing more than a habit we have gotten used to. The answer is to begin making a new habit of doing just one thing at a time. Every time you catch yourself doing too many things at once, come back to just the essential thing that matters. Practice this all day long, whether working or playing. Gently remind yourself, “One thing at a time.”
Success depends on having good self discipline and good boundaries with other people. If someone interrupts you, or engages you while you are busy, stop and let them know that you’ll get back with them later. Or if it can’t wait, completely stop what you are doing, engage with the person, and then once everything is handled come back to what you were doing previously.
Usually the hardest person to maintain such firm boundaries with is yourself. Our habits of distraction have developed over an entire lifetime. We crave a superfluidity of stimulation in the environment, almost like an addiction. There is an almost physical urge to turn on the television, or to check the smartphone.
You can quickly determine how strong this need for distraction is by experimenting with doing just one thing at a time. Shut everything off and do something simple with no distractions. The first thing that happens, often, is that mind begins to complain “This is boring. There’s something on TV. Why can’t I just play some music? What’s wrong with eating while studying?” And so on. You might experience anything from mild discomfort to an almost irresistible compulsion to bring back the distractions.
That’s okay. That’s the starting place. Just have compassion for yourself, and attempt to enforce some discipline about doing one thing at a time while trying to concentrate. Concentrating without distractions will eventually reveal itself to be incredibly pleasant. Unlike getting tangled up in a spaghetti of distractions, it can leave you feeling energized and refreshed. Strong, stable focus can really increase your feelings of satisfaction and sense of richness in whatever you are doing. You can even enter flow — a very calm, focused state that is so pleasurable it’s worth doing for its own sake, regardless of the activity. It’s not that difficult. All it takes is a little practice.
So try doing one thing at a time. And read the rest of the “Concentration Series“ to learn more about how to increase your powers of attention.
This article was written by Michael Taft, a meditation teacher, bestselling author, and neuroscience junkie. As a mindfulness coach, he specializes in secular, science-based mindfulness training in groups, corporate settings, and one-on-one sessions.
While we know consistency is the key to success or accomplishment in sport (or life), it is also the hardest to master, especially this time of the year. Acquisition and mastery of a skill, a technique, or a lifestyle change will require you to be a consistent athlete. So how do we stay consistent with being consistent? Here are a few tips to help you stay on your game through the holidays and feeling confident.
TIP #1: Make a conscious decision to remain consistent.
Say out loud to yourself, “I am committed to remaining consistent each day in my goal. I am doing this!” Notice the statement is in the present tense. This technique commands your subconscious mind to act now, not later. Consistent actions require consistent thinking, specifically consistent thoughts that you are and will remain consistent.
TIP #2: Revise your concept of time.
The only time you have is RIGHT NOW. Later on, next week, next month, or next year is only a concept or thought in your mind. Tomorrow is not here, next week, month, or next year is not here. Right now is here. The point of power is always in the present moment and all the anxieties or worries about later on are not happening now. So let go of thinking, “I have to be disciplined and consistent all day, week, month, or year,” TO “I am disciplined in this moment. Right now is the only moment I need to pay attention to. I am only required to be consistent and disciplined in this moment.” Be in the NOW.
TIP #3: Have a plan. Know your objective.
The definition of a “plan” is: “A scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective:” A plan is in place so that you don’t have to do the thinking before hand or in the moment. Preparation is consistency’s wonderful cousin!
You must have a plan to be successful, even if it’s a daily plan. For example, you could prepare your meals for the week or get a nutrition consult for a meal plan. Pack your gym clothes the night before and write in your planner what your workouts will be for the week. Buy and implement TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition 5-week Triathlon Transition Plan to build base and strength.
It is imperative that you have a plan so that you know where to direct your actions, thoughts, effort, and time. It must be a plan that you want. It must be in line with your values and your hearts desire. The more emotionally invested you are in your plan, the more you will remain committed, the higher your chances are for success.
TIP #4: Remember that feelings and thoughts are temporary and subjective.
Any negative feeling or thought that could intrude on you being consistent is temporary. It is an illusion. In the moment it feels very powerful, but in an hour, 10 minutes, or tomorrow you could feel very different. Don’t let temporary illusions of stress, anxieties, worry, or insecurity derail you from your plan. In moments like these it’s critical that you push through the discomfort and JUST DO IT! Execute. Do the workout, eat the healthier option, or make the time. Remind yourself how you will feel after your workout, or after you have conquered the moment. It will be worth it.
TIP #5: Do one thing at a time. Be in the present moment.
In my mindfulness skills training we call this doing one thing mindfully. It is being fully and 100% present in your moment. Allow your mind and body to be present and engaged. When you find yourself distracted or your mind wandering you bring it back to full attention of your moment. For example, if you are working on foot position, pedal stroke, freestyle catch, elbow angle, etc. you are fully and acutely tuned in to that and only that aspect, nothing more and nothing less. This concept is why mantras and self-talk are powerful. They bring your attention back to the constructive action at hand and in the moment.
BONUS TIP: A great concept that I came across, thanks to one of my Wattie Ink teammates Chris Hague, is thinking of this time as “pre-season” versus “off-season.” Off-season sometimes implies letting everything go, permission to be in excess, or dare I say it, an excuse to not be as disciplined as we normally would be. “Pre-season” has come to mean, for me, preparation, transition, build up rather than let go. It gives me a sense of focus and empowerment. Try it out and see if it works for you my fellow triathlete’s. Obviously, for my runners/trial runners, short course swimmers, skiers, basketball players, and footballers we are still in season so this may work for you later:)
When all else fails and the above tips do not work, then use the foolproof guide below to help you stay consistent.
If you are “not feeling like it”…do it any way.
If you are sad…do it any way.
If you are busy…do it any way.
If you are tired…do it any way.
If you are feeling good…do it any way.
If you are “too stressed”…do it any way.
If you are unmotivated…do it any way.
If you are on vacation…do it any way.
If you are unsure…do it any way.
If you find yourself making excuses…do it any way.
No matter what trust that you can and will stay consistent. Be patient one moment at a time. You are an amazing person with valuable gifts to offer the world, but first master the gift of giving the best to yourself- through being consistent with your hearts desire. Once you stay consistent with yourself, every thing else falls into place.
This article was written by Dr. Petruzzelli, an accomplished athlete who played competitive soccer for 18 years before transitioning to competing in triathlons and road racing.
A couple months ago, I found myself “working” from morning until bed time, nearly everyday. It wasn’t because I had hideous piles of projects to tend to, nor because of excessive deadlines or work-related burdens. The reason? I was unproductive. I’d spend an hour on a client project and then get lost in The Black Hole of Facebook for an internet eternity. Or I’d research something for a blog post and then click around Buzzfeed or Instagram or Twitter and completely forget what the hell I was trying to do in the first place. Friends would coo about how lucky I was to have a flexible schedule and I was just over here like, “if getting shit done were a sport, I’d be picked last.”
So I changed things. A lot of things, actually.
On the bright side, most of the things I shook up were easy fixes. I didn’t have to buy expensive software or completely restructure my day. The toughest part was just acclimating myself to a new routine. Not bad, right? Here are a few things that have really helped me in my quest to drastically increase my productivity. Because getting shit done is actually kind of awesome. Who’da thunk?
1. Have one desk for technology and one desk for everything else.
I actually remember reading this tip in Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Arist a couple years ago, but only recently put it into practice. Let me tell you: it kicks ass. This especially works well for creative-type jobs where you deal with both physical and digital elements. In my case, I do sketches and lettering at one desk and designing and blogging at another. By the way, my “other desk” is actually just my kitchen table…no need to be fancy! It really helps to have sectioned-off areas for specific tasks. It also means that I don’t get sidetracked by my phone when I’m working on ideas for a logo.
2. Turn off social media notifications on your phone.
In fact, I recommend just deleting the apps altogether. I used to check Facebook and Twitter on my phone 900 times a day. I wouldn’t retain anything I read. It was like those moments in college when I tried opening my science textbooks — my brain just fell asleep. Now, instead of immediately checking Facebook at the first buzz of my phone, I open it in my web browser when I plan to spend a few intentional minutes on it, mostly seeing what my friends are up to.
3. Make priority lists, not to do lists.
I used to make to do lists — you know, the kind with 97 items on them with no listed deadlines or level of importance. Writing out my to do lists made me feel productive, but at the end of the day, when I found only 30% completed, I realized I was doing them all wrong. Now, I make priority lists, and I’ve been using an app called Clear that makes them really easy (and almost kind of fun in a Type A kind of way). You basically just make your to do lists in separate, organized lists, and then order each item by importance and urgency, so that “doing laundry” isn’t listed as highly as “install client website.” You can set reminders, and I always write the deadline next to each listed item as well. It’s been massively helpful!
4. Spend mornings getting things done.
I’m not particularly a morning person, so every morning, I used to coax myself out of bed by scrolling through Instagram and responding to emails. But I found that waking up this way always killed my productivity (and creativity). By the time I was finished, it was nearly afternoon and I was cross-eyed with trying to reach inbox zero and desired taking a nap more than finishing anything else on my to do list. Now, I try not to check my email or any social media accounts until after lunch. Instead, when I wake up, I immediately start working on my big items for the day, according to what is highest on my Clear schedule. Not only does it feel awesome to have accomplished so much by noon, but it also means that I can relax with emails and social media after lunch, when I’m tired anyways.
5. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
You know what I’d do when I’d spend too long doing nothing when I should have been doing a whole lot of somethings? I’d get a little angry with myself. Being mad at myself certainly didn’t make me want to accomplish more. In fact, it probably made me want to do even less. Now, when I realize I’ve been lazing around for too long, I forgive myself and move on.
This article was written by Melyssa Griffin, a successful online teacher, writer, and an entrepreneur who specializes in topics like list-building, online course creation, webinars, and Pinterest marketing.
Getting side tracked from our goals is the easiest thing we can do.
Daily life is so full of little obligations, and our goals sometimes seem so far out there that it’s easy to think “I’ll get back to this tomorrow,” and let those other obligations fill our precious time.
Sometimes you have no choice. Just this week I was in the middle of working on a project when the dogs needed to go out. I stopped for just a minute to attend to them, and ended up spending my midnight hour washing skunk smell out of three furry creatures.
Most of the time, however, those little obligations are the things that can and should be put off until tomorrow. So what if you don’t get the windows washed? Will that matter a month from now?
What if you miss your favorite TV show? Will you really have missed anything?
What if you just don’t answer the phone for one or two evenings a week? Will your friends abandon you?
What if you get up a half hour earlier, or stay up a half hour later? Will you perish for lack of sleep?
No, but if you put off working on your goals, it will matter next month or next year.
With that in mind, I offer some advice from two marketing gurus:
- Mike Littman says “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.”
- Michael Masterson gives the same advice when he says “Ready, fire, aim.”
Action creates action, so once you’re in motion you’ll be hard to stop. On the other hand, inaction creates inertia, so if you’ve been putting off getting started, you may have to get tough with yourself to get going.
What can you do when your time is limited? It depends on where you are in the process.
If earning extra money is your goal and you’re just thinking about starting, why not decide which way you’ll jump. Will you create and market your own product? Will you set up an affiliate site? Will you create adwords sites? If you haven’t decided, do a little research into how each one works.
If you know which you’ll choose, why not start today by thinking about what interests you most and then researching the keywords you think will lead people to your niche. If you have a broad area of interest you might narrow it down by seeing what subject matter is most in demand.
For instance, if you love gardening you might learn that more people want to know about growing Clematis than Peonies. If cars are your thing you might learn that more people want information and advice about engines than about body work. (And no, I didn’t research those, they’re just examples of what you might find.)
If you’ve already started and have gotten stalled, take some action to get things moving again. Write an article, post to a forum, write a blog post on your own blog – or start a blog, or work on your web page.
Maybe your goal is more personal, and has nothing to do with making money. You still won’t get there until you get started. And you still will get there if you take one step at a time.
Do you want to learn something new? Start today to research classes you can take – on line or off line. Get on line and read some of the free lessons on your subject. If you already have course work sitting there, set aside just a half hour every day (or even 3 days per week) to do it – and let your family know that you’re unavailable for that short 30 minutes. They’ll get along, honest!
If your goal is to de-clutter your house, start with one drawer or one corner of a room. You’ll find that it doesn’t take long when you bite of a small chunk.
If you want to start a garden or do a crafts project, decide on one first step – and just do it. The trick is to take the next step tomorrow and the next day – and the next.
I think you’ll find that once you force yourself to work on your goal for 15 or 30 minutes, you’ll want to stay longer and you’ll really accomplish something. So get busy.
Do something, no matter how small it seems. Then tomorrow, do something again. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be a step forward.
It is better to gain a foot than to stand still,
even when you seek to gain a mile.
Hubert H. Humphrey (1911 – 1978), Senator and U.S. Vice President
This article was written by Marte Cliff, a Freelance Copywriter who specializes in making people feel good about buying products or services, or donating to worthy causes.
Your attitude defines and delimits your level of success. If you have a generally lousy attitude, you’ll never really be successful. If you have a generally upbeat attitude, however, you’ll always achieve at least some level of success.
Your attitude determines how you interpret what events mean. Take obstacles, for example. Everyone who pursues any goal will inevitably run into obstacles. Your attitude determines what those obstacles mean and therefore how well you deal with them.
If you have a lousy attitude, you’ll see obstacles as threats and annoyances. Even if you overcome them, you’ll find the process frustrating, which will make future obstacles harder to cope with.
If you’ve got a positive attitude, you’ll see obstacles as interesting or even fun. Even if you fail to overcome them, you’ll find the process invigorating, which will make future obstacles easier to overcome.
I ran into (or, more actually, almost ran into) a perfect example of this the other day. I was trying to find a parking space in a covered car lot. Suddenly, another car zipped around a blind corner and we would have crashed if we both hadn’t quickly braked.
My first thought was: “Wow, I’m sure glad that we (meaning me and the other driver) have fast reflexes!” I’m not exactly sure what the other driver thought, but she gave me the single-finger salute accompanied by an expletive.
Same event, different attitude.
Now, it’s never pleasant to be the target of that kind of animosity, but my next thought was to feel sorry for her. She was in a small car with four kids and clearly having a horrible day. (I felt sorry for the kids, too.)
Clearly still furious, she drove off even faster than she’d been driving before. I, however, slowed down because I took the almost-accident as a warning that I needed to pay more attention to my driving.
Same event, different attitude, opposite outcome
The outcome for the other driver was an action that made her drive more dangerously and thus increase the possibility that she’d actually have a fender-bender next time. My outcome was to make me a better driver.
Everything in business is exactly like this. Stuff happens. Your attitude determines how you interpret and experience those events, and therefore strategies and tactics you’ll follow in the future.
This is not to say that people who suffer from lousy attitudes don’t win sometimes. They do, but it’s always with massive hassle and complaint. When they finally win, they feel exhausted.
Similarly, having an upbeat attitude doesn’t bulletproof you against failure. You’ll fail sometimes, but your attitude makes it easy to learn from your mistakes. And when you do win, you feel exhilarated.
Some people believe that their lousy attitude is part of who they are. Not so. As I explain in “How to Create a Positive Attitude,” your attitude is something that you’re doing. It’s not a character trait.
Furthermore, there are at least 8 ways to improve your attitude and 17 ways to be happier at work. I know these methods work from personal experience. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but 20 years ago, I would have been the driver doing the salute.
Regardless of what you do for a living, your real job–the foundation of what you will or won’t accomplish–is your attitude. The more upbeat you are, the more likely you are to be successful at whatever you do.
This article was written by Geoffrey James, contributing editor for Inc.com and an author and a professional speaker whose award-winning blog, Sales Source, appears daily on Inc.com.
It is easy to think that once a few goals for the year have been established for an individual, he or she can simply “get on with it” and just “check-in” when they have a question from time to time. Unfortunately, big goals can be both large in their scope and complex to achieve and may therefore need a lot more detail before an individual feels comfortable enough to pursue them. If this is not the case, many people will just see an ultimate target as being “out of reach” and give up before they start.
In many circumstances, a longer term objective may need to have additional detail to help shape potential actions in the short term. This might mean developing somewhere between 4 or 6 sub-goals or sub-tasks that reflect what needs to happen to achieve the overall goal or outcome you are seeking. Less than 4 sub-goals is appropriate if only simple tasks are involved but any more than 6 may over complicate or confuse people who may be expected to help or contribute in achieving the larger goal. Hence, an objective to “reduce waste by 30% within 2 years” for one individual might have the following 4 sub-goals:
- ‘document all the types of waste in the first 3 months’
- ‘measure current levels of waste in each category within 6 months’
- ‘form waste management teams to address waste targets by end of the first year’
- ‘develop supplier relationships to jointly address future consumption needs in the second year’
It is also important to remember to ensure that sub-goals need to be specifically developed or written up in ‘outcome’ rather than ‘input’ focused manner. An example here might be in setting an overall objective to “double the hits on the company website within 12 months by posting more relevant articles.” Input goals are usually things like “write a new article a week” or “invest 10 hours of time a month in tracking article hits.” However, these input-based goals may or may not mean that you achieve your target. Instead, you may want to develop goals that are output focused such as “achieve double the number of site visits or page impressions within 6 months” or “increase customer visits to the site from article postings by 25% in 3 months.”
This article was written by Dr. Jon Warner, a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology.