The link between concentration and visibility

Visibility Issue

Your capacity to concentrate, focus and follow-through, are all important factors influencing your visibility efforts. We’ve created a visibility series to explore this topic in more detail, including the kinds of influences impacting your capacity for concentration.

You can think of this recipe as a companion piece to that series, where we’re focusing on concentration as a skill. Namely, something you can develop and improve over time.

There are many ways to improve your concentration. Below you’ll find seven+ ideas to explore and test out.

Recommended Action

  1. Create an environment that’s conducive to concentration.
    This means turning off your notifications, creating white space on your screen for deep work, working in a people-free space where you won’t be interrupted and/or letting people know you’re working on a project for the next x hours and can’t be interrupted. (In saying this, I acknowledge that this isn’t always possible for parents of young children, for people reliant on their computer in a community where electricity or the internet is unreliable, and during a global pandemic when lockdown is an on and off occurrence for many. So take this one with a grain of salt, thinking of it as an ideal to aim for.)
  2. Use the Pomodoro technique.
    The Pomodoro technique helps you build the habit of undertaking concentrated work for short bursts of time. The Pomodoro technique is the act of breaking your efforts into 25-minute portions of time. You set a timer, work for 25 minutes and then take a break for 5 minutes. You can find out more about the Pomodoro technique here from founder Francisco Cirillo.
    If you’re a parent who’s looking after small children while trying to build a business or progress your career, the Pomodoro method is a great way to get things done in those small windows of time you have between feeding, changing nappies, comforting or playing with your child and so on.
  3. Get clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
    One of the easiest ways for me to lose concentration is to not take the time at the beginning of the day to clarify what it is I need to achieve that day. Similarly, before starting any task, it’s useful to spend a minute or two getting clear on what you’re trying to achieve in the time you have available. This will save you from getting lost in a social media rabbit hole or attending to tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
  4. Clear your resistance to doing the work in the first place and/or habit stack.
    When I don’t want to do a task, I’m able to find all sorts of things to distract me. My mind is genius at finding things to occupy me when I really don’t want to do the work that’s right in front of me to do. When I notice this, the first thing I do is stop and spend the next 10 minutes clearing any emotional or energetic resistance I have to the task at hand. I write out all the reasons I don’t want to do the task and then use a clearing technique like tapping/EFT to release the resistance. (If you’d like to develop this habit, I spend a good amount of time teaching students different clearing techniques so they can do this effectively themselves inside our signature program Women Speaking Up.)
    The other way I work around my resistance is to habit stack. This involves taking something I love doing and matching it with something I feel resistant to. I really enjoy working from a cafe for example. Whenever I have a task that I know I’m avoiding, I give myself the gift of working from a cafe on the basis that the only task I can complete while I’m there is the task I’m avoiding. I also like working on my deck in the sun, burning my favourite essential oils, and playing my favourite music. Therefore, these are other forms of habit stacking I use regularly to create an environment that puts me in a good mood and makes me more amenable to the task at hand.
  5. Work according to your energetic rhythms.
    Not every day is an ideal day for detailed work and not every day is a good day for interacting with clients and customers. When you force yourself to work against your own energetic rhythms, your mind can start to resist the activity, heading off in search of distractions to avoid the task at hand. Knowing yourself and knowing the rhythms of your week helps to keep your actions in sync with what feels most natural to attend to in each moment. Understanding your natural flow and assigning tasks accordingly helps considerably with this. You might find that mornings are best for writing and afternoons for meetings, for example. Or that you prefer to attend to all your ‘busy tasks’ on a Monday and then spend Tuesdays on content creation and Wednesdays on operations. There’s no ‘right rhythm’, only the one that works best for you.
  6. Train your brain and break your addictions. 
    It’s easy to unwittingly develop an addiction to distractions. We’re currently updating some work we’ve produced on breaking information addiction and will include it here in the future. In the meantime, here are two actions I take regularly to help my brain settle into the habit of long form concentration; (a) making conscious choices about my entertainment and (b) practising yoga nidra.
    Making conscious choices about the entertainment I engage with looks like choosing long-form entertainment pieces rather than short form. Of course, I love short-form entertainment, but if I’ve fallen into a trap of spending too much time jumping from one snippet of information to another rather than engaging with something that requires deeper thought and concentration, I deliberately switch gears and start choosing long-form pieces. I don’t want to lose my capacity for enjoying long-form articles or storytelling, so I work to maintain that skill in a world that often seems fixated on snackable content above all else.
    Yoga nidra is the other way I’ve enhanced my capacity for concentration. Yoga nidra is a yogic relaxation/meditation technique that’s great for so many things. One of them is helping the brain develop the habit of following a set of instructions for an extended period of time. About 25 years ago I decided to experiment with what, if any, the effect would be of doing yoga nidra everyday for 30 days. I was young and didn’t really mind if nothing happened. I was just enjoying yoga nidra and so decided to try and develop a habit of doing it. At the end of the 30 days I was astounded by the change in me. I moved from distracted and depressed, to calm, centred and clear in my thinking. Ever since, yoga nidra has been a core tool I draw on regularly and one I recommend to address many ailments from exhaustion to lack of concentration, anxiety, stress, and depression.
  7. Get comfortable with discomfort. 
    Finally, I’ve noticed that when I’m jumping from task to task without actually attending to anything properly, often it’s because there’s some level of discomfort in my body. I don’t want to sit with the discomfort so instead, I look for something to distract me from what I’m feeling. When I catch myself in this pattern, I stop and tune into my body. I inquire into the discomfort that I’m avoiding. Generally, I find that it’s an emotion. I name the emotion and then I run it through the Visibility Process™ I’ve developed. It goes like this; let’s say the emotion you uncover is fear. You simply take a moment to acknowledge what’s happening by using the following phrases and speaking to the part of you that’s carrying the emotion; ‘I see you’re feeling fear, I understand you’re feeling fear, I’m so sorry this fear feels so personal.’ What I find is that each time I apply those phrases; ” I see, I understand, and I’m sorry this feels so personal’ the emotion shifts and I’m able to sit comfortably and determine my next step with greater clarity and ease.

So they’re the 7+ actions I recommend to shift from distracted and unable to concentrate to becoming adept at deep work and focused effort. Like any skill, the ability to concentrate doesn’t happen overnight. You have to train your brain away from old habits toward new and healthy ones. The easiest way to do that is to choose one of the actions above and take it repeatedly over the next month or two. Actions performed repeatedly produce results. This is just as true of concentration as it is of any other visibility skill you might be developing.

Additional Resources

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