How do you concentrate?

For most people, this question probably means, “Do you listen to music while working?” or “Do you go somewhere to get away from it all?” But there’s more to learning how to concentrate than just this.

I remember reading that the average person’s attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. Nine seconds. We can get better and it just takes a little preparation and practice.

I came across this quote today attributed to Alexander Graham Bell.

Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.

If you want to really concentrate on something, it takes discipline and a goal. You have to want something more than the other things trying to distract you. Let’s talk about conscious and desired concentration. The kind of concentration needed to design software, or build a model rocket, or paint, or write. This is where a goal is important. I’m not talking about some five year goal or even a daily goal. I’m talking about a goal to finish that small feature requiring a new class and a few method in your source code or that small page and a half each day that will eventually add up to a complete book. These are the goals that lead to intense concentration abilities. And I do mean intense.

Working with your mind can be just as exhausting as physical labor. And just like you can improve your physical stamina with regular exercise or activity, you can also improve your ability to concentrate. It takes effort and a desire the be better than a goldfish. Listen to the full episode for my suggestions for improving your concentration.