15 Ways to stay focused, according to scientists

multitaskingSince the advent of the Internet and mobile devices (e.g., laptops, smart phones and tablets) something that I would consider dramatic has been occurring.  I believe it is causing a drain in mental ability to get things done right and on time.  This seems to be affecting people of all ages.  Productivity and excellence is slowly being eroded.  When all is said and done I believe it is causing a huge loss in our economy and society.

Before delving in the actual article “15 ways to stay focused, according to scientists” published by the Independent on Monday November 09, 2015 at 11:41 AM GMT which I read on News Republic, I would like to go over some applicable historic facts from my life.

I was not a jock while attending K-12.  When I was attending middle school I started playing basketball with some kids.  One thing led to another and during the last couple years in high school I made it to the basketball team.  I am 6 feet tall.  By basketball standards I am too short to be effective in the game.  I attended all practices but would only play for a few minutes on actual games.  To top it off, I was not fast enough to react and could not anticipate very well moves from the opposing players.exercise-illustration

I then moved to a two year university program to help me with my student goals.  At that time I started rowing shell boats.  It was fun and required some dedication.  Every workday you were expected to sleep at the club.  The next day we would get up at 05:00 AM.  Run around, do some light weight training and get in a boat for a few minutes.  After a quick shower, a porridge breakfast we all head to school.  It seemed at the time that it became easier for me to concentrate on school work.

Two years went by and I was admitted to the Peruvian Naval Academy.  I did very well with the tests during the admission process.  I joined the rowing team.  It was interesting to note that the older team members reminisce of the good old times when the team won most of their regattas.  When I joined, our team was pretty much last at the National and South American levels.  Twice a day we trained Monday through Saturday morning.  I kept on doing very well in school and military subjects.  Was part of the honor guard and became the Ensign on my last year.  It seemed that academics were easy.  That said I paid attention in class and did my homework every day.  I did other extracurricular activities like being a member of the ham radio, pistol and rifle teams.

Time went by and I made it to a senior cadet.  That year I became the captain of the rowing and pistol teams.  At the national level I received a bronze medal in pistol competitions.  Our crew team started to win most of it regattas.  I could remember training and competing in a boat of four against one of eight rowers.  We ended getting ahead of the larger boat during training sprints of 500 meters.  That accomplishment feeling will be with me for the rest of my life.  I recall the last national crew competition in which our boat of three (2 + 1) won the regatta by a couple hundred meters.  That year our team became National and South American champions.  I attributed our success to staying focused not only on rowing but on all other tasks.

sleep_logoThe military has a way to enforce, when possible, eight hours of sleep a day.  That coupled with food and exercise helped me concentrating on mental activities and doing well.  I have to say that I also read a lot.  Early in life, my parents encouraged me to read every night before going to sleep.  I started reading novels and then switched to encyclopedias.  I read many math books and solved thousands of the proposed exercises and problems.

After graduation, I spent a year in a destroyer.  The following year, got admitted to the Post Grade Naval School.  I kept exercising and reading and did very well in school.  Applied and obtained a scholarship to Cornell University.  Due to different circumstances in my life, had to leave school before graduating.  I then started work for a fortune 500 company in Houston, Texas.  After a couple years was transferred to the main offices in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.To-Do List_logo

On my first job in the Twin Cities, my first supervisor used to keep a to-do list.  I embraced the idea and since then every morning as soon as I sit down I draw up a fresh list of things I would like to accomplish for the day.  My to-do list has enough items that I can barely get them all done in a day.  This helps me to keep pushing and stay focused all day.

I am not going to go into much more detail about myself, but some of the things I did at the time and continued to do to this day seem to have helped me stayed focused.  Some of such things I have done in this regard, happen to be part of the list in the article I read earlier this morning.

I am just going to list the items in the article.  If you are interested, I would suggest for you to read the original full article.

Tip  How I applied it 
Minimize multitasking Stop notifications (i.e., email) on my work computer.
Meditate Three times a day I take five deep and slow breaths.
Exercise regularly Using a Fitbit I walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day.
Establish a to-do list Have been doing this at the start of each day for a long time.
Try a small amount of caffeine Used to drink a dozen+ cups, today drink a couple each morning.  Occasionally a third one.
Take breaks Every hour and a half get up and walk around for about five minutes.  Use EyeDefender to remind me to take a break.
Keep work at work For years worked with my wife and two sons.  We absolutely did not discuss work related topics outside the office.  Today working from home, I do not discuss work items outside the 07:30 AM to 06:00 PM time span.
Train your brain to focus Have never done this.  I am not convinced this is of help.
Try to find a quiet place Like to work in an office (not in a cubicle).  Have my home office with several computers and servers that provide a nice white noise background which helps me concentrate.
Stare at a distant object for a few minutes I try not to stare at the same monitor while I am in front of it.  I always have two or three monitors attached to my computer which requires me to change the distance to the screen.
Get a good night’s sleep Have practice this rule for most of my life.  Like to go to bed early, sleep eight hours and obviously get up early morning.
Work offline I do not do this due to the nature of my work (software architect / designer / developer).  I do not have notification on so I take a look at messages after I come back from a five-minute break.
Designate your perfect study spot I spend most of my day in front of computers.  I have a separate table in a quiet room (no white noise) where I sit with a book and paper to read.
Embrace boredom I seldom feel boredom.  It happens on occasion while watching a movie or a TV show I have watched before.  I tend to fall asleep.
Devote specific hours to tasks This is similar to the to-do list.  In general I schedule highly creative tasks for early in the day.  Repetitive ones tend to be scheduled towards the end of the day.

I see young kids and adults constantly on their smart phone.  It seems that communicating face to face is not reduced_productivitimportant or appealing.  What we need to understand as a society are the side effects lowering our cognitive abilities and reducing our productivity as a whole.

The Naïve American

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