How do you concentrate?

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Do you ever find it hard to concentrate? Is it impossible for you to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes? Do you feel that you never accomplish anything substantial, because you keep getting interrupted? Then you would be just like… Well just like everyone really…

Over the years I’ve learnt the huge benefit of sitting down, fingers on keyboard, and focusing on one unique task at a time.

If your desire is to achieve anything of note, such as writing a book, finishing that screenplay, or completing any lengthy project, then you need to be disciplined enough to glue your bum on the seat and your eyes on the screen, for long periods of time, without getting interrupted.

But let’s say that you can do this, the next question is, what is the best environment for your optimal productivity?

For me I am usually surrounded by people. At my office there are many staff who wander in and out of my door, and while they understand the need to let me do my job, the reality is that in order to do their work effectively, they need to consult with me. At home my wife and kids are around in the mornings and evenings when I write, and of course I need to interact with them too. (This is a good way to stay married and have an actual relationship with your children.)

So when I really need to focus heavily on a task, I let the surrounding people know that I need to not be interrupted for a while, and I set my hand to the plough (or laptop). Then the problem is that I don’t have a soundproof room, so I still have to find ways to concentrate, once I have set aside my time.

Here are the two ways I am able to concentrate on different tasks.

1. Creative Writing.

When I am writing creatively, whether it be a blogpost, newsletter article, fundraising letter, screenplay, or radio ad, I need complete silence. I know that I need to shut out the world, which allows me to focus on the subject I am about to write. So what I do is I grab my bright orange protective ear muffs, and put them on. This blocks out all noise, even the buzz of my computer, and all I can hear is a kind of hollowness. This weird practice forces me to concentrate solely on my writing, and every time I do this, ideas and words flow out rapidly and gracefully.

2. Processing Data/Editing Documents.

When I am processing data such as moving files around, or even editing some documents, I need very loud rock music with lyrics that I can’t understand. I plug in my headphones and turn it up loud. For some reason this makes me work faster, getting the annoying menial data processing finished efficiently and on-time. In fact if I don’t have loud rock music blasting in my ears when I am processing data, I can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes.

So for me, I use two very different methods to jolt myself into a state of concentration, depending on the type do work I am doing. Silence for creative writing, and loud rock music for processing data. How do you concentrate?