Friday, May 8, 2009

The Art of Concentration

If you are like me, you always have a million things on your mind from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep.

During the day my calendar and to-do list is my save me. Without them I miss assignments, deadlines, and appointments (like the doctor's appointment I missed yesterday). I carry notebooks dedicated to different projects in my bag all the time. I'm never without a pen. The television is chatting back at me, the internet is purring, the cell phone is beeping. I don't Twitter but Facebook, email, and now blogging keep me online more than enough.

Many nights I find myself staying up later than I ever intended because I just can't stop thinking about school, bills, friends, tasks--from the most vital to the most mundane. To battle this I go to bed with a flashlight and a book or magazine in hopes that I'll read myself to sleep, saving myself from an anxiety attack about something I really can't control at 2:17 a.m.

How does one control the waves of thought?

I find that without huge blocks of time, it's hard for me to write my term papers. This was the last week of school and I failed to make the progress I desired. Over the last three weeks as classes have winded down, I found myself doing a hundred little things and not the things I really cared about or that really had to be done. Now I'm paying for it.

I want to change my life.

A friend passed along this recent article, "Ear Plugs to Lasers: The Science of Concentration" The New York Times (May 5, 2009). The solution: make the choice to shield yourself from unnecessary distractions. Sounds too easy, right? But consider the final advice from Winifred Gallagher, author of the book Rapt on the science of paying attention.

“'People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,' she said. 'Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience.'"

Pretty wise.

I think
I'm going to take this to heart.

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