The late Yogi Berra was playing in the minor leagues for the Newark Bears before joining the New York Yankees for his Hall-of-Fame career. His manager told him not to swing at balls out of the strike zone.
The manager said, “Yogi, next time you’re up, think about what you’re doing.”
Yogi said, “I struck out in three pitches!”
That’s when he uttered one of his famous sayings, “You can’t think and hit the ball at the same time.”
Concentration may be something as simple as keeping your eye on the ball. If you are concentrating totally on what you’re doing, you’ll have total control of yourself. If your thoughts and hopes are elsewhere, it is impossible to set your mind steadily toward the work required.
With so many distractions over the holiday season, it’s easy to lose focus. Concentration takes a back seat to the multitasking that rules our schedules. Time to rethink the priorities.
“It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world,” said Og Mandino, author of “The Greatest Salesman in the World.” “The great man or woman is the one who never steps outside his or her specialty or foolishly dissipates his or her individuality.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple interests or responsibilities. You just have to learn to give your full attention to the matter at hand to avoid getting side-tracked. I’ll admit, that’s easier said than done. But you can train your brain to block out the clutter with these tips.
Time management. I like to say, killing time isn’t murder, it’s suicide. Improve your time management and your time will improve you. It’s not how much time you have; it’s how you use that time. Time is one of your most precious resources. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back. Using your time efficiently and effectively takes organization, planning and information.
Organization. The more organized you are, the easier it is to concentrate. The people who know me well will laugh at this one because I’m a habitual packrat. My filing system is piles, and one pile for each project. And that’s a lot of piles. But I typically can find things. I just need a lot of room to spread out.
Corral your email. Email is one of the biggest distractions we have today. And to concentrate, you have to control distractions.
Exercise. My ability to concentrate effectively starts by getting up early and exercising to get my day off on the right foot. Keep the oxygen flowing to your brain. The main vehicle of oxygen is our blood. And since many of us sit a lot during the day, our blood gets pooled in the lower half of your body. Get up and walk around occasionally to get your blood flowing and force oxygen to your brain.
Environment. As they say in real estate, it’s location, location, location. For example, it’s harder to study or concentrate in a location where you are used to relaxing. Working in a noisy or busy office makes it harder to focus. Would noise-cancelling headphones make concentration easier? Perhaps a temporary “do not disturb” sign on your cubicle?
Take notes. I concentrate better and remember more when I take copious notes. And besides, pale ink is better than the most retentive memory. Jot down the items that need your attention, and tend to them later when you have time to focus on them.
Practice. Like any activity, concentration takes practice. If you want to be good at something, you must practice. Concentration is like a muscle: the more we use it, the stronger it becomes.
Rest. One of the biggest factors affecting concentration is rest. If you don’t get the proper amount of sleep, your mind tends to wander. Too much sleep is also not healthy.
And last but certainly not least, conquer procrastination. One of the worst things you can do is procrastinate, yet many people are guilty of putting off the inevitable. It’s natural to perform the least important task first, because it’s easier, and save the most important for last – if at all. That’s why one of these days becomes none of these days.
You can make 2016 “one of those years.” Keep your eye on the ball, and yes, think about what you are doing. Yogi Berra would be proud.
Mackay’s Moral: Concentrate if you want to be great.