Sunday, 28 February 2010

Use less of your brain to concentrate more?

It may sound counterintuitive, but you use less rather than more of your brain when you are concentrating well. At least that's what a study of golfers, carried out by John Milton and colleagues at the University of Chicago in 2006, showed. The brain activity of expert golfers was compared with that of novices.
As the expert golfers concentrated on their shot, one small area of brain activity showed up. With the novice golfer, activity in the brain showed up in numerous areas. It seems that the expert golfers' ability to filter out extraneous and distracting information gave them the edge when it came to concentrating. For the novice golfers, all sorts of other irrelevant thought processes were distracting them and reducing their focus, reducing their ability to concentrate on the shot.

As US golf professional Tom Kite said, "You can always find a distraction if you're looking for one.".

It's not just golfers who benefit from being able to concentrate, we do too.

It makes sense. If you are trying to concentrate on something, and you are constantly allowing yourself to be distracted by your email alert, the phone, other people - either in person or via MSN, your brain is having to accommodate lots of other activity.

So if you want to concentrate better, cut out some of the distractions.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Concentrate ~ to direct or draw towards a common centre, purpose, or the like; focus, to focus on one's thoughts and attention

Was there ever such a thing as an art of concentration? I used to think you could either concentrate, or you couldn't. Sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn't.

My school reports were full of edicts to 'concentrate!' while my butterfly brain ricocheted onto something more interesting than algorithms - what use were they to me?

An adolescent doodle reminds me of how I felt back then, and brings back memories of how slowly time passed, how the teacher's voice droned, and how exciting the prospect of life outside the four walls of my classroom might be:

Why am I sitting here
When outside the air is clear
And the sun beckons
Caressing my body
The drowsiness I encounter
Enhances my dreams of freedom
I long to escape

So. Some 30 years later I have written a book, the title of which is The Art of Concentration. How did that happen? How, in the intervening period, did I learn to concentrate long enough to write 70,000 words?

Published in paperback by Rodale, priced £9.99
Available from April 2nd 2010
Available from