What Does It Take To Focus

3 min read
28 February 2011

With only 5 days remaining before the Launch of an event like the Brain Art Exhibition, it is hard to think about anything else. Apart from reminding everyone to join us this coming Thursday March 3rd between 5 and 9 pm, today I want to talk about the importance of a having a focused mind.  

A focused mind is one that is able to eliminate distractions (internal and external) to reach the level of concentration required to perform a particular task, solve a problem or achieve a certain outcome. This requires a definite level of attention.

It is normal to be distracted by our internal thoughts as the neurons in our brains are creating new connections and as a consequence the brain is reconfiguring itself continuously. It takes effort to focus and to ignore the fleeting thoughts that travel through our minds so often.

Controlling our minds is not simple. Mindful meditation (20 mins twice a day) can help significantly to reduce the internal “noise”. And yes… you are probably thinking, “I do not have the time”. The reality is that calming our internal activity helps us to become more focused and more effective, so we can do what needs to be done – faster, and more efficiently.

It is not only the internal thoughts we need to reduce to improve our focus, but also the external distractions. I had a meeting with the producer of a very famous radio program this week. Despite his interest in the topic we were discussing, his attention span really shocked me. He checked his mobile phone almost obsessively in the time we spent together.

I understand that people can be extremely busy but if we do this continually, the ones who pay the consequences in terms of stress are ourselves. Advances in technology over the last 15 years have been the cause of the most amazing changes within our society. However, and perhaps coincidentally, stress and lack of focus has increased substantially for many people.

External distractions not only affect our focus but can also make us even more exhausted. So, how do we find a balance? For example; keep the best hours of the day (for me, are the early morning) – for the work that requires lots of thinking and analyzing. Switch off your mobile and other devices, so you can give 100% of your attention to the task at hand.

Do the lighter tasks like answering e-mails after you have finished the main task. Take a short break after each hour, even if it is only 5 mins – and stretch, change body positions and breathe!

Working more than 6 hours non-stop will limit your ability to perform at your best. Plan a gym class or a walk (or any other activity of your choice – even a nap) after 6 hours of work. You can always go back to work after you have taken a couple of hours for yourself.

When I think of being focused I think of a photographer with his camera. The level of attention that a good photo requires does not give room to think about much else. One of the great photographers that has always impressed me is Tony Mott.

Tony has built his reputation by photographing the greatest music idols of all times (Queen, Maddona, The Rolling Stones, Silver Chair, Stevie Wonder, Metallica, Crowded House, Midnight Oil and many others). That is why we chose him as part of the “Interesting Mind Projects”. Julie Doye, our featured artist at the Exhibition has just finished a “pop” portrait of Tony with his camera.

During the Launch Night, Open Day and consecutive days, Julie will be painting live some other people which include former Wallabies Captain and founder of the Mettle Group – John Eales, Bondi Rescue Star – Bruce Hopkins (Hoppo), the first woman editor for the Sydney Morning Herald in 180 years – Amanda Wilson, Psychiatrist and a former foreign affairs television journalist for SBS – Dr. Tanveer Ahmed.

The artworks will be signed by these personalities and auctioned at the Fundraising Awards Night. The money raised by this auction will contribute to The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA as well as assisting this young artist in her career.

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