Many of the things we think we should be doing to help us concentrate actually work against the way that our brain naturally operates. So what can we learn from the science of focus to get more done, and do any of common tips actually work?
It might seem counter-intuitive, but allowing your mind to wander may be one of the best approaches if you are struggling to focus. There is a growing realisation among psychologists that we spend an awful lot of time daydreaming – almost 50% of the time by some measures. This has led some psychologists to suggest that mind wandering is not so much a glitch, but rather a key part of the system itself that can help our brains function.
Funny cat videos are often seen as the ultimate distraction for procrastinators, but some psychologists think that they might actually help put us in the right mental state to get on with work.
Make it harder
To concentrate properly you must get rid of all external distractions, right? Actually, according to one influential theory of attention, the opposite is true.
Nilli Lavie, a psychologist at University College London, came up with what she calls ‘Load Theory’ in 1995. The idea is that there is a limit to how much information from the outside world our brains can process at any one time – once all of these processing ‘slots’ have been filled, the brain’s attention system kicks in to decide what to focus on.
When you’re up against it, taking a break might be the last thing on your mind. But there is a huge amount of evidence to suggest it can actually help you get more done. The challenge is working out when to take a break, for how long, and what to do with that downtime.
Exercise is a good thing to do in with your break, as it seems to rev up the brain, putting it into a better state to knuckle back down, particularly, according to this study, if you follow it with a caffeinated drink. Take your exercise outdoors and get a further boost – spending time in nature has long been suspected to improve people’s ability to focus.
Don’t try so hard
When you need to focus for long periods, less is more, according to studies by Joe DeGutis and Mike Esterman at the Boston Attention and Learning Lab in Massachusetts. In brain imaging experiments, they found that the most successful strategy for staying on course was to focus for a while, and then to take a short break before going back to concentrating. People who tried to be ‘on’ all the time made more mistakes overall.
Creepy video of moving pavement during earthquake
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Real-Time Lightning Map :: LightningMaps.org – fascinating to watch storms as they pass overhead & rumble in the distance
California’s Bay Area has been the focal point of the weekend’s most extraordinary heat. Temperatures soared to 106°F in downtown San Francisco on Friday and 102°F on Saturday.
Friday’s reading was the hottest ever measured in downtown SF, where temperatures have been observed since 1874. Friday’s 106°F handily topped the previous record of 103°F from June 14, 2000, and Saturday was only the second high of 102°F in downtown history, matching Oct. 5, 1987.
“To put this in perspective, the average high temperature for the city these two days is just 71°F,” said Chris Burt, who lives in the East Bay region. “Friday night’s temperatures failed to fall below 85°F at several hill locations near me (I dropped to 81°).” He added: “It is so hot in our home I can hardly think. No air conditioning, of course.”
Heat-related illnesses overwhelmed San Francisco hospitals on Friday, according to the Bay Area NWS office. It would not be shocking to see multiple Bay Area fatalities during this heat wave, given the multi-day intensity of the heat and the Bay Area’s lack of air conditioning.