The Science of Focus

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

It doesn't exist. The funny thing about focus is that the harder you try to focus, the more it goes away. It is somewhat like sand, the harder you try to hold sand in your hands, the more it falls out. Why is it like this? The answer is surprisingly simple - Focus is an an Art. Science and logic do not yet understand Focus well enough to tell us the formula to master it.


Think about it -

Can you read books and become a Writer?

Can you buy a recipe book and become a great Chef?

Can you watch football and become a football player?


Writing, cooking, football, painting etc are all examples of forms of art. Unless you are naturally gifted, without practice you cannot learn Arts. Like other forms of arts, Focus is also an art which requires practice, unless you have a natural gift. There is no scientific formula or method to achieve Focus. As hard as you try, focus will go farther away. Same way as trying hard to make a cake is not going to work if you do not practice making cakes.


The best cooks have such sharp focus that while they are stirring curry with one hand, they can grab the exact amount of salt and chilli with the other hand without even looking. They can smell the flavours from far while talking to you and tell when if dish is cooked perfectly.


Football players don't measure the angles, distance to calculate force required to kick the ball when making a pass. They just kick the ball where they want to send it without even looking. That comes from practice.

Focus is an Art. It requires practice to achieve and sustain.

So how do we practice Focus?

There are some great activities that help us build focus and we will talk about them now.


1. Un-train your mind from defocus and distraction


You have to eliminate activities which train your mind to have shorter focus. Instagram or Youtube or Facebook Reels and WhatsApp forwards train you to have shorter focus of 5-10 seconds. When you watch 10-20 different short reels or videos, your brain learns to shift focus quickly. If you want to watch something, make sure videos are meaningful and at least 15 minutes long, not shorter than that. All breaks and distractions should be at least 15 minutes long.

Also, disable notifications on your phone. Phone notifications are a huge distraction and you keep expecting notifications and this reduces ability to focus.

Even the smallest distraction requires 23 minutes & 15 seconds for you to get your focus back. - University of California research study

2. Heart of the Rose: an ancient technique developed by Monks


This is a very simple technique. All you need is a silent place and a rose. The place should preferably be natural surrounding but you can do it in your room as well. Instead of a real rose you may use a good image of rose as well. Sit quietly for 10-15 minutes everyday and just focus at the rose - in your mind just notice it's colour, it's texture, it's design, the dew drops on it's surface - the magic of nature unfolding in the beautiful red petals. In the beginning it will be difficult to keep distracting thoughts away from your mind but slowly improvement will happen if you practice daily. Looks simple right? Try it with an alarm set and get a reality check.


3. Design your surroundings


Focus requires your surroundings to be designed in the best possible way. Great cooks want their kitchen designed with perfection. Perfect set of knives, spices in a certain exact place, frying pan to be of a particular design, a perfectly shaped spatula, vegetables to be cut in perfect style and the flame of the stove to be perfectly controlled.

Student's need to design their study areas exactly like great Chefs, to be able to focus. Here are 10 basic requirements you should do immediately to improve your focus. Download the design guide attached below.

Guide to Study Design
.pdf
Download PDF • 10.16MB

Make sure that you do not study in any other place. Your study table should be the only holy place where you study. Remember, dining room is for eating, bed room is for sleeping, balconies are for relaxing, drawing room is for entertainment.


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In the bonus video of today, we see how science and research to understand focus has brought interesting ideas and activities to improve your focus. As a test, calm yourself down with a few deep breaths and watch the whole 16 minutes of this video without skipping, without distraction. Can you do it, if you do you already trained your mind a bit to focus? Small win! Let's go, let's focus.


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