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Your brain is just a muscle

Do I have your attention? Do you think I can keep it?

Kolbe says we can spend a lot of time performing tasks or learning about things that appeal to us but are less willing to devote time to things we find less interesting. Similarly, while your Unique Ability might give you energy, life dictates that you still need to do things that fall into your less than Unique Ability categories. 

Clay Johnson at InfoVegan.com has written a post on training ourselves to pay better attention. He says writers need to work on managing attention instead of managing information. The post also offers some drastic measures you can take if you find you are just not able to concentrate (these are great to pass on to kids for studying as well).

We are quick to blame our environment for deviant behaviours, but Johnson says “It is as much Twitter’s fault that you have a short attention span as it is your closet’s fault it doesn’t have any running shoes in it.” The onus falls on us to follow through on things we consider to be important.

He offers a lot of tips on how to train your brain to pay attention much like training to run.

One of his tips, the Pomodoro Technique, is one we employ around Infomatix. Steve’s 7 Quickstart allows him to get distracted if something more interesting comes along. He started using the technique a while ago when he found himself under the wire and found it was very helpful.

You start off setting a timer (either physical or virtual) for your desired amount of concentration time. When the timer beeps, set it again for a short break then go back to work when the timer sounds again. I know this means setting a timer up to 16 times a day but taking a moment to think about why you’re spending a small amount of time to set it reminds you of its rewards.

The Pomodoro Technique website has a lot of great resources from a book (also available in PDF) to materials you can use to map your day to cheat sheets for getting started. The taglines are “Eliminate the anxiety of time” and “Enhance focus and concentration.”

There are also a few iPhone apps that can track your tasks and keep you on the straight and narrow.