First rule of focus

One of the basic learning skills is attention. If you cannot concentrate on one thing, it will be very hard for you to learn anything. The worst pupils, as we know from school, are those with scattered minds. If you want to learn fast, you need to learn deep and lasting concentration.

Till this moment we all agree. But what does it mean to be focused? One often deems that to be focused means immobilizing our mind on a single object. When you are paying attention, you sit like a statue, with eyes fixed on a book page. If you move, if different thought appears in your mind, one thinks you are not fully focused.

That’s a folk theory of focus. But it is not true. Focusing on something completely immobile is impossible. You can try it with visual attention. Draw a dot on a wall and gaze at it. Do not let your eyes to wander, Keep it still. You will notice, that at most after a few minutes, the image will start to fade and disappear. A still picture is impossible to focus through a long time. To be able to focus for any amount of time, something must be varied: the image or eyes (or both).

It all concerns visual focus, but the same law applies to the mind. We can concentrate only when the target of our attention varies or our mind is shifting the perspective.

It is easy to watch TV series, every second something changes, we can’t stop watching. It’s easy to read a detective story on every page there is a new surprise. But how to cope with a boring textbook or manual?

Try to shift the perspective. Do not pay attention by immobilization, but by varying the perspective. Notice differences, look for novelties, ask new questions.

For example, when you are learning history, you can ask yourself: How did it look from the perspective of defeated and how of winners? How did it look from women’s point of view, how of men’s? If you learn to code, ask: what I could change in it? What else it reminds me? Where I can use it?