Our brains are wired to pay attention to flashy signs and loud noises, so how do we focus on what we want when we're surrounded by interruptions we're naturally drawn to?
Photo by kevindooley.
The New York Times dives into the science of concentration, discussing studies on the nature of concentration and some of the solutions science is working up for us—including an amazing hearing-aid-for-concentration device that would send pulses of light to our brain that would provide us with better control over our powers of concentration. (Do read the full article for a taste of some very interesting science.)
Until that future comes, Winifred Gallagher, author of Rapt—a guide to the science of attention—suggests a few practical things you can do now.
She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine (which does help attention) before focusing again. But until that first break, don't get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption.
Of course, this advice is very close to what we've recommended in the past for http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2007/11/control_your_workday_with_a_ga/controlling your workday, but we're happy to hear a little more about the science behind it. Thanks Shawn!