While talking to someone at work or even on the phone I often find myself drifting off where my attention wanders off. This happens even during short say 5 ~ 10 minute conversations. If while talking I try to write down some stuff so that I can remember later, I miss out the details. Any techniques you guys can suggest for improving on this aspect ?
Emotions are the cause of failure of our intelligence --Jose Antonia marina
Observing our emotions is as important as observing our thoughts --Tolle
1) As you exercise to keep your body in shape in same way you have to exercise to keep your mind in shape.
2) Are your emotions in control while listening? (it seems not in control that is why you may be facing this problem) maybe you are overwhelmed, maybe you are suffering from some lack of confidence, self esteem issues , lack of interest or maybe other things. what you need to do is to find out what is disturbing you get rid of disturbance. maybe talking to a one particular person you lose confidence , find out why. In short try to find the source of the emotional outburst if any and try to solve the problem.
3) maybe you have lot of things on your mind to do. do it and clear your mind. try to write all the things down you need to do, that will definitely be a help.
4) start meditation that will automatically lead to better concentration.
5) if not doing try some jogging in the morning for about 20 minutes per day which will automatically energies you and will speed up the blood flow in you body which will automatically bring you in the better frame of mind.
6) before talking to someone breadth i.e inhale and exhale from your nose 20 times that will automatically control your breathing. do this breathing exercise for about 20 minutes per day. it is very important to keep breathing under control for quality of life.
7) try to listen to some intelligent and informative talkshows on bbc or some documentaries on discovery etc and try to recall what is being said afterwards. try to write it down.
try to follow what is relevant to you and see how it goes.
Seriously, it helps. It kept me awake during lectures (which are done in warm, dim lit halls - the perfect sleeping conditions). Keeps your mind awake. My attention span has grown exponentially, thanks to chewing gym.
Silly advice, but I am being serious.
You need to listen all the words what the talking person is saying. You can use your mind as a filter. You can filter what you need. you just ignore what you need not.
Focusing on bodily sensations has helped me avoid drifting off in a conversation. Whenever I feel like I'm not paying full attention in a conversation, I try to be mindful of the sensory input to my body, my feet in particular. This can be summarised as Remember Your Feet.
Mindfulness meditation techniques help train this, doing body scan meditation in particular. A good place to start is this 3-minute audio clip (see bottom of table) for guided body scan meditation.
I always doodle when I'm listening to something important on the phone. Then, years ago, I read somewhere that a study showed that doodling helps focusing. They even recommended doodling during lectures and seminars.
Try and see if it works for you too. And it's fun. Just remember that there are no rules to doodle.
There are many good methods, some of which are listed here.
I will add two things that connect to the main theme already established here: Using your mind actively.
Create 'Subtitles' of what you are hearing, inside your mind
This is an invention of mine, that works surprisingly well when I'm listening to lectures and need to retain a lot of that information.
Inside my mind, I conjure up 'subtitles' of the sentances that are spoken by the person I am listening to.
Just like when you're watching a subtitled movie, I "see" the sentances in my mind's eye as an overlay on what I'm seeing in the real world. I can make certain important bits, like figures or keywords, BIGGER or maybe colored in different hues. This method makes you connect more precisely to the exact words that are being spoken, and you make both a visual and an auditory connection to what's being said.
Create 'Infographics' or images of what you are hearing, inside your mind
Similarly to the above, you are translating auditory information to visual information, but this time you are creating a much more graphical interpretation. Let's say you're hearing a story about trade routes between the EU and North America. Picture a world map and create an animated "infographic" inside your mind. Imagine arrows of different colors forming, or goods being moved. Try to make it as "fun" and appealing to you as possible. Let's say you're hearing a story about oil prices being dumped the last six months. Imagine an animation of the months rolling by, as more and more oil barrels are dropping down and knocking each other as the price stays the same.
You may also want to make very vivid and "funny" images to increase your retention rate. This is one of the techniques used by masters to win memory competitions. Try to mix in as many personal and crazy things in there as possible, like your auntie being chased and swallowed by a oil monster with three heads and five teeth as the symbol of $35 USD/barrel.