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I have a problem. I can't concentrate on one thing at a time. I can't read a whole article, I can't read a whole book, I can't watch tv without reading news from social networks for example.

Could you give me some advice on how to solve my problem?

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Turn off the Internet. Turn off your phone. Turn off the MP3 player. etc. You'd be surprised what you can do when distractions are a few more steps away. – enderland May 11 '13 at 16:03
@enderland it's not simple when you using internet, telephone, im during work. – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 14 '13 at 11:53
and openspace is the most distractions generator. – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 14 '13 at 11:54
Possible solution: Don't read books and watch TV during work. :P – Viliam Búr May 14 '13 at 12:21
@ZagorulkinDmitry you'd be surprised how little you actually need the Internet while working. People tell me that all the time when I suggest that. – enderland May 14 '13 at 13:41
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Prioritize. And really enjoy doing that one thing. Or don't even start doing it if you can.

"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing"

When you can't get concentration on one thing only, is it that one thing the one you really want to do? If it's not, start doing the main thing for you. If it is, avoid the rest from stopping you on it.

3 causes for not being able to focus on something:

  1. You don't know how to do it. Solution: master it.
  2. You are doing something just because someone else told you to, but you don't really want to do it. Solution: talk to that person, get clear on what you want to accomplish.
  3. You have conflicting desires. You want two different things, and achieving one means not getting the second one, and reverse. So you don't really want to get neither of them done. Solution: prioritize, choose.

Hope it helps you.

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thank you! but how to make whole thing at a time? for instance today i want read a book but tomorrow i do't. how to make whole action? – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 7 '13 at 14:27
It seems you can but you don't want to. – Giuseppe May 7 '13 at 22:22
If your worries are on finishing the task at hand, refresh yourself why that thing you started yesterday was important for you. You could even try writing that down, so you can remember it tomorrow when you wish to sail other waters. Let me suggest you to read "Unleash the warrior within"‌​6. – Giuseppe May 7 '13 at 22:47
thank you @Giuseppe ! i will read this book. – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 8 '13 at 18:20

Prioritization and keeping distractions away are good but these are not the key abilities.

I think one may be perfectly sure that his no.1 priority at the moment is studying math. But it won't keep him away from facebook or 9gag.

The key ability is to evaluate how much struggle one will need to return to his task after distraction. E.g. while coding you start to have this itchy feeling of need to open browser and check mail. It's easy to interrupt and switch to effortless task of opening gmail. BUT think of how much effort you will need to switch back and finish that program. you will need to recall at which moment you stopped, what you were trying to solve, what this variable was used for etc.

And think of outcoume: what will you get in your life from checking email every 5 mins? and what will you get if you accomplish a complicated creative task?

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thank you! it's interesting. – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 14 '13 at 11:56

There is some research that technology is causing some attention spans to decrease, although I don't think there is a consensus ( If it is the case, checking your phone, facebook, and using other quick interruptions will make it harder to concentrate on one thing. Even if it is not the case, and brains are not being rewired to have a shorter attention span, you still need to avoid the quick and easy interruptions.

Spend some time where you don't multi-task, don't have your phone close, turn off the music, and keep other easy sources of interruptions are away from you. Practice spending time on only one thing at a time. Try to spend some completely dedicated time on something every day.

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Give yourself a time limit during which it is forbidden to do anything else. Within the time limit you are only allowed to do the specified thing, or to do nothing.

For example: "During the following five minutes, I will either read this article, or just close my eyes and relax. (Start the timer.)".

The timer is there to prevent you from watching the clock and asking yourself repeatedly whether it is over. The option to close your eyes and relax is there because, honestly, not having options feels bad. (Feeling bad is never the goal, and is usually harmful to your goals.) Just don't give yourself options which would distract you.

And don't blame yourself for using the "do nothing" option frequently! Even if you spend 20% of time reading the article, and 80% relaxing with eyes closed, that is still more effective than spending 100% of time doing something completely irrelevant. (It is even better than spending 20% of time reading the article and 80% of time reading something else, because the other material would distract you from the article, and you would end remembering less. Also, what you'd estimate as 20%, would probably be closer to 1% in reality.) When relaxing, you are only allowed to think about the article, or about something simple and pleasant (e.g. imagine yourself relaxing on the beach).

And I completely agree that open space is a concentration killer, and therefore a productivity killer, if your work requires concentration. (Unfortunately, decisions about this are usually done by managers, whose work is different, and they don't have much empathy for introverts. And sometimes they just are penny wise and pound foolish; they see the $$$ saved by using openspace instead of a decent workspace, and don't see $$$ lost by ruining the productivity of their employees.) I had a job once where phones were ringing all the time, and it was impossible to focus on anything. So I changed jobs, and my productivity increased dramatically. Sometimes it's not you, it's the environment.

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thank you. maybe i will try to work as freelancer. – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 14 '13 at 13:07
I would recommend first trying it at home. Maybe during a weekend. Or if you have enough vacation days left, think about a project, take one full week off, and do a pretend-freelancer work during the whole week. Then you will see whether that could work. -- As a freelancer, you won't have the workplace-forced distractions, but on the other hand you will have a lot of other temptations. And maybe even some specific distractions at home (neighbors, etc.). -- I tried working as a freelancer a few years ago, and I wasn't able to do much. Unfortunately, I am more productive at work. – Viliam Búr May 14 '13 at 13:58
i think you have a lot of experience of increasing productivity during getting actions done. Do you have a books written by you or maybe you could recommend some books about this the topic? few days ago i was read about pomodoro technique, what do you think about it? – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 14 '13 at 19:07
My favorite two sources: 1) Productivity instructor P.J.Eby has PDF chapters of his unfinished book ("Thinking Things Done") somewhere on his websites. Use google. It's like all the good parts from psychology, concentrated, all nonsense removed. 2) Center for Applied Rationality offers paid seminars to increase rational thinking, and this stuff is called "instrumental rationality" in their curriculum. In Moscow, visit your local LessWrong meetup and meet awesome people. – Viliam Búr May 21 '13 at 11:44
it's awesome! thank you! – Zagorulkin Dmitry May 21 '13 at 12:10

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