In the first part of this series, we had discussed building comfort zones and creating environmental and physical conditions conducive for increasing concentration and focus, in this part we would be dealing with creating the mindset and handling distractions. Constant distractions are a part of modern-day living. iPhones, iPads, continuous internet browsing, emails, instant messages and keeping up with social activities at the press of a button is commonplace and hurts our abilities to concentrate and focus on high-priority tasks. Doctors have a name for this syndrome – the ADT or Attention Deficit Trait. Entire student societies, organizations and companies can suffer from ADT. To bring attention deficit under control and channel your concentration to the task at hand, the simple tips in this article would help you enormously.
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Schedule your worries:
Well we know that may sound funny, because causes of worries are unscheduled. However, there are different kinds of worries – instant and persistent. Instant worries like that before your examination or before a public performance need to be handled instantly, of course. However, there are persistent worries like ‘how to get a job,' ‘where to find the money for tomorrow,' ‘how to bring back friendship with Joe,' and so on and so forth.
Persistent worries eat into a big chunk of our time and keep intruding on our efforts to focus our minds. Sometimes, instant worries become persistent. If a friend has an accident it is cause of instant worry, after s/he is into medical care then his/her recovery can become a persistent worry. What we want to stress is that schedule routine times and set them aside to address persistent worries, so that when they try to intrude upon your thought you can send them away by telling yourself, ‘I will think of these at their appointed time.'
Since you set an ‘appointed time' for considering those causes of concern, it frees your conscience to focus on the task at hand and helps to learn and concentrate your attention. This is why, including a time for addressing or thinking about ‘persistent' worries or concerns is necessary. Even though they are ‘persistent' you should not let them pursue you everywhere and at all times.
Prioritize the tasks that demand your attention:
Prioritization is the master key to time and effort management. As a law student
, most of the time you'd be feeling that you have too much to do and too little time to do it. But you are not in a unique situation. First, realize that. Then find out how to prioritize between your tasks, write them down in a list, and sometimes it's helpful to create a list at night for the next day. Sometimes, students move at high-speed from one task to another creating the impression of doing a lot when in actuality achieving little. Be aware of this common failing, create a ‘to-do' list, prioritize according to two perspectives – first delivery schedule of the work and then the eighty-twenty principle, that is which important tasks can be finished with the least effort and time – do them first and reduce the backlog.
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Take up one task at a time. Multi-tasking does not mean driving and texting at the same time, but completing tasks of radically different nature within the same time-frame. That does not mean doing them at the same time. Within a time-frame, you still need to prioritize your tasks and focus on doing one task at a time, according to a prioritized sequence.
Fix priorities and alternate between low and high attention demanding tasks:
Between learning tasks that demand attention, it is possible to set and define priorities according to needs and also possible to distinguish them into groups of relatively lower and higher attention demanding tasks. Switching between sessions of high-attention-demanding and low-attention-demanding tasks can provide a rhythm of alternating levels of stress that can help you to evenly spread your efforts over time-periods within manageable levels. Keeping at high-attention-demanding tasks at a stretch may result in inferior results than allowing short breaks of low-attention-demanding tasks in between sessions that require higher focus and concentration.
This, for a student, may be difficult at first, but if you set up a routine and that becomes known, after some time your peers would come to accept that you are available only at certain times for interaction and not always. It would help you throughout your career to set aside fixed times for socialization and let your social circle be aware of that. Texting, emailing, browsing, and chatting throughout the day creates breaks in focus and waste of time that is impossible to retrieve and can damage your career irretrievably.
Remember, that to use any strategy effectively, you need to personalize them and apply them to your situation according to your own instant conditions. The guidance in these articles are guidance that is true in most cases, but are not incontrovertible universal rules that cannot be bent to fit one's own situation. That is what we expect you to do to get ahead with your career, and not accept guidance without applying your own mind.
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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.