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« Lenten Challenge 2019 - for your diary | Main | Problem 4 - Wasting Time »

Problem 5 - Lack of Concentration

When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools. Michael LeBoeuf

Lack of concentration is a major problem in all aspects of time management. A list of some of the things causing it might include: 

  • Inattention
  • Boredom
  • Resistance
  • Mind on something else
  • Interruptions
  • Worry
  • Pain
  • Untidiness
  • Distraction 

The remedy for all of these is consistent use of a time-management list, whatever the method. The writing focuses your attention. The scanning provides a framework. And the selection directs your attention to one subject.

The more you practise this, the more effective it will be. Consistency is the keyword. Sporadic use or constantly jumping from one method to another will simply increase the amount of distraction you experience.

Reader Comments (9)

Did you all noticed notice that Mark wrote an article 3 days ago? I didn't! I checked the forum dates and then the sidebar for newest comments, and this post wasn't on there.
November 28, 2018 at 14:00 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
Alan: I checked the site yesterday and this post was not there. Probably some Squarespace weirdness.


Another reason for lack of concentration is insufficient rest. The day after a restless night is a long slog for me; having a list that does the remembering for me is very helpful since I am barely sentient after a poor sleep.

I have been having middling success with the long lists because I was splitting my tasks and attention between the handwritten lists and my Evernote daily logs, where I would record upcoming meetings, tasks, etc. I would write some things in one place or the other or both; I thought this gave me flexibility but it really only gave me inconsistency.

I am now "concentrating" (ie, gathering together in a mass) all my thoughts, chores, ideas, etc into the separate long lists I keep for work and home. I am limiting my Evernote daily logs to contain only day-specific tasks, with everything else going into the handwritten long list. Having to move less mental machinery around really reduces the friction of recording and scanning for what to do next. (I use my Evernote logs to record what I've done since they feed into monthly reports I have to write. I've found it difficult to track *when* I've done something using a long list, but then I don't believe that that function is part of its purpose.)

The long list isn't the only thing I do, of course, but it's becoming a very good home base I can use to center myself.
November 28, 2018 at 15:01 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Alan Baljeu:
<< Did you all noticed notice that Mark wrote an article 3 days ago? >>

Yes, they don't seem to appear in the Latest Comments anymore. I've added a visit to the Blog tab to my "MF" routine.
November 28, 2018 at 15:58 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Mike Brown:
<< The long list ... [is] becoming a very good home base I can use to center myself. >>

I like the way you phrased that. I've always liked this feature of the Long List systems. It helps with the concentrating, as long as I can maintain a strong intuition for the whole list.
November 28, 2018 at 16:02 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Mike Brown:

<< I checked the site yesterday and this post was not there. Probably some Squarespace weirdness. >>

Yes, it was. Squarespace dates posts from when they start being drafted, not when they are published. Normally I override this, but forgot to on this occasion.
November 28, 2018 at 16:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< Yes, they don't seem to appear in the Latest Comments anymore >>

Blog posts never have - only comments on the posts.On this occasion there were no comments because the post was still an invisible draft.
November 28, 2018 at 16:38 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Oh! OK. I didn't realize that. I guess the thing that changed was the links not working from the feed reader, not anything with the Latest Comments. I just know i needed to change my "MF" process recently to make sure I see the newest blog posts.
November 29, 2018 at 16:50 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
re checking for new blog posts:

I use a web service called Blogtrottr at . It intercepts RSS feeds and routes them to my email. I subscribe to only a few sites so I use the free tier; for some sites that update often, I get a daily digest. For sites like Mark's that post blogs occasionally, I get a single email.

We're all generally familiar with how to manage and task our email, so that's how I like to monitor the few blogs I'm interested in. (I also use a Google Code script I picked up somewhere to batch my Gmail deliveries so I only get a dump of emails every 6 hours; that helps me work through the latest batch and winnow them down before the next batch gets dumped on me.)

Related, from Cal Newport's blog:
November 29, 2018 at 18:35 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Dear Mark Forster,

I want to thank you for your continuing thoughtful articles and ever-evolving systems for productivity. While I can't say that I'm achieving as much as I would like to, I can say that I have been more productive over the years of applying your systems and philosophies than I would have had I used others' numerous planners and to-do list strategies.

Also, thanks to all the readers in this community who take the time to give feedback to help clarify and strengthen the concepts.

Here's to a happy and productive new year for everyone!
January 5, 2019 at 17:56 | Unregistered CommenterMark Olson

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