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The Joy of Concentrating

Many people these days are multitasking, doing several things at once. Perhaps it is juggling the phone while stirring a pot of soup. Maybe you watch a soccer game on your phone screen while you work on a project on your computer. At the same time you might be thinking you have to leave work early to get your child to a dentist appointment. You have probably experienced something like that. One multitasker that annoys me the most is a check out clerk who talks to someone on a cell phone about what to do Friday night while handing me my change.

We have so many options for keeping in touch with friends or researching the best appliance to buy and keeping up with the news. It is possible to do these things, but it’s not necessarily good. Researchers have shown that multitasking actually accomplishes less even though people look and feel busy. Creative thinking is diminished and the brain loses some of its normal ability to concentrate. Some highly respected business leaders and consultants tell us to slow down, take time to think, get into the slow lane and meditate. That is when the best insights come and energy for bold action arises.

There is joy in doing life that way. It is a real pleasure to pursue just one thing at a time. When I can concentrate on something for an hour, a morning, or a whole day, it’s really satisfying. For you it may be reading a novel while sitting in a warm spot near the fireplace. It could be working on a quilt, or playing a game of chess. Painting seems to be a source of pleasure for some people in contrast to their other busy activities. President Dwight Eisenhower enjoyed painting while at Camp David. One of my favorites is playing guitar and singing. It’s really hard to do anything else while playing and singing. That is a form of multitasking, but these two are in harmony which adds pleasure.

I have found that if I can avoid spreading my attention in several directions at once and instead focus on just one thing for a while it really gives me joy. I can work on some project, solve a puzzle or read a book. When I do that it gives me a glow of satisfaction. When’s the last time you enjoyed that kind of moment?

It’s not easy for me to get that concentration time. It’s hard to ignore all the other things that swirl around me, as they do for anyone with a smart phone or computer. But switching gears back and forth detracts from the main thing I want to do, to concentrate. So how can I get the joy back? Here are a few ideas.

One way to do this is to literally get away from other things. I give myself permission to go to my basement study area, clear everything off my desk and write a story about my grandparents or something. Or I can sit and read a book for a couple hours. One big thing I do is to take a whole week camping by myself maybe once a year. Those are times for reading, relaxing and writing and playing guitar. That probably sounds extravagant or impossible for many of you. Mary Ann is generous by encouraging me to use time like this. Another way to be blessed is to concentrate on something together. A friend of mine told me how he and his wife would take turns reading a good book out loud together. Perhaps that sounds archaic and slow. But life doesn’t have to be fast. It can be slow and beautiful.

When I try to concentrate, it doesn’t always work out the way I want. Often I let my days get crowded and frazzled. The busy hours whiz by. But when I can concentrate on something it’s a real joy.

Copyright 2019 - Stanley Hagemeyer

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