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Self Development

How to Concentrate When the World Intrudes

This is the difficulty of concentrating in today’s interruption culture.

Edward G. Brown




“The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth lamented. And that was more than 200 years ago, when he didn’t have to contend with 24/7 cable, smartphone alerts and hyper-connectivity at every turn. Wordsworth was bemoaning materialism. But if he were alive today, he might be referring to what I call mental leakage.

Even when others don’t directly interrupt people, they interrupt themselves because they can’t get the world off their minds.

Such mental leakage is natural, but it’s not innocuous. It harms work and productivity and makes people unhappy.

Like other interruptions, a distraction steals time (it takes a while to get back on task). There’s loss of momentum and time wasted in reassembling thoughts and resources. Frustration mounts about having to rebuild thoughts, along with the distress and fatigue of having to make up for the time lost. This all leads to errors and causes rework, wasting more time. You might even become annoyed with yourself.

Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, learn some simple techniques for keeping the world at bay until you want to entertain it in your mind. See which ones work best for you:

Related: I’m running my own business and am struggling with stress. How can I cope better so I can live to see my business succeed?

1. Transcending the environment

Rise above physical issues that you cannot change. I have a friend who struggled during the Ebola crisis to not constantly interrupt her work to search for disease updates.

Nonstop bad news right in your backyard can create a constant, low-grade worry. When she needed to transcend her environment, she would keep the TV and radio off (even her router unless she absolutely needed it for work).

She would take sunny walks, make extra healthy meals and surround herself with clean fragrances. That relegated illness to a minor instead of dominant theme in her environment, and she could carry on without being distracted.

2. Practice a constructive type of acceptance

There’s an art to accepting that which you cannot change and doing so graciously not grudgingly. Say you had to finish writing a proposal for a client by the end of the day or run the risk of losing some business.

You don’t like having to write the proposal but you love having new business. So you say, “OK, let me think of a few of my favorite clients and pretend I’m talking with them.” Suddenly your task seems agreeable and you can do it with relish.

3. Visualise the ideal self

I like this technique because it leaves you feeling good about yourself — so important when the world is too much with you. Visualise yourself accomplishing exactly what you’re supposed to achieve.

If you must write a proposal, think of yourself finally signing with a flourish the best one you’ve ever written. Or picture yourself totally locked in focus on your task, with perfect concentration. The point is, the mind follows the imagination, and the physical follows the mental.

4. Try positive affirmation

Sure, at first you’ll feel a little silly boosting your mood by repeating a simple, positive statement. But there’s a science involved.

First, you’re trying to program your subconscious mind through conscious thought to think favourably about the work in front of you. And then you’re trying to give yourself an adrenaline rush of energy. When you get a positive thrust in your mind from a phrase, there’s a positive physical reaction, too. Find whatever words work for you.

5. Attempt a psychological counter-punch or two

Another technique does for your mind what great boxers do with their punches. When a counterproductive thought like “I wonder if I’ve got any emails; I think I’ll check” threatens your focus, throw up a mental counter-punch like this: “You’ll be disappointed later if you don’t finish this task now, and you won’t have another chance.”

And then immediately follow that with your best punch: “Remember how great it feels to finish a project like this. You’ll feel great!”

Use each technique as needed. Let them trigger your mastery of locking in focus so that you can bear down on the task at hand. Then you can rejoin the world on your terms.

Related: The Future is Now

This article was originally posted here on

Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of a culture-change management consulting and training firm for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group.

Self Development

5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba To Stir You Into Action On Mandela Day

In honour of Mandela Day, here are 5 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspiring quotes.

Casandra Visser



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Bouncing Back


“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

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Self Development

25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior

If the harshest thing you have to say about someone is partly true, say the other part.

John Rampton



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Did you know that in every language, there are more negative words than positive ones? It seems we need lots of words to describe our negative feelings, but we’re content with a handful of positive ones.

For instance, researchers have found that most cultures have words for seven basic emotions: Joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and guilt.

That’s one positive emotion, and six negative

It’s no wonder so many of us have a hard time keeping our negative comments in check. Over the past six months I’ve been working on the verbal language that I’ve been using that I don’t even realize hurts others and in some cases makes them feel inferior. I even noticed that I’ve used a couple on my personal and business website. This is a “no-no” that I needed to fix.

This post will list 25 negative words you should avoid…so that you stop hurting, belittling and intimidating those around you!

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Self Development

How To Control What You Can And Influence What You Can’t In Your Life

Every day you need to get up and face numerous challenges. Here’s how you can keep your head in the game — even when all you want to do is quit.

Erik Kruger




On Monday you wake up ready to take on the world. You’re focused, determined and business is doing well. Tuesday feels like you’re invincible and things could not be going any better. Wednesday, your world collapses. You doubt your ability to deliver to your clients. You wonder whether you should still pursue the same business. You think that quitting at this stage is easier than dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. And you are dramatically reminded that entrepreneurship is hard.

Mix in human nature and it becomes borderline insanity to try and build a business. And yet, the reward is worth it. I therefore want to share three strategies that might help you cope with this tough but deeply rewarding pursuit.

Influence and control

Most of the things in business and life are out of our control. You cannot control how other people react to your service or product. You cannot control how your employees will show up. You cannot control how the market will react and how that will affect your business.

Related: How You Can Do Big Things

This makes it very important to control what you can and then influence the rest to the best of your ability.

So, what can you control? You can control your actions, reactions and perceptions of the challenges you face. Meaning essentially, that you can control yourself and your efforts.

Do this with excellence and you will automatically influence the people around you and the situations you find yourself in.

Override your moods

If we only did the hard work when we felt like it, we would hardly get anything done. Our moods fluctuate like the tides of the ocean. Not because we are temperamental but because the external world has a profound impact on us.

When you wake up to news that the economy is in recession, it has the potential to plant seeds of doubt in your mind. When you receive an email from a disgruntled customer complaining about your service, it has the potential to ruin your day.

The fact is that you can receive a hundred testimonials singing your praise, but you will obsess and become despondent over that one negative comment.

This means that we have to move beyond our emotions. Sure, they are important in the decision-making process and for fostering meaningful relationships. But you cannot allow them to dictate when you will do work.

In other words, work hard, irrespective of your moods, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it.

Create a calibration practice

One of the best ways to deal with this rollercoaster effect is to create a daily calibration practice. I am a big fan of any action taken on a daily basis. Not only because of the accumulation effect that occurs over time, but also because it keeps you focused.

So, what does a daily calibration practice look like?

It differs for everyone. It could range from meditation to a vision board to journaling to listening to a specific playlist of songs. My suggestion is that you give journaling a go.

Because it’s sometimes difficult to start a new calibration practice, I have included my journaling template for you.

It’s called ‘J1G’ (pronounced as jig). I use Evernote or a notebook from HumanWrites for journaling purposes.

J: Journal

For the first few minutes, simply allow your hand to run across the paper. The idea is for you to dump as many of your thoughts onto the paper as possible.

Some questions you can answer in this section are:

  • What am I currently excited about?
  • What am I currently worried about?
  • Where am I currently winning?
  • What can I learn from what happened yesterday?

1: The one thing that you want to get done today

In this time, I usually have a look at my to-do list and decide which one action I want to get done today. Write it down and then expand on why it is the most important action. How will it move you or your business forward?

Related: Better Thinking For A Better World

G: Gratitude

In the last section, you simply write down three things that you are grateful for. Trust me, this is an important daily practice, but even more so on the days when you feel as if life is beating you down.

When you focus on the things that you are grateful for, you crowd out fear and shift your state of mind to a more positive and productive one.

The punch line

If you can stick to the three ideas I outlined above, I guarantee you will develop more resilience and perseverance. You are an entrepreneur because you chose to be one. Do not allow life to impose its will on you. I have no doubt that you will be better off because of all the challenges you face. Not in spite of them.

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