Personal Development


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CHAPTER XX – Finding Focus

I am Jude. Life is full of distractions. We are often overwhelmed with external stimuli in the form of flashing lights, beeps and vibrations. They are constant reminders of ever-important texts, emails, notifications and reminders.

Corporations, influencers and advertisers are all vying for our limited attention with research-based technology that is designed to appeal to our senses and engage our minds.

Finding and maintaining focus in one particular aspect of our lives has become increasingly difficult. It requires deliberate intention and commitment. However, if you can master the process, it can be transformational. 

Developing inner peace and attention provides us with greater purpose, increases our productivity and reduces stress. It can literally revolutionalize our lives. Here are five effective ways to increase your concentration and help you accomplish your goals: 

  1. Prioritizing with Peretto’s Principle

Pareto’s  principle is popularly known as the 80/20 rule. It is named after its developer Vilfredo Pareto. According to this general rule, 80% of the outcomes are controlled or decided by 20% of the relevant activities or factors. 

This has universal applications. Humans only have access to a limited amount of energy and discipline each day. This concept helps you determine where to best invest your finite efforts. 

Identify problems or tasks, evaluate and prioritize their importance and create an action plan using the 80/20 principle to ensure you are investing your efforts into tasks that provide the largest return. 

Imagine how your productivity could increase if you were focusing your attention on the most practical and beneficial elements associated with your dreams, goals and personal responsibilities. It could change everything. 

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  1. Go Dark 

Limit your access to social media or disconnect completely for periods of time. 

Set up some boundaries to limit your access to the internet. Meditate, stretch or spend some time reflecting in the mornings before you check your phone. Turn off your notifications during specific times of the day or refuse to take your phone into the bedroom. 

The majority of my mental distractions can be attributed to Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. 

For me, there is a significant cost in getting lost in social media and I am making a deliberate effort to reduce a number of wasteful and non-productive habits.

Ironically enough, there is new feature on the Iphone, called Focus. It allows you to apply filters to all of your applications to limit your notifications. No more phones, calls, texts, or emails while you are completing important tasks.

I now find myself in Do Not Disturb mode most of the time and it is already providing some significant benefits

  1. Deep Breathing

Breathing is an autonomic function that we generally fail to consider unless it’s limited or is somehow being withheld. However, I’m starting to believe in the power of controlled and conscious breathing. 

Not just in the sense that it can help you relax, but more as a central tool to create mindfulness, manage stress and help find your focus. Deep breathing has ancient origins and can be practiced in a wide variety of unique techniques.

It is known to combat anxiety and depression and to help improve your sleep, but it goes well beyond that. It increases your energy, improves your immunity, lowers blood pressure and relieves your pain. 

I can personally attest to the physical benefits of mindful breathing. It has provided me with some minor relief from my chronic back pain. 

I have only recently begun making it a regular practice but I have experienced enough personal benefits to continue integrating it into my daily routine. 

Breathing obviously hasn’t eliminated my pain or removed stress from life but it provides some temporary comfort to both my mind and my body.

My deep breathing technique is simple. I close my eyes, sit up straight and clear my mind. When I’m ready I inhale through my nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and exhale slowly through my mouth.

I repeat the practice for a specific number of breaths, a certain amount of time or until I feel more centered and relaxed. Believe me, it works.

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  1. Pomodoro Technique 

For most people, multitasking is an ineffective way of accomplishing tasks. It requires the brain to switch back and forth between tasks, limiting its efficiency. 

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages you to break down your workdays into manageable intervals. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. 

These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo as a university student, when he used a tomato timer to measure his 25-minute sessions. These intervals became known as pomodoros and the technique became its namesake.

The key feature in this technique, for me, is the singleminded focus on one task. I make an effort to eliminate all distractions and devote my attention to completing one thing at a time. It’s a work in progress, but so far so good.

  1. Live a Balanced Lifestyle

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle include the increased ability to focus and concentrate. We all know and understand this. 

Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, develop a regular sleep routine and drink lots of water. They sharpen your mind and do the body good. 

assorted fruits and vegetables on green surface
Photo by Vitalii Pavlyshynets on Unsplash

The brain uses 20% of the body’s energy and requires stable amounts of nutrients to produce hormones that increase alertness and attention.

Adequate sleep is critical for focus and learning and physical activity boosts concentration. There is even evidence to suggest that people who are more fit have a greater ability to concentrate. 

Additionally, the brain is composed mostly of water and all brain processing requires water to function properly. Enough said. 

There is atomic power in focus but it is transient and elusive unless you gain a level of mastery and apply it. What purposeful efforts can you undertake to become more productive and efficient? How are you FINDING FOCUS?

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Next Best Read – Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner

This book was a welcome read. Writing is a very personal endeavour. Comminicting thoughts and conveying emotion can be an incredibly slow and frustrating process. Words require humility.

This book describes some of the struggles writers experience during the creative process and offers some tips, suggestions and encouragement to stay committed to the daily practice of writing. 

The Pep Talks provide references to writing styles, environmental factors and finding your purpose through funny and meaningful examples from the history of literature and the experiences of a host of noted authors. 

Interestingly, the author is the  the executive director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that promotes creative writing around the world. Its flagship program is an annual, international creative writing event in which participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript during the month of November.

Yes, as impossible as it may seem, 50, 000 words in one month!

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Side Hustle – Unshackled Solutions Life Coaching and Consulting

I finally participated in my first coaching training session last week. Most of our time was spent getting to know one another, discussing the course material and reviewing the expectations of the program. 

After the class, the instructor asked us to share our  biggest takeaways. Mine were simple, getting formally introduced to the philosophy and structure of the  program and obtaining some clarity on the anticipated learning process. 

It takes me one step closer to my goal of becoming a certified life coach and providing service through my own private practice by September 2022. 

Now it’s a simple matter of immersing myself into the subject matter, obtaining experience and ensuring all of the administrative and financial elements of the business are taken care of. 

Let’s do it. 

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Public Announcement

I can’t believe I am saying this but I am truly looking forward to two highly anticipated, Canadian television series’ starting this week. They both focus on the unique experiences and history of Afrikan people in Canada and appear to be must see T.V. 

The Porter

The Porter highlights the contributions of a generation of Black train porters. It pays homage to the men I grew up respecting and admiring. 

The Porter | Official Trailer

 BLK: An Origin Story

This four part docuseries looks beyond the Underground Railroad to explore the Untold Stories of Black Canadians from the 1600s to the present. It aims to show that Black History is Canadian History but that’s nothing new for us.  

BLK: An Origin Story – Limited Series Premieres February 26, 2022

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What’s Good – Positive Reflections 

When I was 23 years old, I went on a government sponsored trip to Flint, Michigan to view cultural education programs and consider ways to integrate some of these innovative concepts within the local African Nova Scotia community. 

The group was a diverse collection of community members from Truro, New Glasgow and Antigonish. I was fresh out of university and was the youngest member of the travelling party.  

Flint is known as the birthplace of General Motors(GM) and experienced the boom and bust of the American automobile industry. It fell on hard times in the 1960’s and subsequently failed to regain its economic footing. 

In fact, it has become one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the United States. Most recently, it gained international attention because of a city-wide water crisis that lasted over four years(2014-19) and resulted in a state of emergency.

When we visited the city it was plagued by closed factories, shuttered businesses, low employment and high rates of crime. 

I traveled to New York with my father to visit family on several ocassions when I was growing up, but this trip was my first adult experience with the unfiltered realites of inner city life in the United States. 

It was a shocking and memorable experience.

I remember driving through parts of the city and seeing a landscape of abandoned buildings and boarded up windows. It was a desolate and depressing sight. 

I was left with a deep sense of sadness about the poverty and overwhelming obstacles Black people were being required to overcome. The odds were clearly stacked against them. 

However, what was even more remarkable was the community’s implacable resolve. There was hope and resilience in the face of insurmountable odds – and the culture was amazing. 

I remember being in downtown Flint on a Saturday night and seeing hundreds of people in the streets. There was a parade of customized cars on the strip, loud music and energy. 

I remember stopping across the street from Hittsville, USA, Studio A, the Motown Museum in Detroit. We pulled over and honored the home where much of the Motown Sound was created and recorded. 

I remember experiencing a Sunday service at a large traditional African-American Baptist church for the first time and being impressed with the music, reverence and size of the building. It was unforgettable. 

I remember touring unconventional schools and community-based educational programs throughout the city. 

We saw ‘magnet programs’ which drew gifted students from various neighbourhoods across the city, we visited a school with an on-site daycare and spent a morning at an alternative Africentric school that was teaching students four languages and advanced computer skills. 

However, more than anything, I remember considering the hope and the possibilities. I was inspired by the efforts of dedicated directors, staff members and community leaders who were creating innovative solutions to impossible socio-economic problems.

Flint, Michigan provided the genesis of the Truro Saturday School Program. And I am so proud I was part of that historic experience. I am Jude. 

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