Of painting nails and learning to focus

Of painting nails and learning to focus

Last Sunday morning, after making the public announcement that everyone was to fend for their breakfast on their own, I found myself happily free.

I thought some self-care was in order and I fished out the bottle of nail paint bought a month ago waiting to be inaugurated. Now, I could do a whole post on how I paint my nails but I’ll quickly sum it up here: 

  • First, I clean my nails. 
  • Then I apply nail paint. 
  • I end up painting my cuticles and the entire area around my nail 
  • I clean up as best as I can with an earbud
  • I hope I can scrub away the rest in the next day’s bath.

It’s a longish process. 

So I set up Netflix and browsed for something I could watch/listen to while I painted my nails and chanced upon an interesting docu-series titled The Mind Explained. The episode I happened to pick (I swear it was utterly random) was called How to Focus.

Less than five minutes into the episode as I was struggling to keep the nail paint within the confines of my nail I heard the narrator pronounce: 

‘We are not wired to multitask’

I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention had it not been so ironic. The VoiceOver went on to say that humans cannot multitask. When we try to do two (or more) things at a time, we switch from one task to the other and each time we do that, we lose a little bit of our cognitive self. 

Another podcast I heard went on to quantify this saying we function at 40 per cent of our capacity when we multitask.

That boggled my brain.

Here’s another interesting bit:

According to studies, our ability to pay attention hasn’t changed since the 1800s, so all talk of our attention spans having declined over the years is rubbish.

Low attention spans have less to do with what is happening around us and more about what’s going on in our heads.

When I was working in a newspaper office, I could find my focus despite the din. We had open workstations with no privacy whatsoever. People would be talking to each other, multiple phone conversations would be in progress, someone would be asking the canteen boy for tea, some days the TV would be on too and yet I could turn out my piece.

Now, even when I shut myself inside a room, each tiny sound distracts me. I can vaguely hear the children arguing or looking for stuff, the maid coming and going, the doorbell ringing. Each of these is a distraction breaking my chain of thought, pulling me away from the laptop.

I cannot mentally disconnect from everything that’s happening.

Even if we find the quietest corner of our home, wear top-quality noise-cancelling headphones, shut ourselves in sound-proof rooms it wouldn’t be much use because we are our own distractors 50 per cent of the time. 

The trick is to control the mind

And that comes with practice. Here are some ideas to help you:

  • Practice learning to sit still.
  • Practice focusing on your breath.
  • Meditate.
  • Doing skilled work with your hands also seems to help.

Each time your mind wanders bring it right back.

Strengthening the attention muscle is the key to successfully remaining focused on your work. It works better than getting rid of distractions.

Do make time to watch the series. It’s quite an eye-opener.

Note to self: If I focus solely on applying nail paint I’d probably do a much better job of it.

6 Replies to “Of painting nails and learning to focus”

  1. Thanks for this! Living and working from home with kids was difficult for my husband and I to balance when we first started. But we’ve worked hard to carve out quiet time for us both so that we can still be productive while balancing important time with our family. Often times this means we work late into the evening, but if that is what it takes to find time to be productive, I’ll take it!
    Cassandra recently put up this amazing post…Your Mindset is Everything (And Your Success Depends On It)My Profile

  2. Such a thoughtful and engaging post. And so relatable.
    I don’t try to get rid of distractions, it doesn’t work anyway. I allow them to distract until they get bored and leave me alone eventually.
    Tarang recently put up this amazing post…सुनहरी धूपMy Profile

    1. Ha ha Tarang that’s a novel way of dealing with distractions. Going by your stories and artwork, it must be working pretty well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge