As a chess player, chances are you know your brain is a muscle. And as every muscle, it needs to be trained properly to perform at its peak.
But did you know your attention can similarly be strengthened?
I will probably disappoint fans of multitasking, but science has proven it is actually not good for your brain and additionally counterproductive.
Thankfully, solutions do exist to progressively end this bad habit and even beyond that, help you stay attentive for longer period of times.
Attention please, let’s start the game…
… And 10 minutes later, you are ready to give up because of your terrible opening.
I will always remember my first interclub game, during which I literally gave my queen after a few moves simply because I had completely forgot the enemy bishop on the same diagonal. As a beginner, I started my game quickly and after move 3 or so, while my opponent was thinking, I stood up and started chatting with a friend of mine, while watching other boards. It’s exactly after this moment, while I was still thinking about my conversation and other games at the same time that I moved my queen.
Thank you multitasking, definitely not a good way to start a battle!
You are not multitasking
As many people, I always thought I could multitask. But the truth is people, who think they are multitasking, are actually not. What really happens is that you shift your focus very fast, from one task to another, which affects your performance and is most probably more time consuming.
So briefly said, by doing less, you might accomplish more.
How to stop doing multiple things at the same time?
Avoiding to multitask is not an easy task so here are concrete tips to help you achieve it:
- Minimize distractions: If you have an office, it is useful to organize it, in such a way as to avoid your eyes being distracted by all the surroundings. Blocking notifications from your mobile, as well as turning the internet off won’t do you any harm.
- Only multitask with safe habits: by safe habits, I mean those you have already mastered and do unconsciously, excluding those which represent an obvious risk such as driving. But it doesn’t hurt if you decide from time to time to do the dishes while watching your favorite TV show, or sorting and organizing your clothes while playing a fast chess game.
- Set limits: As discussed in a previous article, some tasks are more tempting than others but often lead to constant interruptions. Setting limits for email or social media, as well as defining time slots for these specific activities will help you perform better in important tasks which require your full attention.
I recently wrote about the benefits of meditation for chess, one of them being reinforcing your ability to concentrate. But what I didn’t tell you is that you have possibly already experienced some kind of meditation without even noticing it, as it can be done everywhere and in multiple situations.
I’m talking about mindfulness.
If the quick tips above will help tackle the multitasking challenge, mindfulness will boost your attention level to new heights.
This specific type of meditation consists of focusing on being in the present, through each act you could do.
The beginner technique I introduced to you is only one of the ways you can choose to boost your ability to focus. Let’s discover other ways to do so:
You can be mindful of your food, truly tasting it and when you drift off into all sorts of thoughts, returning to savoring your food.
The best way I found to start with this technique is to eat fish. Fish consumption has not only good arguments for a chess player, but also contains bones, which force you to eat slowly, chew and thus pay more attention to it.
Running and swimming
These sports are excellent to train your brain on how to be in the moment. This means being aware of what the body is feeling, creating rhythmic and relaxing breath or simply enjoying the calm and depth of your environment to lead yourself in a meditative state.
By the way, any sport game is also good as the competition effect will track your attention.
Playing chess can be an act of meditation in itself. Provided you truly focus on the game and manage to stay constantly involved in it. As discussed here, short breaks are needed of course, but the key is to separate moments of playing and short time blocks when you refresh your mind.
These are only examples. As you understood, you can practice this exercise for any activity you engage in (I also suggest active listening by the way). Simply choose what is the most convenient for you.
Work on your attention muscle for heigtened productivity and better chess
Our ability to focus is a huge component of chess success. I would most likely have avoided my blunder, if I had been able to master my attention, and certainly some of you have experienced the same kind of issue in the past.
Remember, the more you multitask the more your brain suffers. The bad side is you must accept it’s very difficult to stop the bad habit.
That said, I think it is worth trying to follow the recommendations above because being less distracted will certainly help you at work, as well as over the board.