How to concentrate

How to Concentrate in the World of Distractions?

Time is a limited resource. It is the only resource we cannot reproduce. If we want to achieve more then we need to increase productivity. Individual productivity depends on how well a person can concentrate and manage distractions.

And our world is full of distractions (surprise!). Everything competes for our attention all the time. Ads, social media, Slack messages, emails. The list is infinite. The world is not going to change (in fact, it is going to be worse over the time). So, we have to adopt to stay focused and keep a steady course to our goals.

There are different opinions on what is happening with human attention span and how digitalization affects it. Some researchers are saying it decreases, others disagree with that. However, the trend to short everything from entertainment content (TikTok videos and Instagram stories) to educational content (“bite-sized” lessons 3-5 minutes each) is clear.

This article is a summary of mechanisms and habits how to manage distractions and improve concentration skills. Some of them I already adopted, others are in the backlog or in progress. I cannot guarantee they will work for you, so feel free to modify them to fit your personality and lifestyle. The mechanisms are not in the priority order and you can start to adopt any of them in any point of time.

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FailProject: 5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

I have participated as a speaker at FailProject workshop.

We spoke about key mistakes in communication with management, how to avoid them and what instruments exist to build successful communication with your manager.

Recording of the workshop is available here or here.


Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk

Humanity is a civilization of text. More precise – civilization of text written in English language. Good it or bad is another debate. The fact is 1 billion people use English as second language.

I have studied language at school and university. But education system was focusing more on speaking and reading skills than on writing skills. So, I never had opportunity to learn proper English writing style.

The more I progress in professional life, the more I see importance of writing. The greatest Zoom/Chime/Teams call will not have progress if minutes of meeting is not clear for participants. You cannot transfer context of a problem without clear definition what is the problem. Plus dozens of other examples – emails, feature requests, account plans and etc.

Amazon takes writing very serious. Narrative is one of the corner-stones of Amazon culture. Text does not rely on person presentation skills. Text allows to break borders of PowerPoint slide and transfer full context from a writer to readers. Well written text does not leave space for misinterpretation and confusion.

The Elements of Style is 100 year bestseller that teaches how to write in plain and clear English. The book has prescriptive guidance about punctuation, syntaxis and style. It also uses easy to comprehend examples of a good and bad style. It is short – around 100 pages.

Some of rules and examples were so subtle that I was unable to feel a difference between good and bad. Both examples were good enough for my non-native speaker eye 🙂

A lot of daily communication has moved to instant messengers, like Slack. IM communication is shorter, more frequent and has lower bar for writing skills. But average attention span time has drastically reduced over last decade. So, a writer should very concise and clear to make people read a text. And it requires practicing and skill development.

I highly recommend this book for every person who uses English language for professional communication.


Inside-out Products: A Trap for Product Manager

Let’s imagine a mid-size IT company. It was founded around a decade ago by group of smart engineers who are probably still around as executives.

Back in early days, the company built a highly successful and innovative product. The product allowed quickly expand worldwide, made company profitable and created foundation of today’s success.

A decade later, the company is not a start up any longer. Some processes are around, engineering is busy adding new features, marketing is creating nice slide decks and sales are sweating to deliver their quotas.

Everything looks great. But market became more competitive, customers are more demanding today than a year before and YoY growth is not that impressive as it used to be. The company wants continue to grow and it needs new products in portfolio that will rock the market.

What is inside-out product?

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The Fear of Silence or How to Start Listen

I have been in numerous amount of meetings with customers. Long, short, demos and roadmap discussions – you name it. And numerous amount of times I saw the same – some people just could not stop talking. I call it – The Fear of Silence.

Especially, this issue is blooming in sales calls, RFQ defense or roadmap related meetings. It is difficult to calculate how many man-hours are spent annually for useless slides like “Company Introduction”, “Our 100 offices around the globe” and etc. Bragging and pitching how great company or product is. And a lot of talking about a seller and very little about a customer.

Why it is like that? Everybody would agree that we should listen to a customer more, ask questions, collect information. But still, it does not happen often. My observation is that many customer facing people are afraid of silence. They are just simply scared that customer will not answer on a question, will not start talking and awkward silence will fill the space.

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Book Review: Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills by Michael Kallet

“If I am paid for my thinking and problem solving skills, how I can become better in this?” – this is a question that I ask myself from time to time.

A book “Think Smarter” provides clear definition of key stages of critical thinking process (clarity, conclusions and decisions) and gives step by step instructions what to do on each of the stages.

Some ideas and instruments can look pretty obvious and well-known but a value of the book in systematic process that author created.

Among multiple things taht I liked in the book are:

  • Visual representation of decision making process – how expiriences, observations, facts and assumptions form our conclusions and how to distinguish fact from observation
  • Definition of “outside the box” thinking. “What is “the box” in thinking?” is a first question to ask to understand
  • Explanation what is premise and why it can be weak or strong. This is important knowledge to measure confidence of the conclusion
  • Abductive thinking – how my conclusions will change if some of my assumptions are wrong? Or how would I think about it if I had not some of my expiriences?

My next step for the topic “Critical Thinking” is to write an article that will apply critical thinking to customer’s requests prioritization.

So, a lot of interesting ideas written in easy to read language. Totally recommend to read.

Check out series of my articles how critical thinking framework applies to prioritization.

Overall rating – 5 out of 5.