With so much stimuli these days making our brains as itchy as our fingers—an endless supply of silly puppy videos to scroll, a constant serenade of pings and dings—even yogis can find it difficult to pay attention to one task for very long. But learning to focus isn’t just for your boss’s benefit. Sure, your productivity will improve as you master concentration, but so will your personal relationships and, inevitably, your own happiness. Because as it turns out, happiness comes not from experiencing a greater amount of joyful events; it comes from perspective and from paying attention to what’s good.
Knowing that isn’t enough, however. The challenge comes in incorporating it into everyday life. New York City yogi Ashish Verma knows this well. As the general manager of the Chatwal, a historical high-end hotel in Manhattan, Verma manages countless potential distractions every day, handling the needs of his entire staff and those of his guests.
Here, Verma shares what’s helped him improve his concentration and master efficiency, plus a few tools to deepen your own concentration—at work, at home, on the mat, or wherever you need it most.
“I don’t believe in multitasking,” says Verma. “Your presence here and now is what makes you ultimately concentrate.” Scientists agree. A study published in the Reference Librarian shows that it takes 25 minutes to refocus on the task at hand once your flow is interrupted. Instead of giving into every whim that crosses your mind (“What was the name of that restaurant last night?”), keep a notepad next to you while you’re working. When a distraction comes up—the urge to Google that restaurant, for instance—write it down, then get back to work. It’s the same principle used in meditation, where you don’t bat down thoughts or give into them, but rather acknowledge their presence and then allow them to pass. At the end of your workday, let yourself come back to that list. You’ll be amazed at just how many of those distractions, so needy in the moment, no longer seem relevant. Add anything that needs to get done to your priority list for the next day, and let the rest go. In addition to keeping focused throughout the day, getting into the habit of jotting down distractions and then seeing how few truly require your attention will help hone your daily decision making and concentration.