How to Learn to Focus?

It’s hard. The world is designed to distract you. Facebook is a research laboratory focussed on human distraction. They invest billions and are excellent at their work. When facebook slip up, hard on their tails come Apple, apps, youtube, caffeine, bored friends, problematic neighbours and general office bullshit.

Apps are designed to be as addictive as possible.

Assume you are dealing with crack cocaine. If you can see it, you will use it. If you can hear it, you will use it. Willpower is not going to get you through this.

How to Learn to Focus?
Use The Pomodoro Method. Here are the simplified instructions for following the Pomodoro method.

1 Countdown Timer (best is an old fashioned kitchen timer like my granny used to have.)

1. Pick a specific project you would like to work on. For example “Write a blog post on focus”.
2. Set a timer for 20 minutes
3. Work only on this project until the timer stops. Stop completely no matter where you are when you hear the timer. Mid sentence is excellent (it makes it easier to re-start this work later).
4. Repeat.

Count how many timers you can complete in a day. Read more

Are you good at Self-Management?

There are 2 ways to categorize work: Cognitive or manual and Repetitive or non-repetitive.

There are basically 4 kinds of work:
1. Manual repetitive – Assembly line factory worker, farm labourer
2. Cognitive repetitive – Call center operative, Bank teller
3. Manual non-repetitive – Jewellery maker, Custom car builder
4. Cognitive non-repetitive – Project manager, Sales of large complex systems

Generally speaking, repetitive manual work requires the least self-management and is the lowest paying, and cognitive non-repetitive work requires the most self-management and is the highest paying.

Are you good at Self-Management?
You need to be answering these 6 questions:
* What are my strengths? Feedback is the only way to find out. Do you have a systematic process for getting feedback on your behaviours?

* How do I perform? How do I learn best? Don’t struggle with modes that don’t work for you.

* What are my values? “What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”

* Where do I belong? Mathematicians, musicians and cooks are mathematicians, musicians and cooks by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. Successful careers are not planned, they happen when people are prepared and positioned for opportunities that suit them. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person into an outstanding performer.

* What should I contribute? Given my strengths, methods and values: what is the great contribution to what needs to be done? Don’t look too far ahead – 18 months is the range of good planning. Define courses of action: what to do, where and how to start, what goals, objectives and deadlines to set.

* Who can I work well with? Adapt to what makes those around you successful. Adapting to what makes your boss most effective is the secret of managing up. Take responsibility for communicating how you are performing; take responsibility for building trust.

English students have higher debts than students from other countries

The Sutton Trust has reported that a UK graduate faces a higher amount of debt than their counterparts in the US, Australia and Canada. On average, after university fees have been raised to £9000 the total debt is £44,000. In other ‘English speaking countries’ the debt is lower from between £15,000 to £29,000. For instance, American graduates are charged £20,500, for students at public or private non-profit universities whilst Canadian counterparts have an average of £15,000 of debt. Along with this another report noted that graduates’ wages have been stagnating.

StudentsWith increasing levels of debt students must make a decision whether a degree will correlate with their future ambitions. In fact, in some instances it may be more worthwhile to pursue apprenticeships or attend training programmes rather than attend university.

As Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, states there should be more effort in encouraging ‘good apprenticeships’ so students have a variety of options available. However, a graduate is still more likely to employed, earn more and more likely to be employed in higher skills jobs than their non-graduate counterparts.

The government should implement new policies to reflect the changing burden of debts on young people by investing more resources into apprenticeships and training programmes that do not require students to attend university. Moreover, more businesses should be encouraged to offer apprenticeships to young people. Apart from this career advisors who continue to advise most students to attend university, though their skills and personal aspirations may be different, should encourage more students to pursue apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships provide a vital resource in society and develop skills that are essential today especially for the growth of businesses. For example, research from the government demonstrates that 8 out of 10 managers believes apprentices are important in ‘growing their business’ and those that employ apprentices are far more likely to expand their business. This research highlights that apprenticeships are important in growing businesses and creating more employment in the future. Young people should be encouraged to pursue any career option which best suit their interests, skills and aspirations.

Moreover, some graduates continue to work in non-graduate jobs therefore, it remains important to inform young people about the importance of apprenticeships and the increasing burden of debt on young people. Government policy still does not reflect a society were apprenticeships are given equal standing as a university degree. Young people should be advised to follow any aspirations they wish whether to attend a university or pursue apprenticeships.

President Obama’s message of hope to young people

On his recent visit to the UK President Obama has hosted a town hall meeting for young people where he appealed them to ‘reject pessimism and cynicism,’ while pursuing a more optimistic outlook which will aid in solving problems in the future.

The speech was a baton of sorts passing his legacy onto the future generation to resolve issues that may arise in later years. This message resonates with young people because they are the future, leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and their decisions will shape the world. They will determine whether the future will be a place of compromise between those that hold different opinions or if they will hold to beliefs without any thought of resolving difficult problems.

As with all people young people will hold different opinions, however dismissing the opposite side or unwillingness to compromise will lead to greater problems within the future. This is demonstrated by the political system today, undoubtedly opposition parties will hold opposing views; however, to simply state that the other side is wrong and misunderstand the argument is no better. Parties and people may disagree and still can meet at some central ground to come to a resolution. The EU debate is one such example, supports and opponents of Britain remaining in the EU can debate with courtesy and use educated arguments. However the ‘mudslinging’ that is occurring with either side stating the opposing campaign is fearmongering and simply lying, does not further the debate or aid in a compromise when the decision by the electorate is made.

Young people can forge a new path in the future, one that is filled with optimism and understanding. Although others may disagree with your opinion, the other side along with yourself can agree on some aspects and form a decision which will address all issues. This will be difficult as every person believe their cause and beliefs are accurate and correct, but to handle difficult problems all opinions within a debate must be taken into account.
Moreover, to hold the belief that nothing will ever change, or the situation cannot be improved halts the change that young people can bring.

President Obama stated that change can take a long time noting the campaign to end slavery began in 17th century, however, it was only until several centuries later that African-American citizens received equal rights.

A person only needs a solution and a vision to create a more prosperous, peaceful world but change will take more than a day. It is important that young people continue to build bridges of conciliation for change to continue.

Richer students remain more prosperous in their future

Researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Cambridge University, the Institute of Education and Harvard University found that wealthier students maintain an advantage over future income, which is not experienced by families of lower and middle class incomes.
For example, the wealthiest 20% of families were earning 30% more than the 80% of the graduate population. Even if the type of degree was also taken into account, 10% of students from wealthy families were still continuing to earn 10% more than other graduates. The most profitable degree concerning future earnings were medicine, economics, engineering and law

Moreover, graduates retain an earning advantage over individuals that did not attend university, and are less likely to be unemployed while female employers continued to earn less than their male counterparts. In the UK, students from LSE have the highest earning power, along with graduates from Imperial College, King’s College, Oxford University and Cambridge University. For instance, 10% of male graduates from the LSE, Oxford and Cambridge were earning over £100,000 after 10 years in the workplace. Only LSE had 10% of female graduates earning over £100,000 after 10 years in the workplace. Interestingly at 20 universities male graduates were earning on average less than non-graduate average.

These figures raise questions about government policy concerning social mobility; richer students can afford the best schools and, therefore, receive education at a top institution. After they leave university their families provide the contacts needed to ensure they receive the most lucrative jobs. Students who are poorer but bright will have difficulty to reach their potential in the workplace. The government has attempted to help individuals if they wish to attend universities and the research above indicates that most have higher earning power. However, higher tuition fee students from less wealthy backgrounds will face increased difficulty in obtaining a job in the most lucrative markets.

Furthermore, London remains a vital industry where most of the more profitable jobs remain. The increasing living costs especially housing, threatens many from gaining jobs which will result in higher earnings. Government policy has been fractured on the issue of social mobility by increasing the burden of higher debts on students. The maintenance grant has been replaced by a loan which puts further financial pressure on the poorest people. Government policy should aid in providing opportunities for the brightest despite their financial background, by providing subsidies to firms which hire poorer people. Or universities should establish better business links, therefore, no matter which university students attend they will have the opportunity to get the best jobs.

Understandably, if parents are wealthier they will desire to provide chances for their future careers; but the government should implement policies that help other less wealthy students receive greater advantages in their future career prospects.