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Concentration vs Distraction


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Questions Are Great, Distractions Defeat Concentration

Do students today spend more time in front of a TV screen, (plus video games), than your generation?

This question should raise other questions in your mind, not just offer a statistical answer. Smart-Questions cause you to search (explore) for evidence, weigh the proof, and examine the criteria used to answer the question. School questions are really Dumb-Questions only requiring recall of information from the past.

There are three Smart-Questions that successful people (the Vital-20%) ask, not asked by the Trivial-80%. Why? How? and Which?


Why? questions make you look for cause-and-effect, and links between variables. Speedlearners choose to search for meaning and answers that produce analysis. Why did this happen? Why do events happen the way they do? Is it all based on chance? Why not?

How? is the leading problem-solving question; it leads to pulling causes together to see the holistic-picture. Synthesis is combining parts to create a whole. The search for an answer to How? leads to your personal creativity, invention and intuition.

Which? is the decision-making question. It makes you compare benefits and characteristics of people in order to make the best decision. The Which? question often determines our choice of career, relationships and lifestyle.

Four Additional Questions For Learners

Who? What? When? Where?

Each of these exploratory questions offers you knowledge before you make a decision. Would you believe that 80% of college students in a scientific research project remembered only 10% of what they had studied for an exam or listened to in a class lecture? When you do not have a strategy to learn and remember, your higher thinking and memory fall off a cliff.


We strongly recommend Speedlearners read and listen to lectures using our single-page (FistNoting) questioning strategy. Either you daydream or you pay attention and concentrate on your goals. Be interactive with what you are studying or listening to requires a cognitive program not a randomness approach.

When you read a chapter in a text or a case in a law book it is normal for the information to go into your left-ear and out your right. Speedlearners prevent this normal, natural occurrence by answering the Big Three Smart questions, Why? How? and Which?, and the organizational four of Who? What? When? and Where?

After testing over two-thousand students and executives, those who studied and listened to lectures and presentations randomly, compared to those using our FistNoting system, were at a major disadvantage. FistNoters learned and remembered up to 92% of the meaning and details compared to up to 38% by random learners.

The answer to the generational question about TV and video game viewership today compared to 25 years ago is up to 5 hours daily in 2006, verses up to 2 hours and 15 minutes in 1981. Are we better or worse off by the increase?


Dutch psychologist Harm Veling submitted his research on distractions and the brain to the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Speedlearners are interested because we are familiar with the research indicating students and executives DayDream up to 34% of their waking hours.

Veling has demonstrated in 2007 our brain can inhibit distractions. There are two-kinds of distractions: internal such as self-talk and daydreaming, and external interruptions by people, email and telephone requests for our attention.

If you examine the best 20% of a class of students or most productive company executives on the fast-track, the results indicate strategies to strengthen their attention, focus and concentration on their intentions (goals).

Some call it will power, effort or persistence and determination to concentrate. It requires your brain to suppress distractions by tuning them out using a Tunnel- Vision. It is like putting blinders on horse to ignore traffic. One thing, when you are fatigued, your attention wanders and you are easily distracted.

Veling research indicates that those who are more easily distracted produce worse test results and greater loss of memory. We suggest that learning to suppress distraction is a powerful learning tool.


Speedlearners who exercise their Extra-Ocular-Muscles (six in each eye), and practice Going-Lizard, using their peripheral vision, improve their concentration up to 30%.

When you consistently study and listen to lectures interactively, using your FistNoting strategy, your attention is focused and concentration improves up to one-third.

One student who suffered from daydreaming in class eliminated two-thirds of subvocalization and distracting mental-movies by softly humming the B. I. N. G. O. tune. It works because singing a silly song is a left-brain function and cancels the mental-imagery (daydreaming) produced by your right-brain.

An executive at a major corporation suggested a two-minute exercise of exclusive left-eyed vision, and using your left-hand and arm to produce Air Infinity Symbols. This requires your right-eye to be closed accessing your right-hemisphere, and creating air-pictures of a reclining figure eight moving from the left side to your right, about eighteen inches wide.

The purpose of the closed eye and hand motion is to create sharp mental images, and synchronize your left and right hemispheres. Call it in-sync practice. Exercise this strategy to improve your ability to produce creative-imagery for learning and memory.


Consider this: school is about teaching and not learning. The Vital 20% succeed because they engage in independent thinking leading to personal exploration. You are capable of inventing solutions to your personal and career challenges.

The secret is to balance both hemispheres and not rely solely on your left-brain. Intuition and imagination, mental imagery and your auditory sense are right-brain skills. The How? of it requires Smart Questioning, a left-brain skill.

Teachers consistently ask recall questions to discover your progress. Those are Dumb Questions because they do not lead to requiring inferences from what you study. Smart Questions require exploration, comparisons and discovering cause and effect, trial and error, and human programming.

Smart Questions require more effort than standard Dumb ones. It separates the Vital 20% from the Trivial 80%. Google: Vilfredo Paredo; the 80/20 principle.

Labeling people, ideas and circumstances is almost a human instinct. It is our shorthand for instant comprehension. Our goal is to help train a second 20% from the great 80% through speedlearning strategies and techniques, not merely label folks as smart or dumb.

See ya,

copyright © 2007 H. Bernard Wechsler


Author of Speed Learning for Professionals, published by Barron's; partner of Evelyn Wood, creator of speed reading, graduating two million, including the White House staffs of four U. S. Presidents.

Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and fortune Magazine for major articles.


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