How to Concentrate Like an Adult

It’s easy to say, “I’m just not good at X.” And then you put that activity in a box and never worry about it. You know that it would probably be a beneficial skill or habit, but you’ve made the decision to ignore it because you don’t want to go through the anxiety, embarrassment, and frustration of learning something new.

As a kid, you did this all the time. But back then, your parents were there to make you continue going to piano lessons, soccer practice, etc. As an adult, presumably you are mature enough to recognize the benefits of acquiring new habits and skills so that you can push through the pain of learning, right? Right? Ok, but if you still need a few tools increase your odds of success, here you go:

First, stop procrastinating. It’s painful to struggle through something for the first time, so it’s our natural response to avoid it. But procrastination just makes things worse. Instead, try using the Pomodoro technique developed by Francesco Cirillo: set a timer and work without distractions for twenty-five minutes, then reward yourself with a five-minute break to do whatever you want.

This technique is simple, yet incredibly effective. The hardest part of learning anything new is just starting, so using it takes the sting out by providing a designated “end.” You know it’s only twenty-five minutes, so if you cannot stand thinking about your personal finances or setting a budget, just set a timer and begin anyway. You can do anything for twenty-five minutes.

Second, recognize that when you don’t understand something immediately, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because your brain has two modes of comprehension:  focused and diffuse. Focused is when you are working through a problem directly, and diffuse is when you have a breakthrough while thinking about something else entirely.

So if you are wading through your finances but none of it is making sense, take a step back. Your brain needs time to process. Sleep on it and try again tomorrow. Now, keep in mind that all your thinking cannot be diffuse—you still need that twenty-five minutes of focused time. But don’t get frustrated when the timer goes off and you’re still confused. Eventually it will all become clear.


Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at