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BW Businessworld

BW Dialogue: Building Concentration

Aditi Singhal, Author – ‘How to improve your concentration’ and Bala Kishore, Author – ‘How to improve your concentration’ in conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld & exchange4media group, about their new book and tips for better concentration.

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Aditi Singhal and Bala Kishore shared the importance of the excerpts in their book, – ‘How to improve your concentration’ and what motivated them to pen it down.

Aditi Singhal, Author – ‘How to improve your concentration’ and Bala Kishore, Author – ‘How to improve your concentration’ in conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld & exchange4media group, about their new book and tips for better concentration.

How did the idea of this book come about and how did this collaboration happen?

Aditi Singhal – I wanted to share experiences of my life. Over the years I found that few things which need to change my life and give it a direction in a very positive way, I wanted to share that. Our editor motivated me as I used to always share my experiences with her. She said why not share these experiences in the form of a book. That is how it started and initially it was like some success mantras or different topics which we thought of, but as I started writing about it I realized that the key to giving direction or shaping your life is attention. What you choose to pay attention to and what you concentrate on, that shapes your life. That is how the idea of “How to improve your concentration” came about. Secondly was that over the years I have been working with students on memory and mathematics so again the key thing which I found that was lacking in the students was the problem of concentration, rather the art of concentration. They all can concentrate watching television, while using their mobile phones, but not in their studies. How this thing can be mastered was the idea of sharing and coming up with this book. 

Bala Kishore – I have been speaking on this topic – about attention, about the neuroscience behind it for the past 15 years now so then some time, this year I guess, the beginning of this year when Aditi contacted me if I was interested in joining them in writing a book on attention, as that is one of my interesting topics, so I said why not. I have been speaking but never written a book. They are veterans as they have written 5 books. What better way to start my journey with them so I said fine, and that is how it fell into place. Aditi is also associated with Brahmakumaris in their Delhi branch for the last 10 years so we keep meeting regularly as a part of the groups that we are associated with because there is another interesting group what we call – Spiritual Applications Research Centre. It is a part of Brahmakumaris where we try to do research on the applications of Raja Yoga so both of us are members of that group and we know each other for more than a decade. 

What is the connection between mindfulness and concentration?

Bala Kishore – Mindfulness is a concept that started taking traction in the 1970s when Daniel Goldman was visiting India and then he saw the Buddhist meditation and along with his friend Dr. Richi (Richard Davidson), both started this and then it started spreading through the US by John Kabat Zinn who created the first MBA course. The main idea in mindfulness is to observe your thoughts and how not to react to them. Just observe your thoughts and be in the moment. If you define the opposite of concentration, the opposite is distraction. Distraction means you giving importance to multiple things by switching between them continuously. Now when I am using mindfulness, when I am just observing my thoughts what happens is as soon as you start observing your thoughts without reacting the speed of the thoughts reduces. And when you gently focus only on one topic the other thoughts get reduced in number. That is the definition of concentration. When you have less number of thoughts, when you are thinking about only a particular thing, it is another definition of concentration. That is how mindfulness and meditation lead to concentration. 

Aditi Singhal – I think Bala has already explained it well. Mindfulness is a step that takes you towards concentration. Because when, I will just give you an example – While eating food mindfulness is like involving all your senses, the texture, feeling the texture of the food, the aroma of the food, the feel of the food while eating, how it looks like, so actually you are taking or withdrawing your attention from all other things, and taking it to the food. That is how you can actually concentrate on the food and actually enjoy your food. Most of the time what we do is the habit of keeping our attention on multiple things – we chat on the phone, we watch television, so this is just one example of how mindfulness helps us to be in the moment and enjoy that moment which leads to a better stage of concentration. Getting directed in one direction is inevitable. 

What are the chapters in the book and what is the playbook to improve concentration whether one is a student, someone trying to write a piece, or someone in a conversation? Also, in this era of being bombarded by Whatsapp messages and emails how does one maintain concentration?

Aditi Singhal – The mantra I would say which I followed in my life is disconnect, to connect better. First whatever the task at hand is to connect with or you want to concentrate on, the key is to get disconnected with the rest of the things. I also said that concentration is connecting to one thing and keeping away all the distractions. Distractions may be there when we pay attention to other things, and not completely the task at hand. Disconnecting is very important. Even if you talk about a student always tell him or her that when you sit down to study please be free from all distractions. There are so many things that can distract you – the physical things like a mobile, the notifications, because if in today’s time when studies are online it is important to put away the mobile and switch off the notifications and most importantly training your mind for that. I would say concentration is a willful act. If you are not willing to concentrate, nobody can force you to concentrate. I would say it is an act where you get control over your mind first. Not just the physical things, your mental state of mind can also distract you. The distractions can be external or internal. First of all, what I would do is whatever task I am doing – whether I am studying or cooking, or writing a piece, whatever it may be, the first thing I do best is talk to my mind. Self-talk. That I am here for a purpose, this is my goal, this is time I am going to give to the task and I pay attention, with all my attention over here. The mind is like a friend. If we can actually train our mind, we can do wonders. This is the key. Tell your mind to be there, pay attention to that task, keep away the distractions, be focused and see your goal. I think these few things actually help in mastering the mind. 

Corporate executives have more stress than ever. Dealing with anxiety, dealing with deadlines, dealing with some pressures which can be bad for them. What can they do to be concentrated, improve their productivity and enhance the output of the organization? 

Bala Kishore – This is what I call ‘digital-wellness’. Wellness in the digital age. There are multiple components. First is of course what we started off with the attention part, the second component is what we have been discussing – the digital detox element, the third component is to incorporate and take care of your physical health. Watch what you eat. This is very important. From Ayurveda we have discovered the simple principles about food. The quality of the food, the quantity of the food, don’t keep stuffing your stomach. Eat only when you feel hungry. Quality, quantity and time if can be focused upon pay attention to that. More than 50% of our mental and physical health issues can be taken care of. The fourth element is exercise. Very important that we move. This Covid time is just an excuse because research clearly shows that whether you do asanas, whether you do strength exercises, resistance exercises which we you don’t need too much of space. They are equally helpful the way you would do jogging, or other exercises. Doing only half an hour to 45 minutes of physical exercise, making sure that you get 6 to 7 hours of uninterrupted deep sleep and meditation for a few minutes. Attention, digital detox, food, exercise, sleep, meditation. Six elements of digital wellness. Then you will automatically see that not only your productivity – the professional productivity will be better as you will feel fresh, and energetic. We have been talking about distractions. I want to ask a question to all the viewers so that they can sit and reflect on it – Is the distraction distracting you or are you allowing the distraction to distract you? 

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