Are you a focused person? What do you do to improve your concentration? How do you stay focused? When is it hard for you to concentrate? What may distract you?
  • To wander (verb) - if your mind or your thoughts wander, you stop thinking about the subject that you should be giving your attention to and start thinking about other matters.
  • Assignment (noun) - a piece of work given to someone, typically as part of their studies or job.
  • To drift (verb) - to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction.
  • To wind up (phrasal verb) - to find yourself in an unexpected and usually unpleasant situation, especially as a result of what you do.
  • Proactive (adj.) - taking action by causing change and not only reacting to change when it happens.
  • Out of (one's) road - out of one's way.
  • To blither (verb) - to talk a lot in a way that does not have much meaning and is not very interesting.
  • To distract (verb) - to make someone stop giving their attention to something.
  • Time sink (noun) - some task, or activity that consumes a lot of one's time.
  • To draw (verb) - to attract attention or interest.
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Questions and answers
M: Are you a focused person?

R: Oh, probably not as much as I would like to be. I mean, while I can get things done. My attention often wanders a lot in the process. So for example, when I have to do assignments for the course I'm on right now, I start off strong and then my attention drifts and I wind up looking at my phone or something like that.

M: What do you do to improve your concentration?

R: Oh, not much, to be honest. I should probably be more proactive in terms of taking action. But some things I do when I really have to, to concentrate that is, are turning off my notifications or even just my whole phone if there's a lot of work I need to get done.

M: How do you stay focused?

R: Other than what I just said, I suppose I remind myself of how much better things will be once I have my task out of the road. Like in the case of the assignments, for example, I think about, oh, when it's done, then I can do something fun. Like read or play computer games.

M: When is it hard for you to concentrate?

R: Oh, when people are blithering away to me and I'm clearly trying to do something like reading a book. I can't stand it when someone comes up to me and asks, what are you reading? And I have to say, well, nothing now that you're talking to me. It's really annoying. So when people distract me is the big thing.

M: What else may distract you?

R: Well, other than other people? I think phones are a pretty big attention and time sink regardless of what you're doing on them. Or just intrusive or random thoughts. And of course the obvious things like sudden noises or unexpected events, I think all of them can draw your attention away from things.

M: Thank you Rory for your focused answers!

R: I hope everybody was concentrating on them.
M: Yeah, dear listener, so we say to be concentrated on something, to concentrate or focus on something, to be a focused person. Right? What other synonyms can we have? I'm focused, I'm very focused.

R: That's it. Paying attention to something.

M: Yeah, paying attention to something. While I can get things done, so get things done. So do things. You can say while I do something, or you can say while I get things done, my attention often wanders. Meaning your attention is somewhere else.

R: You're not focusing on what you should be.

M: Yeah. So what's the pronunciation? Like wander, wander?

R: Wander. Well, I say wander.

M: Wander. Yeah. wanders. Kind of like walks away. Yeah? So your attention is somewhere else. And also a synonym is my attention drifts. Could you give us another example with drifts? Drifts like walks away from the thing I should be focusing on.

R: If someone is talking to me without saying anything interesting, my attention tends to drift, or my mind drifts or my attention wanders.

M: My attention wanders, my mind tends to drift or wanders away from my work, right? And when I want to get things done, I could wind up looking at my phone, wind up doing something or end up doing something. And you know how it's done, dear listener, yeah? You start doing something and then kind of, you look at your phone and you end up writing texts, or you end up browsing through your Instagram account. So wind up doing or end up doing something are really nice phrasal verbs for you here. I should be more proactive in terms of taking action. So to be proactive? Not to be passive but to be active. Yeah?

R: Just think in advance and be ready to deal with things.

M: Yeah, like, take a proactive role. So take action, yeah? Change something. But Rory is not so proactive in terms of improving his concentration.

R: I'm not, I could be more but I'm not.

M: I turn off my notifications. So on your phone, you have notifications, which pop up all the time. Yeah? So turn off my notifications when I need to get some work done. You see? I need to get it done. Or there's a lot of work I need to get done. Really nice phrases. So to get things done, I've got a lot of work to do. Or there's a lot of work I need to get done. Rory reminds himself of something. So you can remind yourself of something or like to do something or like I should remind myself to turn off notifications?

R: Well, I could do that. Or I could remember it in the moment.

M: But grammar-wise, is it correct? Like remind myself to turn them off?

R: Yeah. Remind yourself to do something.

M: I have my tasks out of the road.
R: But that just means it's done. Or it's no longer a problem.

M: Is it an idiom?

R: Getting something out of the road? Oh, absolutely.

M: Yeah, because we are talking not about the road when you drive, but kind of to get it done. Yeah? Could you give us an example with this?

R: What, for talking about concentration?

M: Well, yeah, for example, or just work, studies?

R: Yeah, when I'm working I like to get all of my jobs out of the road in one go.

M: So it could be hard to concentrate when people are doing what? Blithering away. Blither.

R: But that just means they're talking away about nothing in particular or nothing interesting.

M: Yeah. So blither, dear listener, is informal and it's mainly used in the UK. So it's British English. So blither away, to talk about something not really interesting. So, oh, he's always blithering about his dog. He's like... You can also say blather, blather away, blither or blather.

R: Or witter. You're wittering away about nothing.

M: Yeah, high-level verbs move for you. So when people are blithering away to me, I am distracted or I get distracted. Right? So when people are blithering away to me, and I'm clearly trying to do something, I get distracted. I hate it or I can't stand it when. So this is like a chunk of language. A chunk like a fixed structure or a phrase. I can't stand it when. When someone comes up to me and asks, oh, what are you reading? Is it a good book? What's your name? Yeah, so can you imagine Rory is reading and you come up to him and say, oh, Rory, what are you reading? Or are you this guy from the podcast?

R: Well, but that doesn't usually happen when I'm trying to read. That usually happens when I'm on the train. So that's not a big deal.

M: Yeah, Rory is famous. Goes on trains and he gets recognized everywhere. Oh, Rory, could you, could just sign?

R: Only in Turkey so far.

M: Aw... Cute. I should get to Turkey. Will I get recognized, do you think?

R: Oh, probably.

M: But what if we're just walking there together? Rory, do you think people will recognize us? Just in the middle of Istanbul?

R: I think they might.

M: Really?

R: Yeah.
M: Yeah, so I can't stand it when people are making loud noises. I can't stand it when children are running all around me. So I can't stand it when something happens. And this distracts me, or I get distracted by this. Yeah? And talking about distractions, we can say that phones are pretty big attention sink. So phones are time sink and attention sink. Time sink, Rory?

R: It just means that you invest a lot of time and attention in them. And it doesn't go anywhere. It's just you're looking at it and that's all.

M: Yeah, could you give us another example?

R: What else could be distracting? Video games, video games are a huge time sink and attention sink, and you don't really get anything out of it.

M: So it's a bit negative. So something that like wastes your time. Usually an activity. Yeah? Like kind of it requires a significant amount of your time. So you just waste it. Or like Instagram is a pretty big attention and time sink. And then the phrase is, regardless of something. A very good phrase, you can use it in IELTS essays, regardless of what you're doing. So regardless of, regardless of your age, of your nationality, Instagram does distract us. What else distracts us? Intrusive random thoughts. So if something is intrusive...

R: It's where it shouldn't be.

M: It kind of annoys you, kind of makes you uncomfortable. Like intrusive thoughts, you know, all these thoughts you kind of... Ah, come on, stop it. So like intrusive questioning, for example, or too many questions, uncomfortable questions, intrusive lighting, like lights, maybe like too bright, intrusive thoughts, random thoughts. Kind of some crazy thoughts in your head. They're quite distracting, well, they distract you from something. Also sudden noises or loud noises, unexpected events. Yeah? And these things can draw your attention away from things. So you can say loud noises, draw my attention away from things.

R: But that's just the same as losing focus.

M: Yeah, sometimes I lose focus because of sudden noises or loud noises. Or it's really distracting. Or they are, noises, yeah? Are really distracting. So you don't listen to music when you study or work?

R: Well, I started to and then I stopped for some reason. I should probably go back to that. There's Lo-Fi pop or rap music that's pretty good for that kind of thing.

M: So, dear listener, hopefully, you were really focused on the vocabulary and grammar and our topic. You can also listen to our other episodes about concentration. Just like browse through the history and find concentration topic. And again, just IELTS people recycle these topics. So it's a comeback. Rory, you wanted to say something?

R: Well, I was just gonna say if you weren't paying attention, then you can get access to the transcripts of the episode. Probably using one of the links in the description below.

M: So, Rory, no jokes about concentration? Nothing? Like no fun, no ha-ha, Maria stop all these jokes? No? Just dull and boring now, right?

R: What is?

M: Our episodes. No jokes.

R: Aw... Sometimes we have to be serious. And what better time to be serious than when we're talking about concentration?

M: Yeah, dear listener, so this time we were too focused on, you know, explaining things...

R: We'll try and be more ironic and hilarious when we're back next time. Bye!

M: Bye!
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