This episode's vocabulary
- To distract (verb) - to make someone stop giving their attention to something.
- Flit (verb) - to fly or move quickly and lightly.
- Notification (noun) - a message that is automatically sent to you on your mobile phone or computer.
- Compel (verb) - to force someone to do something.
- Task-orientated (adj.) - focusing on the completion of particular tasks as a measure of success.
- Work away (at something) (phrasal verb) - to put effort (toward some task or activity).
- To prioritize (verb) - to decide which of a group of things are the most important so that you can deal with them first.
- Compromised (verb) - to allow your principles to be less strong or your standards or morals to be lower.
- Executive (noun) - relating to making decisions and managing businesses, or suitable for people with important jobs in business.
- Work at sth (phrasal verb) - to try hard to achieve something.
- Remove (verb) - to take something or someone away from somewhere, or off something.
- Draw away (phrasal verb) - to move away or ahead.
- Chip away at sth (phrasal verb) - to gradually reduce something so that it becomes smaller or weaker.
- Urgent (adj.) - very important and needing attention immediately.
Questions and Answers
M: Rory, when is it hard for you to stay focused?
R: Ah, well, I tend to get distracted when I have about a million things to do. I often flit from one task to the next without any sort of logical order to it, which isn't good for getting things done quickly. But I still do get them done. So perhaps it isn't such a big deal.
M: Are you easily distracted?
R: I suppose that depends on what the distraction is, really. Generally, I'm quite good at shutting out loud noises and background goings-on. However, if there's a message notification in front of me on my phone, then I'm almost compelled to investigate. That and I already mentioned that other tasks will distract me. So it's sort of a competition of productive tasks.
M: What do you do to stay focused?
R: Well, I like to think I'm generally a responsible, hardworking person, and I'm quite task-orientated. So I like getting the job done. Those character traits more than anything keep me working away until things get done. Plus, I like to imagine what I can do once all the hard work is out of the way.
M: Why is it difficult for some people to stay focused?
R: There are all kinds of reasons. I suppose the main ones are that they have a lot going on in their lives, and it's hard to prioritize, or they might have difficulty prioritizing in general, due to compromised executive function. Others have just never been taught the skill of working at things until they get done. And they give up after a very limited period of time.
M: What improves concentration?
R: Generally, a lack of distraction is the most useful thing. So if you have a minimalist approach to things going on, then you could probably focus more. At least that would be how it works in my case. You can also remove things that are drawing your attention away from what you should be doing. Or you could move yourself if you can.
M: Is it good to do several things at the same time? Or is it better to focus on one task?
R: Well, I think that's probably dependent on what it is you have to do and the kind of person you are. I mean, sometimes it's fine to just jump around from one task to another rather than chip away at one thing, especially if it's taking an eternity. On the other hand, there might be tasks that are particularly urgent that need to be done right away. So obviously, if you can do one thing, then focusing on one thing will be quite useful in this sense.
M: Thank you, Rory, for your focused answers!
M: So, concentration. It's interesting that IELTS people repeat the same topics, because a year ago, we had the same topic, staying focused and concentration. And now, again, interesting.
M: So what are the keywords for us here. So concentration or I can also say focus?
R: Yes. Or to give your attention to something. I didn't say give your attention, at least I don't think I did. But you can give attention to something.
M: So it's hard for me to stay focused or to stay concentrated. And also you said, work at things. So if I work at things, I kind of, I'm focused on certain things, yeah?
R: Yeah. It's funny because you have work at something and you have work on something. But there's a difference. If you work at something, it's like you're working hard. Whereas if you work on something, it's just generally working.
M: Right. When we talk about concentration, we talk about getting distracted. It's our favorite thing nowadays. Getting distracted.
R: Yeah, distraction and procrastination.
M: Oh, yes. So I usually get distracted, or I get distracted pretty often. And I have distractions. And then you also said, a lack of distraction improves concentration, so a lack of distraction. So no distractors improve your concentration. You said a very nice verb, I tend to flit from one task to the next.
R: Yeah. So if you're flitting from one thing to another, then that just means that you're moving rapidly from, well, one thing to another. It's like birds, hummingbirds, hummingbirds flit from one flower to another. It's like a small fast movement.
M: Yeah, I tend to flit from one task to the next. I usually get distracted by Instagram notifications. That's the word. Notifications. And then you said, if I get a message notification, I'm almost compelled to investigate.
R: Yeah. Compelled is like, well, being forced to do something, but it's like a very strong force. You almost can't resist. And indeed, I often can't.
M: I feel the force on our Instagram, whoa, the force. But, Rory, when you, for example, when you read the book, okay, so you're reading a book, Do you sometimes feel or like you get fidgety? You begin looking for something else to do? You can't focus on reading? Or is it okay? Like you can keep focused.
R: Only if the book is boring.
M: Hm. But don't you agree that today, many people lose their concentration and then just they start losing it. They start being unfocused after two or three pages.
R: Yeah, apparently people's attention spans are shorter because of phones. But it seems like people that have these problems would have had them anyway, even if we didn't have smartphones. It's really tempting to blame them on that. But they were doing. There were studies done. They're noted in a book called Why students don't like school, and it was tracking students attention spans, and they really haven't changed that much over the years. That's kind of obvious because teachers have always complained about students with terrible attention spans.
M: Yeah, attention span is a nice word. So it's how long you can maintain your attention on one thing. So for example, children have a very short attention span, so they get easily distracted.
R: But do you have a short attention span?
M: Oh, god, yes. Yeah. With all this Instagram and Facebook and all like notifications I'm getting. It's getting worse. Yes, dear listener, and you know what, there is this thing about attention. CPA. CPA stands for continuous partial attention. I've been reading the Guardian.
R: Oh, no.
M: So continuous partial attention. Partial attention is like a partly. So it's pretty much like it means we are always on. We are always on anywhere, anytime, anyplace, like our behavior, we are like on all the time, and we don't give our full attention to anything. So if I'm talking to Rory, I'm also checking my phone. Right?
R: Are you?
M: If Rory is talking to me. He is also checking his Instagram account and writing some messages, right, Rory?
R: No, not right, Rory. Are you checking your phone now, you rude person? How rude.
M: No, I'm not.
R: Yes. You're absolutely checking your phone.
M: No, you see, free hands. But for example, Rory is talking to me. And he is checking out his Instagram or writing something.
R: I'm doing nothing of this sort. Thank you very much.
M: So, CPA, dear listener.
R: Continuous partial attention indeed.
M: Continuous partial attention. Right. So Rory said that I'm quite task-oriented, which is a nice thing.
R: Is it?
M: Yes, you're focused on one task. I'm quite task-oriented.
R: Well, I'm focused on finishing the task. That is essentially not me that made that remark though. Do you remember our old boss Olga Connolly?
R: She said that to me once she was like you're very task orientated. And the way she said it, I couldn't tell if it was a compliment or not.
M: Well, could be a good thing. Right? So if you have some tasks, so you're task-oriented, oriented, so you get things done. Another good thing to say I like to get things done. That's why I stay focused on what I should get done. With all the Instagram and Facebook and our podcast.
R: Do you?
M: No, I'm horrible. I'm always distracted. So when you talked about what improves concentration, so a lack of distraction is useful. Then you said you can also remove things. So by removing things you meant remove what?
R: Well, you can remove distractions like you put your phone in a locker or something.
M: Yes, and throw away the key.
M: Yes, dear listener, it's the smartphone, right? It's like the evil and also like the good and the evil. It's all the smartphone. Yeah. You've used some very nice phrasal verbs. Actually you've used two phrasal verbs answering one question. So you said sometimes it's fine to jump around from one task to another.
R: Yes. So the phrasal verb to jump around just means, well, it's like what you said about flitting around. It's just meaning to go from one thing. You can jump around physically. Or you can jump around, metaphorically meaning just moving from one thing to the next in a very rapid way.
M: Yes. So in one answer you said, flit, and then you paraphrased it, like it's fine to jump around. And then you said, chip away at one thing, chip away at the one thing.
R: So if you're chipping away, it just means that you're making small movements to progress forward. It's like when you sculpt something from stone and you have to chip or take away different parts with a chisel. And that takes a very long time to make the sculpture you're looking for. Except with chip away you can use it to mean that or you can use it to mean working hard in small steps at a problem. But if you like phrasal verbs, and you're a fan of courses online, you might want to try our phrasal verb course. Oh, no, what is the website?
M: Oh, you forgot the website. Dear listener, he forgot.
R: Can you tell us the website?
M: Oh, it's successwithielts.com. Everything is there, our premium is there, our phrasal verbs course. Everything is there for you in one place. Hey, you can find all the links and also the link is in the description with 15 lessons on different phrasal verbs and prepositions and we discuss for more phrasal verbs and formal phrasal verbs. So do check it out. It's really useful. And one episode is for free. So you can just listen to it. Now Rory on this podcast, we're gonna try a technique. Okay, are you ready? So there is a technique which is supposed to boost your concentration. Are you ready?
M: Dear listener, you can do it together with us. Right now on this very podcast. So, they say that it's very effective to spell words backwards. Okay? So I give you the word, for example, Rory. Can you spell the word Rory backwards? Starting from the very end.
R: Y, r, o, r.
M: Brilliant. Now we are done with easy words. Let's go to more abstract words and increase the level of difficulty. Okay, could you spell this word backwards? Architecture?
M: Come on. Go ahead.
R: Oh, what would that be? E, r, u, t, e. No, t, c, e, t, i, h, c, r, a.
M: Yes. Oh, bravo. Yes. Dear listener, Rory was really focused when he was doing this. Okay, now coincidence. Go ahead. Coincidence.
R: I, c, n, e, d, i, oh, c, n, o, c.
M: N, i, o, c.
M: Good, good Rory, and he hasn't been texting. He was really focused on this task. So it's working. Right. Dear listener, now you can spell the other words backwards, like success with IELTS premium, phrasal verbs course. So you can go and spell phrases backwards, different idiomatic expressions. Yeah. Cool. Do you think it's a good topic? Concentration?
R: Well, it's come up so many times now. Twice at least.
M: Yeah. It's interesting that. Okay, let's talk about concentration, and then the examiner goes, hmm, do you find it difficult to focus? Do you have any other symptoms?
R: And then you say what?
M: What medications are you taking? Do you drink alcohol? Yep. Because all these things can... Well, they are related to concentration difficulties, you know, like sleep disorders, medication, alcohol, drugs. Yeah. Dear listener, we are wondering, are you focused on listening to this episode? Or are you doing something else? It's okay if you're doing something else, that's totally fine. If you want more speaking from us, and if you want more gorgeous grammar and vocabulary, you can go ahead and check out our premium speaking podcast with parts two and three. Rory, why is our premium useful?
R: Our premium is clearly important because first of all, it addresses parts two and three. We only address part one here. And it's not just parts two and three. In isolation they're connected. And there's over 190 episodes with transcripts, including the discussion with model answers and vocabulary and good jokes and good moods. Unlike now. The link is in the description. Stop pestering me with questions.
M: And we are using fresh IELTS speaking part two and three topics which are being used in the exam now, so it's updated. It's quite fresh for you. So go check it out. This week, we're talking about a businessman that Rory admires. Yeah, a businessman and speaking part three is going to be about...
R: Running a business in general.
M: Yeah, like businesses, having your own business. Businesses in your country, which are current topics in the speaking exam. Thank you very much for listening! Stay focused, and don't lose the art of concentration! Rory, Rory.
R: What? Oh, sorry, I wasn't paying attention. Bye!
M: Say goodbye to the world. Bye!
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