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The Quickest Way to Boost your Concentration

Pressure makes us stronger

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Akiyama Kazuo, your "time-travelling" guide for today.

Work calls for a range of skills, such as planning, decision-making, negotiation, conceptualization, communication, problem-solving, consideration, the ability to learn from your mistakes, the ability to ask questions, imagination, creativity, judgement, logical thinking... the list goes on. Today I will be discussing concentration.

We all perform a range of tasks in the course of a day. Some trivial tasks involve performing set steps and can be performed by anyone if they simply spend the time. There are those tasks in which you only have to submit your work and your team leader takes care of the rest. And then there are tasks that require all your brainpower. Over the course of a day or a week, we encounter a mixture of tasks, and this is what makes work varied and fun... or at least that’s what I tell myself!

In this article, I will share a story about the skill of concentrating completely on your work and delivering results when it really counts. It concerns a job that required me to really concentrate at all cost. Looking back, I believe that this experience ultimately improved my ability to concentrate.

Now let us travel 30 years back in time.

We have a problem.

I had been working with Kikusui for two years. It was 11:30am and I was starting to feel peckish.
"Time for lunch", I thought.
At that moment, the telephone on my supervisor’s desk rang. It was one of our salespeople. One of six custom-built minicomputer power supplies delivered two weeks ago had developed a fault. While a service technician had been working on the problem earlier in the morning, he had been called home urgently. The salesperson asked if someone from Development could finish the job. Our supervisor agreed to send one of his team to the site. His gaze fixed on me. I had to head off without lunch.

Feeling out of place.

I arrived at the client site just after 2pm and started by reading the note left by the service technician. As I was getting out my circuit diagrams, I realized that I was surrounded by a group of onlookers, including the head of the client’s manufacturing division, the production line supervisor, development staff and the quality control manager. All were significantly older than me.

Watching my every move, they talked under their breath:

"Do you think this young guy knows what he’s doing?"
"I hope that he has what it takes to find and fix the problem."
"What time does this need to be fixed by in order to get today’s deliveries out?"
"What if the cause of this fault affects the other five machines as well?"

I felt very uncomfortable and my heart was racing from nerves. I became somewhat confused, but obviously I couldn’t tell the client that. I had to fix the problem somehow. In these situations, my modus operandi is "calm down and concentrate". I closed my eyes and opened them again slowly. I could now see only the power supply and the circuit diagram. I shut off my hearing. I could no longer see or hear the others in the room. I felt that by shutting myself off from my surroundings, I would be able to work toward achieving my goal. My only job was to fix the malfunction in the power supply.

As luck would have it, I was able to identify the problem and promptly set about fixing it. Finally, I checked that the power supply worked, briefed the client on the issue, performed work on the other five power supplies to prevent any similar issues, and checked that they worked. My job was done. Extremely relieved, I travelled back to the office in the salesman’s car in a daze. The salesman’s comments barely registered.

Concentration skills are fostered in times of adversity.

This was the first of many visits to inspect faults. Every time, I would think back to that first time and say some "magic words" to boost my concentration: not unlike the Ninja-inspired routine used by rugby player Goromaru Ayumu a few years ago.

"Calm down and concentrate. Close your eyes and slowly open them again."

Obviously, there are many other ways to improve your concentration. In my case, however, it was being sent into a situation where I was forced to boost my concentration that was most effective.

Frankly speaking, I would rather not have to be put in that difficult situation in the first place. However, sometimes adversity is unavoidable. No one else is there to support you: you have to handle the situation as best you can. While it was hard at the time, in hindsight, these experiences helped me improve not only my concentration but also a range of other skills.

You can always take the alternative approach and run from your problems. However, you will probably regret it when you are older. They say that testing experiences early in your career are so valuable you could put a price on them! At this point in my life, I realize just how true these words are.

Kazuo Akiyama
Solutions Development Division, Solutions Development Department (Supervisor)

[Major achievements in product development]
PAK-T, TAK-A, PAD-LET series regulated DC power supplies
PAX and PBX series high-speed programmable power supplies
PFX40W-08 battery charging and discharging tester

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