How to stay focused
Trimming all the fat away, the ability to focus is essential for getting what you want in life. Period.
Without it, your attention is hijacked by social media, “urgencies”, entertainment and other people, pretty much constantly.
How does it usually leave you feeling?
Angry, because you didn’t manage to get done what you wanted?
Frustrated, because you got distracted again from what’s important to you?
Unhappy because you haven’t made progress?
Yup, we’ve all been there.
But how would you feel if you could singlemindedly work on the task at hand, be in the flow and getting a lot done?
Proud, satisfied, accomplished, happy?
While being able to focus is great for many reasons, bottom line is that it all leads to happiness.
Developing the ability to focus is not difficult but takes practice and patience.
In this article, I want to share with you a few foundation practices that work and that I use myself.
1. FOCUS AWARENESS
In order to improve your focus, you have to know what’s diverting it. You cannot change what you’re not aware of.
If you want to do it properly, take a pen and paper and have it ready on the side while you work or do the activity you need to focus on. Every time you get distracted by something, note down what it was and add a line when it distracts you again. You’ll realise that there are just a few things that keep distracting you over and over again.
These distractions can also be specific thoughts or obsessions that keep coming up again and again. Take note of these, too.
2. REMOVING DISTRACTIONS
After taking note of the distractions (as in the exercise above) it’s time to start working on removing them.
You cannot maintain focus if these things keep interrupting your flow.
Typically they fall into a few basic categories:
PHONE & COMPUTER
Apps, chats, emails, notifications, all these things are really hard to resist. We’re drowned to them. It’s news, entertainment, drama!
The smallest things you can do is to turn off the notifications, so they are not seducing you. Switch off all the functionality you don’t need for the work you want to focus on. You can close the apps you don’t need, switch off WIFI, or even put your phone in your bag or another room for the time.
You can live without it for a few minutes.
Sometimes there are who demand our attention, support, and communication. If that’s so, you need to find a way how to distance yourself from them for the time you need to focus. Ask them to not disturb you and get out of reach.
Clutter and noise have a really negative impact on our ability to focus.
Without using it as a reason to procrastinate, try to organise your environment before you start the activity you need to focus on or change room or location. For noise, use earphones with background music that is simple and downbeat. Classical music works really well.
You can read more about how to create a better working environment at home here.
If you have thoughts that are coming back to you over and over again, that means that your mind is trying to resolve it. Ask yourself if you can do something about it. If you can do it.
Alternatively, you can write the though down and say – I’ll deal with this after. This simple little trick often works really well.
The bottom line is, in order to improve your focus, you need to remove all the main distractions if you can, and most of the times you can.
3. GROWING YOUR FOCUS
When working on your focus, what’s important is to stay patient.
Your focus is like a muscle and you need to start small and develop its strength.
Right now, you may be able to single-mindedly focus for less than a couple of minutes. That’s ok, most of us are pretty bad at it.
But over time, your ability to focus will strengthen.
Start with setting a goal to not be distracted for 10 minutes.
When you become good at it, increase it by 5-minute increments.
Research shows that 45 minutes is pretty much our limit.
4. STOP TAKING PRIDE IN BEING A MULTITASKER
Multitasking is something that became glorified, yet is a really bad habit detrimental to our ability to focus. The better multitasker you are, the worse you are at single-mindedly focusing.
If you’re taking pride in being a multitasker that belief (and identity) is encouraging you in multitasking and hindering your ability to focus.
Pride yourself in being able to focus, to get in the zone and being uninterruptible. That’s something to be proud of. More importantly, that belief will encourage you to be better at it.
It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
5. PRACTICE YOUR FOCUS
You can practice your focus with any daily activities.
It’s really the art of being present. Use activities such as eating, communicating with other people, watching tv, washing dishes, ironing your clothes, showering (how often are you really there with your thoughts?).
Also, practice not to reach for your phone when you don’t need to.
6. write your FOCUS MISSION statement
Make improving your focus more than just one of those things you tried.
Make it your mission. You don’t need to be spending every waking moment on trying to improve your focus. But when you make it important you will dramatically accelerate your improvement.
Write a short mission statement explaining why you want to improve your focus, what impact poor focus has had on your life, list all the benefits of a great focus, and state how committed you are to improving it.
It’s a small act but it will have a massive impact.
Let me know in the comment which one of these do you encounter most often.
If you need the support of a life coach to help you with making a great first impression or with any other areas of your personal development, you’re always welcome to contact me and let’s find out if we’d be the right match.
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