Focus has been a big theme in my life right now. It’s being brought up in books, my side projects, and in daily distractions at work. For me, focus comes second nature one day and impossible the next, but I think I’m getting better at recognizing when I need it and what’s distracting.
Focus is critical in our lives, considering 100 things are vying for attention, you need all of your focus to see a project through to completion. You need to hone in on the present task to fully understand, dive in to, and successfully complete a goal.
Okay, this is probably the most obvious post ever so far, but hang in there with me.
Of course, we all know it’s important to focus and what can happen when you do. That doesn’t stop emails from coming in, people asking you for favors, or your ever wandering mind from dreaming up a whole new distracting project or idea. Theory is easy to understand, but actually focusing is a bit more difficult.
How To Achieve It
Sometimes you just need to get started. You need that push to get you focused and then you can fly. Here’s some tricks to help you get started on your direction and attention.
What Are You Focusing On Anyway?
Do you even know what you want to focus on? Yeah, maybe it’s ‘making more money’ or it’s ‘getting in shape,’ but how specific is that? You could go in a million different ways with those broad goals, it’s important to dive a little deeper.
If you want to make more money, then how are you going to do it? Are you going to start an Etsy store? Are you going to go in to consulting? Write down all the things that you are or will be putting energy towards. Having it all down on paper allows you to see how scatterbrained you are; it’s hard to notice when you’re in a tornado that you are in fact in a tornado.
Looking at your tornado of attention, what’s most important? What is your priority? Highlight, circle, and star that item, that’s what you want to focus on. Everything should be centered around that.
Time Block Your Calendar
Malcolm Gladwell explains it in Outliers (definitely recommend), but it takes 10,000 hours to fully master something and achieve high levels of success. But how can you possibly reach this time mark if it is constantly eaten up by distractions, breaks, and switching between projects?
Use your calendar and time block a few hours every day to focus on what matters most. Go to a place where you won’t be distracted, shut down the social media, hide away your phone, and put your full attention towards your priority. It may seem tough at first, but start with as much time as you can and slowly move up. Life will adjust and things will work themselves out. But time blocking will allow yourself the chance to focus and force yourself to ignore distractions.
Put Your Top Priority As Your Top Daily Priority
If you wait to start your top priority until the end of the day, how well do you think that’s going to go? By the end of the day, motivation has decreased, energy and the ability to focus has flattened, the to-do list grew, and more distractions pop up like daisies.
However, if you put your priority focus item at the top of the list and calendar, you’ll have a better chance of being able to put your full attention on the matter and have less things trying to get in your way. Start each day off with working on your most important task and it will be 39,483 times easier to focus on it (actual fact right there).
How To Keep It
I’m sure this sounds familiar: you start a project filled with energy and motivation, ready to go. But about a week in, you don’t have the same fire and you’re struggling to hold on to your progress. (I’ve never done this…). Keeping your focus is harder sometimes than just starting. Here’s some tips I’ve learned that have helped me keep going when I want to stop.
Learn to Say No
Sometimes it seems like the hardest part about focusing is figuring out what you’re focusing on, but like my dear pal Steve Jobs said (LOL JK), it’s about saying no.
In my project management course, one day we had a difficult discussion about project scope. We had so many great ideas, and ideas off of those ideas, and more ideas from those. But we were told to take a step back, and what we saw was utter chaos. Although the additional things made it seem like it was helping the overall goal, it was really cluttering the main focus and making it confusing and hazy.
You need to say no in order to stay focused. That means not taking every opportunity that sounds decent. It means understanding what you’re focusing on and determining if something new is a positive or negative use of attention.
It’s hard to stay focused when you have things constantly fighting for your attention. But one of the easiest ways to win that fight is to remove some of these contenders from the ring. Cut out distractions and make it that much easier on yourself to focus. Here’s some of the biggest distractions you can easily remove.
- Put your phone in another room and on airplane mode if possible
- Put a status up on your email and calendar of ‘away’
- Use the Do Not Disturb function on your Mac to prevent banner notifications
- Set up website blocks on distraction sites by using apps like SelfControl
- No TV or music if you can help it
- Get snacks, water, coffee, tea ready to go ahead of time so you don’t have to take a break when a craving happens
- Have all the supplies you need: charger, note pad, pens, highlighters
I’m just starting to get in to this, and I really think it’s helping me focus in and stay that way. I’m not great at it yet, it’s difficult sometimes to not have your mind wander or think if you look weird or not, but it helps me focus on what I truly want to achieve, why I want to achieve it, and how I’m going to do so.
Here’s my simple visualization technique (if you can even call it that) that you can try for yourself. I recommend looking in to it more and doing some more research, mine is based off of what I’ve read in The One Thing, The Miracle Morning, and The Art of Mental Training.
Either lay down on the floor or sit comfortably. Remove all potential distractions like annoying clothes, etc.
Take 5 deep breaths in, counting to 5 on the inhale, hold for 3, then release for 5, and pausing for 3 in between. Use this time to focus on your whole body in this present moment. Start with your toes and mentally check yourself all the way up to your head.
While breathing the same way, imagine your goal and what you want to accomplish. Imagine that life: what you do on a daily basis, your energy and emotions, your successes.
Then, imagine what you need to do to get there, what steps are needed to get to the end result. What do you need to do daily, what are the big milestones you need to work towards?
It’s super simple and easy and sounds extremely cheesy, I know, but it can be an amazing way to center yourself and your actions around what you want. I love starting off my day visualizing, it helps me have a clear focus on the end goal.
I hope that through this whole post, you’re able to take away a few tips and tricks to use in your daily life and can help bring some focus and attention back to your everyday life.
What do you need to focus on?! How are you going to do it?!