Why would you want to be focused or develop the skill of focus? Does it really matter? Does it really help? The truth is most people are NOT naturally focused or disciplined. In today’s world, it can be very challenging to focus. Years ago in the time management workshops, we taught these tips for life: shutting off the email bell, turning off the phone ringer, closing the door, etc. Those don’t seem to quite do it anymore, so do we just surrender and embrace the new world of techno whizzing and multitasking?
It is true, today with the technology and speed of information, as humans we have become more “ADHD” (even if we are not) acting more scattered and impulsively multitasking than ever before. It almost feels like a necessity to be successful, as if focus is a luxury for those who have no life or little going on. Many struggle to stay centered on a single task or concept. We spend so much time in this unfocused space, the concept of focus is almost predetermined as passee and impossible! So does it matter and is it even possible?
If you care about productivity and traction, I am going to argue, it absolutely does matter. You can assess for yourself, however. I love this graphic by Biran K Balfour to give you FIVE REASONS FOCUS WINS. How many of these traits are important to you?
1. Move faster.
2. Learn more.
3. Great progress.
4. Builds Confidence.
5. Contribute value.
The skill of focus today, not only is it about eliminating distractions, setting a mindset of focus but also the psychology of focus.
#1) PHYSICAL SET UP. So First. Set yourself up for success with a few tangible things.
Anna Vital of Funders and Founders offers some tips on how to focus…
- Keep food at your desk (nuts, granola bar, apple, carrots, water, etc.)
- Turn off the phone
- Get a good chair (make sure your desk is ergonomic so you are not getting back, neck and other pain)
- Time yourself (set a timer for 60 min. power hour can be amazing)
- Shut everything off (email, messenger, phone, cell, etc.)
- Clear your desk (it is hard to work when you are distracted and your mind wanders to what else you have to do)
- Make a list (brain dump so you can focus and if something pops up, write it down. don’t do it right then if you are “focusing”)
- Reward yourself (it can be challenging to stay focused to celebrate when you do it!)
- Frame a picture of your goal (keep the end in mind and outline milestones to make baby steps and mini-wins)
- Have a pet, music, etc. if there are things that bring a sense of peace and calm in your environment – add it to your focus area)
- Visualize your goal and you being focused.
- Imagine yourself managing the interruptions and designing a space so you can focus.
- Feel the success of a focused “frog time” or “power hour”.
Why do this? The concept is to visualize daily and think through your day and what you need to focus on for the day to help you make better decisions and quickly eliminate distractions and sharpen the ability to hone in on what matters. Check out this interesting clip on how to build mental models to enhance your focus by Charles Duhigg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv2fYgBThO4
How can you do this? Check out the book by Brian Tracy “Eat that Frog”. It is a great way to get focus. Start small and let your focus expand. Here is a 90-second video if you prefer to learn that way: https://vimeo.com/99071769. This concept is taught by many people, called different things, but really it is just blocking a minimum of 30-60 minutes a day to FOCUS on what matters most. Not your to-do list, not the urgent, not your email… rather, the IMPORTANT items that tend to get neglected and put off. By focusing not only will you enjoy more mental clarity with your visualizations and the other benefits above, but you WILL HAVE more energy as you are powering through important things, gaining traction and enjoying the fruits of a productive day!