There are two main points about focus that I want to touch on, the first is mentioned in the quote by Tony Robbins, “Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.” Frequently we may find ourselves thinking about, or focusing on, the negatives in our lives; the things we fear, bad things happening in the world, mistakes we may have made.
When we focus on our fears we magnify their power over us. So what can we do to focus more on where we want to go in our lives? First we should examine what we have control over. If there are things that we are focusing on that we can’t change, the first -although difficult- step is to eliminate those things that we can’t control from our focus. This isn’t to say we should be ignorant of larger issues, but unless we can actively do something about them, any focus on things outside of our control is wasted. Second, we can make sure we know what our goals are and have a plan to achieve those goals. Set your goals based on aspiration, with positive intent, and with an abundant mindset, not out of fear or with a scarcity mindset. Once we know what we want and how we will get there it is time to ensure we have the tools to get where we want to go.
The second point is that of everyday focus, the focus that gets stuff done. If your mind is split in several different directions you may eventually complete a task, but you will be less efficient and more stressed in the process. 100% focus on the task at hand can be difficult to achieve, but in the long run will give you better performance.
So what can we do to increase our focus? The first thing is to mentally prepare and make a commitment to focusing 100% on the task at hand. If you are working on a computer or mobile device, turn off all notifications and other pop-ups and sounds that will distract you. Turn off sounds on your phone as well. Check your physical environment for distractions and eliminate what you can. Is you chair uncomfortable? Get a new chair, or if that is not an option at least get a pillow or some other way of making the chair more comfortable. In a noisy work environment, get some headphones to block out the sound. Can’t work in complete silence, use a background noise generator or listen to non-distracting music. Make sure your desk is set up in a way that is ergonomic and functional. Everything you need should be readily available to you, you shouldn’t have to spend time looking for a file or piece of equipment.
Set a timer and commit to working until the timer runs out. If you are new to this, set the timer for a short period of time such as five minutes. Concentrate on working on your task until the timer is done. If you can’t do five minutes, try two. If five minutes is a breeze, up it to 10 or maybe 15.
The long term goal would be to work up to being able to focus for longer stretches without a break. The Pomodoro Technique encourages us to work in 25 minute periods, then take a short break. I use this for things like handling email or catching up with phone calls/messaging.
For tasks that you may find yourself in a state of “flow”, where you are hyper-focused and don’t notice time passing, such as writing, reading, or coding, you may not want to interrupt your flow every 25 minutes. For these I set my timer for 50 minutes or sometimes 100 minutes. I generally don’t want to go longer than that, especially while sitting, as it can be uncomfortable on your body which will negatively impact the rest of your day.
When the timer is done, take a break to move your body and give your mind something different to do. Take a walk, get some water, look out a window, anything to briefly relax. In the long-term these breaks will allow you to get back to focusing easier.
With practice you can eliminate distractions and focus fully on the task at hand!