A few weeks ago I wrote about the danger of being obsessed. There I wrote that there are three states we can possibly be in: lacking focus, being focused, and being obsessed. The best state is being focused but there is always the danger of falling to either lacking focus or being obsessed states.
Having discussed the topic of obsession, here I’d like to go back to the topic of focus. Focus is essential to achieve anything we want in life. In fact, not only should we have focus, we should have it at every level of our life.
Looking at my life, sometimes I wondered why my progress was slow while I thought that I was already focused on my goals. Only later did I realize that there are different levels of focus. I may have focused on one or two levels, but if I do not focus on the other levels then the results won’t be optimal.
So what are the different levels of focus? In my opinion, there are five levels of mental focus based on the time frame:
Of course, you can add other levels like quarterly or monthly if they work for you, but for me these five levels are enough since having too many levels is confusing.
If you want to succeed, you should be focused at all five levels. Lacking focus at any of them will decrease the performance of the rest. In addition, you should also be careful not to be obsessed. The art of maintaining the balance without falling to the lacking focus or being obsessed states is an art that will take time to master.
How to Focus at All Five Levels
Let’s look at the five levels of focus and see how to focus at each of them:
Being focused at the lifetime level means that you should have a purpose for your life. What is your life purpose? Have you followed it?
Finding your life purpose is perhaps the most difficult thing to do in all five levels, but it is also the most rewarding. It sets the directions of the other levels. If you have this level wrong, you may end up making many wrong decisions in your life.
Here are some things you can do to find your life purpose:
- Find what matters to you
This is the starting point to finding your life purpose. There is one question that can help you find what matters to you:
“What is the thing that you care so much about that you are willing to do it for free?”
- Explore your passions
I believe everyone has multiple passions that are waiting to be explored. Don’t limit yourself to only one passion. Build your portfolio of passions.
- Find the intersection between your passions and the things that matter to you
The intersections between the things you are passionate about and the things you care about are clear signs of what your life purpose could be.
- Make a mission statement
After you have an idea of what your life purpose is, you should write it in a mission statement. Ideally, it should be a one-liner: ten words or less.
- Keep refining
Finding your life purpose is not something you can do in one day or even one year. Just start with what you have and keep refining it. Over time, the direction of your life will be clearer and clearer.
After dealing with the lifetime level, you should then go down to the yearly level. Here you should have a goal for the year related to your life purpose. Your goal should be both specific and measurable. To ensure that you are focused at the yearly level, you should have only one goal for the year (or two if you must).
One thing to remember is your yearly goal should be related to your life mission. Otherwise, there is a missing link between the lifetime and yearly levels.
To have focus at weekly level, you should set a goal for the week ahead. What do you want to achieve in the following week to help you achieve your yearly goal?
The next level is daily in which you set your goals for the day. What are the things that you want to achieve today? You can start by setting your Most Important Task (MIT) for the day. Your MIT should be the thing that will make the most difference if you accomplish it today.
Here is a question to help you set your MIT:
“If I can only finish one task today, what will that be?”
You can then set other goals using a variant of the same question:
“If I can only finish one more task today, what will that be?”
By asking this question repeatedly you will get a list of the tasks based on priority.
After setting your goals for the day, the next level is the present. To get optimum result, you should be focused in whatever you are doing. It means that:
- You should not multitask
- You should prevent distraction
- You should use ultradian sprint to accomplish as much as possible within the working session
Where is Your Weakness?
Being focused at all five levels is important to get the most out of your life. I realize this when I look at my own life. I’m focused at some levels but not at the others and as a result I do not get the results I want. Understanding these five levels help me see the levels which need improvement. In my case, my weakness is the weekly and currently levels. While there is still room for improvements at the other levels, those two levels are where I lack most.
There is one thing to remember though: while being focused at all levels is good, we should stay flexible if we want to avoid falling to being obsessed state. Perhaps you have set some goals for the day, but you should be flexible enough to adapt to changes that happen during the day. Your heart is often the best guide since it somehow knows what is right.