Note: This post is written by Jeremy Sutton
The ability to focus…
Is there anything more central to our success in everything we do?
Whether we’re working on fitness, writing a business report, or reading a book, if we can’t focus then we’re simply not at our best.
Even socially, no one enjoys spending time with someone who’s the opposite of focused: distracted and scattered.
So let’s explore some of the techniques that can help any of us get laser focused and be at our best whenever we want to rise to the occasion.
1. Stay Present & Aware
With all the stimulation of our modern era, the world around us is practically a world-class training facility for living on autopilot. The problem is that so many things constantly vie for our attention with ever more sensational and evocative images and sound bites.
The natural (and common) reaction is to just stop thinking about it and to let everything wash over us. Overall that’s bad news, but there are solutions to help us “switch on” and get back in the driver’s seat of life.
At any moment of the day, we all have the ability to step back, disengage, take a deep breath, and mindfully redirect our attention. In fact, you can practice right now.
Simply fill your lungs from the bottom up and notice how it feels. Then bring your attention to the way your clothes feel on your body or the feeling of your feet on the floor.
By directing our attention in this way, we take ourselves out of autopilot and thus we can choose where to focus our attention next. The trick is to ask ourselves a simple question:
“What would be best for me to focus on right now?”
2. Think in Writing
One reason we get distracted so easily is that we all have so much to do and so little time to do it.
We simply can’t hold everything we want to remember in our heads at the same time. And part of us knows this too. So that part of us tends to stay overactive, nervous, and even worried that some important idea is going to slip through the cracks of our mind.
Worst of all, it’s right.
It’s not possible to hold all the important things we want to do in our minds. We’re bound to forget something. So the solution is what psychologists call “distributed cognition”. That’s a fancy way of saying “use writing tools to save your thoughts.”
Here’s the deal:
The day is long and we inevitably get tired. When we’re tired, we have a hard time remembering the important things that we really want to take care of in a day. So when we find ourselves with some free time, instead of using it to take care of interesting things that we care about, we tend to fill in the gap with whatever grasp our attention first.
By writing things down, making plans, and coming back to them often, we set ourselves up to better focus on those things we care about most.
Also, writing is the first step to transforming mere ideas into actual reality.
We can’t do anything with an idea that only exists in our minds. But once we write something down, it becomes more real. We have something to work with, and we can start taking the steps to make it happen.
3. If It’s Important, Do It Early
We all know how it’s hard to stay focused when we’re tired. That’s a no brainer.
And it turns out there’s a reason for that: will power is a limited resource. Like a muscle, the more self-control we use, the more difficult it gets to flex that muscle a second, third, and forth time.
So then, if you have something important to your long-term goals, invest some time in it early in the day. This is especially powerful when you combine this technique with the first two.
For example, if you have your major life goals and to-do’s written down, then you can use that list to focus your attention right from the start of the day. Review what matters most, take a deep breath to come back to the present, and then dive into that important task.
This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to do good focused work in the afternoon or evening. It’s just that you will be more accountable to your own goals if you can invest in yourself early.
Bonus Trick for Extended Will-Power
Your brain uses glucose as fuel for focusing, but your brain can only store about 20-30 minutes of it at one time.
Studies have shown that if you can replace your glucose levels by snacking on small amounts of fruit throughout your work or study session at the rate of about 1/2 a banana every 20-30 minutes, you will stay focused for longer.
Bringing It All Into Focus
The ability to focus is critical to our long-term success. And there are ways to get better at it.
Take advantage of the techniques here and let us know how they are working for you.
Also, do you have any tips or tricks that you use to harness your focus?
If so, please share them below in the comments and help the rest of us take our lives to that next level.
Jeremy Sutton is a professional consultant, coach, and writer at PrecisionPrinciple.com. He helps people create massive value by leveraging their innate strengths and interests. He’s best known for helping people achieve powerful breakthroughs both professionally and personally. He does this with time-tested tools of self-management and psychology such as The Game.