How to Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not Be Aware of

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:

  1. Lifetime
  2. Yearly
  3. Weekly
  4. Daily
  5. Currently

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:

1. Lifetime

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:

  1. 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?”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

2. Yearly

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.

3. Weekly

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?

4. Daily

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.

5. Currently

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:

  1. You should not multitask
  2. You should prevent distraction
  3. 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.

66 Comments

  1. This is a great article. I really like the way you’ve broken the five levels of focus down, and especially the idea of having a portfolio of passions. I’ve always felt kinda gypped when being told I have to pick one and only one, when it’s all the things I’m passionate about that make up the whole me. That’s one of the things I like about the new breed of self help authors such as Corrie Woods — there are no limits to what your passions are and can be, and to me that’s a much nicer way to find my life’s purpose that having to narrow it down to one choice right from the start.

  2. Great post, stirring the awareness and having a closer look at all those levels of focus, and also working with a DAILY Most Important Task. It’s my experience if you use such a ‘MIT’ it is very motivating to be able to see all the other additional tasks – you had time for – as a ‘Bonus!!!’ that feels great.

    It also gives me a reasuring feeling that on a few of my Blogspots there are several (third party) ‘Daily Items’ that run automatically without having to worry about them.

    I do think that tasks that I don’t have to do myself
    motivate me also 🙂

    All the Best,
    To your Happy Inspiration,
    HP

  3. Ruth,
    The idea of having portfolio of passions also has profound impact on me. Just like in your case, it allows me to be the whole me. Those passions can also leverage one another to produce much better value.

    HP,
    Yes, besides increasing our productivity, the MIT concept can also boost our motivation. It’s very satisfying to see how much I’ve accomplished in a day. That makes me feel good.

  4. […] How to Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not Aware of […]

  5. Personally I find it very difficul to focus. I am a mother of 2 kids + I work half a day at the office and then I come home to be with the kids and also work from home. Distractions are comming in every minute and I cannot avoid them (cannot ignore the kids). I realized that I am trying to do too many things and do not really get any hgh quality work done.
    Recently I discovered a new tool – the power of Binaural beats and a specific audio file for focus. Frankly, I cannot believe the power it has over me. I get things done, I can even concentrate on what I eat and I feel much more relaxed and vital.
    Read about it on my squidoo lens (website) link attached.

  6. […] focus on the task at hand. There are plenty of articles on how to remain focused and on track, but How to Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not Be Aware Of takes more of a personal approach than the other articles I’ve seen. How do you think the […]

  7. Very good site. I felt so good to go through some of your articles. Hopefully I will get benefitted.
    Thanks

    rajeshwari

    • Hello

      personally….i downloaded 2 plugins for my browser that have really helped me focus more.

      The first one is called Website Blocker….which allows me to make a list of websites that I am unable to access. you can always modify that list, but it showed me how I used to visit many sites just out of unconscious habit.

      and the second plugin is called Adblock Plus, which stops advertisements from appearing on the sites you visit…

      both plugins are free and available for all browsers (firefox, chrome and explorer)

  8. I was reading this and then switched tabs to read webcomics.

  9. Sajith Kumar K K
    Sajith Kumar K K

    The article is very good and it certainly give appropriate directions to someone wandering without focus(like me now, but not hereafter!)
    Anyway Thank You for that.

  10. i found all the sugesstions practical and fruitful. i shall re read it again and again to implement it in mah life.

  11. […] How to Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not Aware of […]

  12. right, this article is more like ‘how you should manage your life’ not ‘how to focus’… knowing what your priority etc. is not really going to help with focusing. for instance, i know i should focus on my studies, but my interest is not there, so how? that should be the question that needs to be answered. this article is like, “yeah, if you know what’s best, then somehow you’ll be able to focus”. Honestly, it’s pointless.

  13. […] Ought To Know About Renewing Yourself at  Hit Your Goals The Power To Choose at Life Reboot   How To Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not Aware of at Life Optimizer How To Overcome Mistrust at Sources of Insight What To Do When Someone Is […]

  14. Hi:

    Recently i bent dyscovering i got sirius problems about focus, i can focus in 1 thing more than, i guess is seconds before my mind goes to a whole diferent world.

    That is making me crazy, becouse i dont finish my proppouses. i was wondering if somebody know some simple exercises for start working in my focus, becouse i want a better life.

    Thanks.

    ( sorry if a make mistakes in my gramma or my english )

  15. Hi my name is wardell and I am starting to do some things that I believe can help with focus. One thing I do is turn on a fan and lie down by it for a minute. In that minute I try to focus only on the sound of the fan and block everything else out. At first it will be hard, but soon It will get better.

  16. I found this really useful thanks. Today I have had problems focusing all day and I know that by breaking down all the many things going on in my head to life, year, week, day and current has actually helped me (even tho that was not the purpose of the article).

    I am going to take a break now and come back to the one task I set for myself.

    I will do this daily – thanks 🙂

  17. […] How to Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not Aware of […]

  18. Thnx alot extremely helpful… keep on…

  19. Ta for your ideas step one I write the one thing on my notepad and get started have a great focus

  20. You have a wonderful blog here , I have been spending the evening reading your articles.

  21. This is an excellent post.. thanks for sharing.

  22. i loved it -its awesome

  23. It is good to explain the need of focus. But i think, you should go more in the depth of the process How to be focused.

  24. It is an amazing article, really words will not describe the feelings one experiences after going through the article, focus is one word that can change the lives of disillusioned millions, thanks.

  25. Fantastic Website!
    This one is particularly close to heart!
    Thankyou!

  26. […] How to Focus: Five Levels of Mental Focus You Might Not be Aware of   […]

  27. Hi,

    Very helpfull articles. I always having difficulties to stay focus on what I’m doing.

    To Wardel, nice tips. I’ll try myself.

    Thank you.

  28. After SO MANY years. I’m still stuck on level 1, Lifetime. I still have not found any real passions, only mild interests and curiosities. I like technology and future trends and am taking some computer programming classes, but I’m not real passionate about it but it’s the closest thing so far. I was laid off from a mundane asst. manager job earlier this year. The best thing and only good thing about it was the pay check, but throughout the day all I did was watch the clock second by second and couldn’t wait until 5:00 pm. Absolute misery. My interests keep shifting. Once I lose interest in something, I simply don’t care about the subject anymore and want nothing to do with it and try to find something else. I use to like drawing and art and animation, now I can’t stand any of that. I used to love movies and film making and even have a BA in communications, but now I barely watch a movie and generally don’t care about movies and entertainment at all.

  29. This article 5 levels of focus is really excellent. I like to achieve more things. But my efficiency level was rather poor. I found the reasons as I read this article. Thanks for this inspiration.
    dominic

  30. […] 5 Levels of Mental Focus – lifetime, yearly, weekly, daily, currently. […]

  31. A good article indeed. The real thing is a determination of mind, a strong resolve for the purpose of our life and then everything becomes possible.
    A quote “Failure is not caused by falling, but is caused by not standing up.” So, keep on moving.

  32. I read this along with loads of other so called inspirational books. None worked for me. why? let me break my news to you. I had dedicated my whole life to a girl and recently I found out that she had fallen in love with some other guy. You won’t believe how much I hate the focus word now. I am not criticizing the article on anything. It may work for the fresh starters very well but i would like to give just few additional tips..

    1: BE ANALYTICAL AT FIRST WHILE CHOOSING YOUR PURPOSE OF LIFE (all the WHAT IF’s at the beginning).

    2: Danger of “portfolio of passions”. Some people cannot carry on a single passion and we’re talking about multiple. A time will come that you will be left with nothing but in a mess of nowhere.

  33. thank u I will follow d advise

  34. Excellent article. I love the way you broke down the five levels. Made great sense to me. It actually gave me a jumping off point to think about. Thanks.

  35. You wake up my awareness on how I should handle my life with a direction and progress. I used to be always in level 1.Lifetime, now I know why I could not progress in my life. I’ve always focus in one passion only and I neglect my other things that I’ve also wanted to do. Thank you very much for this informative and inspiring article… God Bless You!!!

  36. […] For an interesting blog post on Focusing, I recommend reading this article by Donald Latumahina, http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/2008/05/14/how-to-focus-five-levels-of-mental-focus-you-might-not-aware…. […]

  37. This is a great post, I’m totally agree with the first point to know what matters to us. It’s quite often we drifted and just became trend slaves and we forget what we want.
    Though that to stay focus is hard but I believe practice makes perfect. It will also make our life easier to know what are our important things, as we can spend more times on that and spend less times on less important stuffs.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  38. Kartika,
    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  39. Indeed, to be focused is very important in our daily life. Without focusing, we will not be able to achieve something in our life. Thank you very much for your helpful tips. I think I will benefit from them. I am a young painter from China, specializing in creating portrait painting and landscape oil paintings.

  40. good site keep it up ,

  41. thankyou so much for this! i basically followed what you said and wrote my own version answering each number. this really helped me realise whats important to me and how i should focus myself towards my goals. 🙂

  42. Informative article, especially the one about the dangers of being obsessed.

    When I was in High school my focus was on point, straight A student, popular, got along great with teachers and crowd, athletic.
    After relocating to another country, my mother passing away, abusive relationship just to name a few. I couldn’t finish school and have been trying for years now to get my GED but with no positive results.

    This year I was prepared, this was my believe. I’ve been going to the library, reading and studying. But at my verbal exams, I realised something, I had all this information in my mind but it wouldn’t come up. I kept saying to myself; I know this, I’ve read this, but it just wasn’t there. It was splattered all over my mind, but not deep enough so I could tap into it.

    It hit me that what I was lacking was focus! While studying my mind would deviate to a number of things, familiy, friends, financial problems, how it was in the past, how it would be after I get my GED in the future etc etc, but I was never in the moment.

    So my quest begin as how to get focussed. Writing was the first thing I started to do, my aunt and a good friend advised me this years ago, but only a few weeks ago I decided to go for it. I bought a notebook and a new pack of pen. First few days I was writing about memories from the past from things that have been bothering me to failures, accomplishments, to when I was a kid, a play I did.
    Then in a few days I didnt have the desire to write about these things anymore, as if these past things were finally put to rest.

    I begin writing about my goals what I want , where I see myself. While surfing about goals in life, focus, inspiration, motivation etc etc. I stumbled on this book about timemanagement for professionals. The chapter about about time and focus could be applied to everyone in everyday life. One of the assignments was to sincerely an honestly write down how much time a week do you spend on all the roles you’ve taking or want to take upon you.( mother, daughter, partner, parent, worker, student, friend etc etc )

    One week has 168 hours. So while filling in this table, subtracting sleep, family, boyfriend etc etc. I realised that the amount of hours I was dedicating to myself was almost nihil. Studying included. So my perception of things wasn’t realistic. Add to that, the fact that the small amount of time I was giving to myself, wasn’t even quality(focussed) time.

    I made a new table starting with me first, the realistic hours I need to study, health, fitness etc etc, then I added a reasonable, acceptable amount of time for family friends etc etc. I realised beside the fact of being focussed I needed planning.

    I just started out, but slowly I’m just using that table to change the daily habits I’ve been accostumed to. I still have days that I get off-track, but not what it used to be. Sometimes your environment will be supportive or objective, but this is one of the most rewarding things I started to do in my own life. I came to realise that focus and organizing go hand in hand. One can’t be achieved without the other.

  43. Meh. This article is not about focus. It’s about organizing and setting goals. It’s about managing day to day tasks. I can’t focus today. That’s why I’m hear reading this. I can’t focus because of just general “attention deficit”, anxiety and being fidgety. This article addressed none of this.

  44. awsome sir this is what all ambitious persons are looking for great work…..

  45. Love this article. Planning from your end goal backwards is essential to making sure you are on the right track and headed towards your goal. It is particularly important for me to write down my goals and have them somewhere I can see them. Also, it is hard for me to accept that sometimes my goal or focus is too ambitious and needs to be reevaluated. Great advice and separation into easily identified categories.

  46. i had committed sins in my life and does this sins blocks my plan and focus so its like everytime i want to plan something for my future the sins that i committed kept on interrupting in my mind…i felt so weak everytime i think of that mistakes,i blamed myself and that my conscience hitting me all the time..so how can i still get focus?i felt its too late to do more things in life..im always judging myself and im always anxious.

    • wow! I know it’s four years later lol but this is my exact thought process! wow i ALWAYS judge myself, beat myself down, feel so much guilt cuz i prayed and told God i would change so when i sinned again i felt unworthy, guilty, and my focus was lost.
      so it’s interesting for some reason, i just truly tapped into that power that is at our fingertips in the bible 🙂 we’re born in sin, so our flaws don’t make us less than, it makes us human! God loves us, but now we have to love ourselves and believe that we can conquer whatever is holding us down! pray for deliverance from your afflictions, and actually believe that you will come out brand new. doubt, fear, anxiety, timidity, those things don’t come from God, i’m talking to myself now!

  47. For all of us unmedicated “ADDers” out there, thank you for keeping it short. NOT!

  48. Wow, this is a great post! Lifetime focus can be difficult though, not many people know what they actually want in their lives. But nevertheless we have to focus on that area, too! 🙂

  49. I found this article to be very helpful and insightful. In addition, I realized that I lacked focus on yearly and sometimes weekly goals. So I ended up jotting down some yearly goals and things to focus on next month. By having monthly goals, it helps me pick out what I will need to do during the weeks of a particular month. I could already feel the throbbing in my mind subside. Plus, I feel better having it down.

    Thanks.

  50. Great article.. need to try and focus more. This artice has some good tips thanks

  51. Great article! I was searching on Google for ‘how to focus’ and this was ranked #1. I all too often get distracted with trivial things and find that even after long hours of working haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I would have liked. I will certainly be following some of your advice and breaking down my goals into different time frames. RSS feed added!

  52. Not sure if this is a focus issue for the author, but shouldn’t the title be “…You might not BE aware of” The BE is missing.

  53. This is tremendously fantastic we live in the world
    where our people are just hard dying non optimistic
    and the bible rightly put it that the heart of men are decietfully wicked who can know it,men you got to know that our world is like market never mind the noise in the market but mind your goal.I admires
    your explanation of life focus which entails portfolio of passion.Like Christ on the cross of calvary forgive and forget.Like paul the Apostle learn to overlook all life affliction and challenges

  54. Great article! Thanks for it!

  55. Something to consider. I’d like to think I’ve got the first one covered but I suppose it probably starts with current and then lifetime.

  56. Reading what you’ve wrote has honestly opened my mind. I only wish i had typed in mental focus on google a heck of alot earlier.

    Thanks

  57. This is so priceless, may God prosper you&your generation

  58. I found the very rich materials for me and my friends working preparation to achieve our goal from this site. We implement in the real game and bossiness as well. Thanks very much. All the best

  59. I believe that this explains cleary on how to be focused in life ,in a way that a person can understand easily and in a summary form.
    So i would like to thank the author for this and I am going to apply them to my life.

  60. amazing amazing amazing!!!I luv dis article.yes focus focus and focus………….:)

  61. I really hope this article will make a difference on me. I have lost much time during my holiday.

  62. you cannot learn how to focus if you don’t know how to avoid distraction…

  63. Absolutely lovely:)

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