By: Martin Grunburg
The successful man is just the average man focused.” ~Anonymous
How is your ability to focus these days?
Seems to me that some people are much better at the essential skill / habit of #FOCUS than others.
When we are focused, by definition, our energy is channeled in ONE direction, and this is what magnifies our efforts. This is why, for instance, Steve Jobs said,
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying NO to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done…”
I’ve heard it said, “A five-watt light-bulb can barely light up a closet, but when that same amount of energy is focused, it can cut through steel.”
Given that our lives are filled with hundreds of daily distractions, here are seven essential habits that will help you to strengthen your focus and be more productive.
1) Control Your Environment
Environment has a significant influence upon our behavior. So it stands to reason that a highly focused person produces an environment that fosters focus.
This means they will intentionally manipulate their location, sound, lighting, seating, and any environmental influences (including cell phones) to help bolster focus rather than let their surroundings become a distraction.
2) Understand Your Energy Patterns
Focusing on an important or creative project when your energy is depleted is difficult, if not impossible.
Highly focused people know their personal energy cycles and save the mundane tasks — email, phone calls, etc. — for the low-energy periods of their day. Conversely, they put their most important daily goals on the front burner when energy levels are at their prime.
3) Know What Is Most Important
According to Brian Tracy, a highly focused person will ask the following question several times a day: “What is the most important and best use of my time, right now?”
Dr. Stephen Covey used to say that we often get caught up “in the thick of thin things.”
I know this to be true; at least a couple of times a day I find myself saying aloud, “What am I doing here!?” scolding myself for checking Facebook or Twitter.
4) Write It Down First, and Then Prioritize!
Focused people are very clear about what they need to get done.
Writing down a list of tasks and prioritizing them immediately improves focus and clarity.
Several years ago, an overwhelmed administrative assistant in our IT services company was on the verge of quitting. The job was becoming a little too overwhelming as another division of the company began to grow.
I asked her where her list was, and it turned out she had none.
After our conversation, she started writing and re-writing her list daily, and then went on to serve our company for several more years. I’m convinced it was the habit of writing her list that saved her job and her sanity, while helping her to become extremely effective.
5) Use the Right Technology and Tools
Focused people tend to use the tools and technology that work best for them. Since the ability to focus can be a personal matter, so too are the tools that work best.
While it’s easy to get caught up in technology and gadgets, many highly focused individuals will use old-fashioned pen and paper. Others use apps or digital tools.
Writeroom and Brain.fm are a couple of my favorite tech tools for focus. Of course, The Habit Factor (app) [200,000+ downloads, iOS and Android- free and paid) was born as a solution to my very own focus problem! It seems to have helped a few others as well. ; )
6) Use Timed Focus Periods
The Habit Factor method established something known as the “minimum success criteria.” For example, do you write for 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 15 minutes? Do you do 30 or 50 pushups before you can check off the behavior (habit) for the day?
Establishing a minimum criteria for success (and tracking it) will, over time, strengthen the habit and at the same time enhance one’s habit of FOCUS.
I wrote this article (see the end) previously touching on the benefits of using an old-fashioned 4 minute, sand-timer.
TIP: When starting out, be sure to set the bar low— very low. Establish your first a period of focus/productivity for something like 20 minutes or less. Then, celebrate with a brief five-minute break, and go at it again!
7) Plan for Rest and Recovery
Extended periods of focus, by nature, will deplete your energy reserves. What’s interesting is that as the focus habit is strengthened and periods of intense focus increase, energy depletion doesn’t seem to increase proportionally. Rather, it appears that the focus habit itself becomes more efficient and less draining.
By creating The Habit Factor® (app/methodology) to solve my own focus problem, a great, unexpected benefit emerged: As my focus habit strengthened, my most-important goals (like writing a book or two) were realized more quickly!
So, it’s important to acknowledge the focus habit for what it really is, a foundational habit that fosters the development of other new, positive habits!
Until next time— #FOCUSON!