[By: Martin Grunburg]
“The successful man is the average man focused.” ~Bruce Lee
“Most ‘unsuccessful’ people are just highly-distracted people.” Anonymous
It’s important to first share that The Habit Factor wouldn’t exist without my own focus challenges. While I’ve never been officially diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, I’ve always struggled with focusing my attention and, therefore (by extension), goal achievement.
Hence, the birth of The Habit Factor!
“What?” You may be saying.
That’s right… and strangely enough there are still “coaches” who insist you should ignore your weaknesses.
The list is endless when it comes to expertise developed from the ashes of one’s weakness. Just off the top of my head, Jim Kwik is a great example. Due to a brain injury he struggled with memory and learning, so he developed a speed-reading, memory-improvement and brain-optimization program.
So, if FOCUS is your big challenge (and it won’t be getting any easier in this “age of distraction”), let me share a few quick tips that continue to help me, and while I’m at it, it occurs to me that you may want to sign up for the FREE Focus and Discipline Webinar (replay).
Focus Precept #1: You Are ENERGY
Here’s another quote for you: “A five-watt lightbulb can barely light up a closet, yet that same energy focused into a laser beam can cut through steel.” ~ Unknown
Energy can either be dispersed in a multitude of different directions at any moment or, it can be channeled and focused like a LASER BEAM.
Whether the above statement is even entirely accurate or not should be of little concern. The power that comes from focus (concentrated energy) is ENORMOUS.
Consider it this way: If you are energy and your goal (out there) is going to require energy to be achieved, then the consistent, recurring behaviors (habits) you develop via concentrated focus will be your key to goal achievement.
Keep this in mind too: Habit is the most efficient form of behavior energy.
As your energy is likely to wane throughout the day, be sure to select your high-energy periods (this is unique for each person, some prefer evenings vs. mornings, etc.) where long stretches of focus are required.
Focus Precept #2: Before Focus Comes CONCENTRATION
To concentrate means: “to gather or collect people or things together in numbers or in a mass.”
Think of concentration as a collection of energy — resources (time, energy), knowledge, etc. In order to focus, concentration must come FIRST. The gathering of YOUR ENTIRE BEING is real concentration.
Gather your SELF — your energy — in order to improve the quality of your focus.
Bring whole, concentrated and quality energy to any given moment you can focus best.
Good energy includes, of course, a good diet, exercise and quality sleep!
Focus Precept #3: Before Concentration comes SELECTION
There is a relentless battle “out there” for your attention so it’s your responsibility to be constantly vigilant and protect your focus by CHOOSING carefully.
The Focus and Performance funnel looks like this: Energy -> Decide/Selection -> Prepare/Concentrate -> Focus -> Perform. Note that focus is near the bottom of the funnel, meaning you have to get the first few things right in order to realize quality focus.
What have you decided to focus upon?
BTW: When you say “no” to unimportant things, by default you begin saying “yes” to the things that are important.
What is the outcome you desire?
Are you CLEAR on that outcome?
Clarity begets selection, which precedes concentration.
Focus Precept #4: The Speed of Focus is SLOW
“Muddied waters left to stand become clear.”
Slow down — or better yet, STOP!
The speed of FOCUS is SLOW and/or stopped. A frenzied pace equates to little if any concentration.
One of the quickest ways to focus is to STOP moving and just sit there.
Look at the image above and you can quickly see how the PRACTICE of meditating is a gathering of concentration of resources, which is required to focus well.
Focus Precept #5: Time Blocking
If energy is your number-one resource (and all those “things” that make up quality energy), then it stands to reason that TIME is number two. By allocating time periods and setting minimum focus periods a la the Pomodoro method (see PARR and minimum success criteria), you concentrate the TIME you do have.
A good quote to remember is this:
“You will never have enough time to do everything you want, but you will always have enough time to do the most important things! ~ Brian Tracy
And that idea, of course, brings you back to selection!
Focus Precept #6: Environmental Distractions and Controlling Your Environment
WHERE you attempt to focus matters.
Take a good look around your work environment to ensure it is conducive to concentration.
Are there any noises, distractions? Where is your phone? Are notifications turned off on all devices? Can people easily interrupt you?
Consider playing classical music and/or try Brain.fm.
Is the environment cluttered?
Focus Precept #7: Keep Flying the Plane! The Cost of Interruptions
Here’s the productivity analogy you’ll never forget: Each time you interrupt your focus:
“You just landed the plane, stupid!”
Before a plane takes off toward its destination (goal), there is a great gathering and concentration of resources: gas, pilots, crew, mechanics, etc.
Then the plane hits the runway and, after expending a bunch of energy to get off the ground, it is finally flying at full speed — cruising toward its goal, and then…
You lose concentration for a moment. You begin to wonder what the weather is going to be like this weekend. Or, what the score is. Or if your social media post is getting any love. Or…pick your distraction.
The thinking became a bit too hard, so you needed a “quick break.”
YEP! YOU LANDED THE PLAN, STUPID!
Now, the COST to re-gather the resources, re-concentrate the effort — pick up the pieces and begin again is akin to landing the plane and then having to take off once again. It comes at a tremendous cost to your energy and time. Your flight is now delayed, significantly postponing your time of arrival.
Each distraction likely equals at least 10 minutes in lost productivity just getting back to where you left off. It is probably much more than that.
Now the interesting thing is, there are really only two types of interruptions: those WE create for ourselves and those that are put upon us.
It’s fairly safe to say that for those who struggle with focus and concentration, 99% of interruptions are self-induced!
That is, we check our cell phone for a text. We check Facebook for an update. We check Instagram, our stocks, the weather, surf update, the game score. (See this post: Your Life Is Slipping Away in 15-Minute Increments.)
Wrapping It All Up!
Next time you struggle with focus, run through these precepts as a checklist for yourself. AND in order to ensure that you don’t land the plane, put your phone on AIRPLANE MODE! We like to call it CONCENTRATION MODE!
Some FOCUS resources:
Podcast: Is My ADD Ruining Me?
Season III 04: With Henry J. Evans “How to Focus Better”
Pandora (Classical music and Indian Classical for meditation)