Taken from the Collins dictionary. Focus is defined as:
‘If you focus on a particular topic or if your attention is focused on it, you concentrate on it and think about it, discuss it, or deal with it, rather than dealing with other topics.’
Most of us know that if we want to get the best out of something we are doing, be it a work project, task or something we are completing at home – focusing purely on the job in hand, is the way forward.
Having said that, I recall when growing up that it was seen as a positive, particularly for the females amongst us, to be able to multi-task. A common myth that women are good at it.
So, what is true?
Me personally. I can multitask. I can do it pretty well. I think when you run a home, a family and work, it’s a given. However, that’s not to say that multitasking is realising my potential. I know that I produce my best work when I am all in. Completely and utterly concentrating and focusing on what it is I am looking to complete – this puts me in flow. When in flow, I know I get frustrated if I am interrupted or anything is attempting to distract me. This is when I know I am all in.
I also suffer from ‘monkey mind’. This sees me moving very quickly in my conscious and subconscious mind from one subject to the next. This can often continue if I wake up in the night – not conducive to productivity when you haven’t had the sleep that your body so needs.
The world has become so noisy. All around us are constant interruptions, requests, notifications, an almost hourly expectation of instant gratification from our email.
So what can we do to improve our ability to focus?
Develop your focus through practice. There are a number of ways you can do this.
Sit quietly inside or outside. Make sure you are comfortable. Either stare at a black dot on the wall or pick an item in the garden to look at. In Robin Sharma’s book ‘the monk who sold his ferrari’ a task called ‘heart of the rose’ uses a flower as your point of focus. Start doing this for 2 minutes, then gradually increase until you can comfortably zone out all around you and become all ‘in’ concentrating for 20 minutes or more. If you find your mind wandering, simply bring yourself back into the room.
Start yoga. In the balancing exercise that is within yoga, I’ve learnt that if I even wander in my mind for a second, my balance is lost completely. They advise you to focus on a spot / item that isn’t going to move. I promise you, it works!
Learn meditation. This has been massive for me. With my recent health challenge, I took lots of positive action to ensure that I take better care of myself mentally. This included 1:1 meditation sessions. I know monkey mind comes a bit too easily to me. I’m learning strategies to address this. I know that if I don’t control my mind, it will control me. I’m a massive advocate of mediation.
Effective diary planning – plan your activities that you need to focus on, just like you would a meeting. Batch activities together. For example, I’m writing this blog right now and I’m completely in flow. I could continue to write more blogs and I would be completely focused and not distracted. Batch working really works. Just remember, you probably focus for around 90 minutes. Ensure you take regular breaks, stay hydrated and eat healthy foods to keep your blood sugar level regular and your brain fed, avoiding sugar and caffeine as pick me ups as this just creates cravings and energy crashes.
Use a timer to keep you on track. Don’t come away from the task. Stay on track until the timer goes off.
Improve your awareness of distraction. Work hard to avoid the ‘whilst I’m here’ approach. I am so guilty of this. This is when you start a task, then get distracted to another and start that, then repeat again and again. Until you have several tasks on the go and none are completed. Learn the discipline to STOP yourself when you feel this happening. The timer can really help reign you in if you feel yourself doing this.
By applying some of these tips over a 28 day period consistently, you are working hard to change your daily habits. Those 86,400 seconds we have available to us every single day suddenly start to come to life when we focus and make the most of the most precious commodity we have – our time.
Lets to be better together.❤