Have you ever wondered what the key is for outstanding performance? It is focus and concentration, pure and simple. This is an extensive manual that should give you everything you need to develop a laser-like focus fast. The ability to concentrate is one of the most important things that a person can do to improve the quality of their life.
Before we begin to narrow our attention and focus on our goal(s) it is very important to step back and look at the bigger picture. We often engage with dreams and aspirations on a very emotional and passionate level often overlooking the pros and cons of undertaking that assignment. We do not take the time to realize whether it is this that we want in our lives or something else. Once having started with the wrong mission, it often becomes difficult to see it to its end and we leave things incomplete midway through the process. One should realize what is meant for them and what is not.
Not everyone can be a musician, a chef, a gardener and an Astronaut all at once. It is essential to reflect upon your life in general and prioritize what you want from it. People tend to get carried awa1y with the possibilities that today’s world has to offer. One must realize that it is not about doing things in life but doing things that matter to you in life. Before focusing, one must find their calling and if you are unsure what you want from your life then focus solely on finding that. Set some time aside for writing down the life you want to live. It will be the most worthwhile time you have ever spent. It certainly is the most worthwhile time I have ever spent. There was a time when being a world traveler was simply a daydream that I wrote down on paper.
Ask yourself these simple questions and do not rest until you can answer all of them with surety.
1.What do you want to accomplish?
2.What consequence does your goal have in your life and in lives of others around you?
3.Is it challenging or attractive enough to put all your effort into it until it is completed?
4.What must you do to stay on the track and not give up half way?
You can answer these questions by investing little time into research. You can form a detailed and a clear plan of action and the potential course of your journey. Identify small achievable targets, which you can reach in a short duration of time and move on to the next step in the process. Increase your efforts and input as time progresses. Working without focus is like driving long way without any destination in mind. Just as a captain leaving port without plotting a course to the destination is negligence, the same is true in life.
The destination is the focus, but the course are the actions required to get there. We could keep sailing and sailing, but the chances of getting anywhere good are slim. The chances of starving at sea are much better. This makes the journey appear futile after a point of time and we merely return back to the starting point. Simply know what you want, write it out, plot a course to get there, and action action action! I know that this article is about focus, but all of these things are essential for keeping your focus. If you are trying to focus for a math test and can’t stay focused, maybe you are being too narrow. Why do you want to pass this test? Find motivation in your goals.
Here are five techniques that will help you to stay focused. If you chose to understand and follow these simple five techniques then it will become very easy for you to stop procrastinating and embark upon a journey, which you will see to its end.
1. Disconnect, Simplify and De-Clutter For Improved Focus
We live in an age of information but, in retrospect, it actually is an age full of distractions. While mankind has always been riddled with distractions, never have these distractions been so voluminous. From text messages, to phone calls, to unchecked messages in our inbox, we have several issues to deal with every day. Facebook, Twitter, Google only provide further distractions along with the bulk of information which they promise. The more we get connected, the deeper we find ourselves in the information pool and we get engaged in the harrying blur of multitasking.
It is a wonder that we manage to get anything done on time because there is always so much competing for our attention at all times. We are hardly left with any time to focus on one project even if it is as mundane as taking a bath. The MTV generation has an average attention span of only five minutes and it is decreasing every day as more and more attractions get added in our daily life. We always have texts to respond back to, advertisements that scream for our attention, readings on paper or in digital format and what not. There is the television not just on the television but on the Internet as well. And then if we can salvage some time from this entire information blur, we have our kids, spouses, and friends to listen to. This list could go on and on.
The extent to which our attentions are being toyed around with is scarily outrageous. It would be socially unacceptable for any individual to opt out of phone calls, text messages, or emails today. Interestingly, the act of giving up on email becomes highly courageous or scandalous and email is just one facet of this age of distractions. Being connected at all points is an expectation levied upon us by the society. I am not arguing against technology or social commitment in any way but just highlighting what we have got ourselves into without even realizing it.
The solution does not lie in returning back to the Stone Age. The solution lies in de-cluttering your working environment. This begins by changing our expectations of ourselves and of the people around us. Set aside time for focusing on different aspects of life. Try to do your emails in the afternoon, along with the rest of your busy work.
The three different processes of consumption, creation and communication get in the way of each other and prevent us from focusing on any project we want to finish. How can one opt out of all this distraction and find focus? The answer is simple. We need to create a different time interval for consumption of information, for communication of information and for our creative process. These should not hinder each other in any inclusive or exclusive way. You can begin by splitting your daily schedule into consumption and creation. Constant connection and distraction can take a toll on our psyche making us intellectually tired. Thus we often fail to complete a task and lose interest (read focus) midway through.
We need a time out from this constant distraction to engage in some quiet time just for ourselves. In this quiet time, one can deliberate, contemplate and reflect upon the life and what one wants to lead. This is most often accomplished by developing some kind of a morning ritual, where you get up an hour or two early, and do what it takes to get you primed and ready for your day.
Zero in upon what matters to you the most. Prioritize your goals. Making a list on paper helps because it makes you see all your goals in one place. This helps you choose between what is more important and what’s not. You should experience what it is like to wake up and not turn on the Internet. Go for a run in the morning instead, sit back and enjoy your cup of coffee while reflecting back on your actions and plans. These become your moments free from distractions. You don’t have anything new to ponder upon and your mind can effectively focus on your priorities.
These are the times when we can realize the power and beauty of disconnection. We become fully connected with the real and immediate world that requires our attention, leaving the big macrocosmic world in the background. You will also find that doing this will make it much easier to focus throughout the day. If you are waking up last minute, and scrambling to make it to work on time… You definitely aren’t setting yourself up for success for the rest of the day. Stress kills focus, remember that.
By disconnecting you enable yourself to:
1.Have more time and space to work
2.Accomplish a lot more
3.Reflect and contemplate
4.Create clarity of mind
5.Break apart from the information overload and rest your mind
How to de-clutter your mind, and work life.
Here are few steps that can help you de-clutter and simplify your daily routine making you focus more on the activities you like.
1. Kill the Internet – Especially during the morning – This will skyrocket your ability to concentrate
Begin by killing the Internet. This can be done for any period of time that is comfortable for you, but I recommend doing it first thing in the morning. It is where you will garner the most benefit. It is OK to turn off the Internet and enter real life for a while. Try doing this for at least the first couple of hours you are awake. Facebook will be there later. Whether you do it in the morning or the evenings though, it is important that you at least have a disconnect time of your own every day. You can begin by allotting it time intervals in your daily routine.
2. Get outdoors
There is something about being outdoors. It can actually be an amazing therapy. The sounds, shapes, and colors you will find in nature is like a relaxing massage for the mind. Go out and observe nature.
Outdoors are amazing place to treat yourself to some quality alone time. You can rest your mind from many distractions when you enjoy a walk in the park or just sitting in front of trees. It is true that in this capitalist age driven by the market, distractions crop up just about everywhere but while you are on the outside, keep in mind to not take in any new information. Do not bother about the billboards displaying advertisements of the latest shoe in the market and instead try and recharge your batteries. Nature has a way of reliving stress and healing negativity.
Know what you want. We all want different things in life. At times we want many things together. It is necessary for you to prioritize your needs and wants. Make a list of your goals and set them in the order of their importance. Sustenance is vital. It should not get overlapped with your hobby. Hence something like learning to play a guitar should come second in the list to earning money for bread. Remember while you are earning money, forget completely about your guitar and while you learn to play the instrument, do not worry your mind about your job. They should not overlap each other and therefore prioritizing your tasks and goals becomes necessary. For if your ambitions overlap, your efforts are watered down and lose their edge preventing you from finding success in either.
Smaller work focus/single-tasking
We all inhabit a world of multi-tasking. A good multitasker is not necessarily more productive. We have that habit of stepping in two boats at once. While writing a poem, we attend calls or take breaks to smoke and have a chat thus partially if not totally forgetting the actual task of writing in the process. Multi-tasking means switching between different tasks. This takes a toll on our nerves eventually because it exhausts the mind. Even if we somehow program ourselves not to get tired after all the multi-tasking, we tend to lose interest in one task or the other.
While multi-tasking, we are more prone to commit errors because the different tasks become much more complicated when done at once. Hence it is important to direct our attention towards a single task at a time. This improves the quality of effort put in by the individual and improves the results and the beneficial consequences of our actions.
We become habitual to multi-tasking and, as a result, our brain develops a shorter attention span in order to enable us to switch between tasks. Thus it is important to step back and focus on a single imperative before we move on to the next challenge. This strengthens our mind and makes us devoted to our task.
Imagine a life where you single-task. For an instance when you set down to play your guitar, that’s all you think about and do. There is no distraction from the other spheres of your life and all your efforts go into picking the six strings in your hand. Charles Dickens who was a major critic of utilitarianism and its effects on our lives once wrote: “He did each single thing as if he did nothing else”. This is the kind of focus and attention required to see each of your tasks to its proper conclusion sans lag. Whether it be working on your school project or making green tea if you are completely absorbed in the task the scope for falling short on efforts get reduced and your work performance rises in general.
The effects of single tasking on our lives can be summed up as we:
● Become more focused
● Effectiveness of our action increases
● Become better at anything which we choose to do
● Begin to effectively utilize and manage our time
● Lose ourselves in anything which we deem worthy of our time and investments
● Enjoy the process more!
So how can I effectively single task?
Be aware of where you are concentrating your focus.
While you do any activity, be conscious of what you are doing. Also be conscious of the urges to switch between actions. These urges come from distractions of the mind and one must be totally aware of them. We often switch between tasks unknowingly and mostly out of habit. This tendency must be checked in order to single task effectively.
Choose wisely. Ask yourself, what should I be thinking about and doing right now? That simple question can help you get focused on what is most important, and taking action in the right direction.
In order to remain focused, you must choose wisely what you want to do and accomplish. Before doing anything, think whether you want to do that or you are doing that merely out of habit. Check your urges and have the courage to manage them in your life. You can do it if you choose to. Do not mindlessly become a slave to the many distractions around. If you have undertaken a job, then commit to it.
2. Invest Your Heart and Soul – Don’t Multi-task
If you plan to write an essay for your school project then commit yourself to writing. Do not write and chat on the social media at the same time. Invest your complete being in the task you appoint yourself with. If you are dedicated towards your task, and nothing can prevent you from completing it, then you have total focus. Many people I work with merely think that they can’t focus. I ask these people how many things they are doing at once, remove the distractions, and voila, instant focus. When I take away all the distractions from what they are doing, they are only left with one thing to focus on. It is pretty simple.
We often have our minds disjointed into several different zones all at once. It is no surprise that we find ourselves ruminating about things like our job, relationships, and last night’s football game on T.V. etc. while we are out on our morning exercise ritual. This decreases the intensity of the effort that we put in and makes our actions less effective. In order to draw out the best from our exercise routine, we must invest ourselves completely into it forgetting for a brief while everything else that is going around in our lives.
Practice makes perfect
It would not be possible for anyone to snap out of the age-long habit of multi-tasking. It is not possible to become focused all at once and requires just as much patience as it requires practice. Initially, you would be riddled with a thousand distractions and urges to do something else while you are on your task at hand. Shortly, these distractions get reduced in number until you can fully absorb yourself into the task you have committed to. This takes patience and time to come and is not something that can be attained instantaneously. Bear along with yourself in your effort to become more organized in life.
Create an MIT (most important task) list
While there would be a long list of things to do in your life, pick up just a few things on a daily basis that you would call your most important tasks. Create an MIT list every day and try to complete each task mentioned in it before you move on to do other things. This will help you sort out your priorities and see every goal to its completion. Once having completed all the tasks in your MIT, you can move on to satisfy your urges like having a chat or hanging out on social networking websites.
3. Commit; don’t give up
What distractions essentially do is that they reduce the interest you develop in doing your task at hand. Your mind at once is wandering in different prospects of tasks and you can’t seem to focus on any one subject. Because you are preoccupied with many avenues at once, it becomes difficult to concentrate on the work at hand for long and your mind wanders to other things that you could possibly do.
In order to maintain focus, it is vital that you commit yourself to the job you have undertaken. Decide that you are going to get this done, and leave zero room for any other options. Burn all bridges of escape from accomplishing what you have set out to accomplish. There should be no half-hearted attempts. The goal should be clear from the very start. The journey is only a means to an end. The journey is nothing in itself until it reaches its culmination.
The culmination of the journey is rewarded in terms of success. We all want to succeed in our lives but can often find it difficult to properly complete anything we start. This happens due to the problem of commitment. We are unknowingly afraid to commit ourselves. This commitment phobia does not occur only in jobs but in everyday relationships as well. Many relationship problems could be easily solved if both parties would truly commit to each other, in not only time, but fundamentally commit to being with that person for the rest of their lives. It makes you treat them different, and find solutions to problems more than someone who you don’t think you’ll be with for very long.
It is a must that we do not give up half way. People have the habit of convincing themselves that it won’t matter if we switch from the task at hand since we can return anytime we want and finish it. What should be kept in mind that once that disjoint occurs in any work the quality of the effort you chip in gets reduced. Keep doing it until it is complete or you will loose momentum. Focus and momentum go together hand in hand.
Imagine you start building a house. It goes on for six months then you lose interest. This loss of interest can occur due to a variety of reasons. Maybe you are financially or emotionally under prepared or you immerse yourself in your daily job leaving out the construction project for later when you get time. Meanwhile the house is getting damaged by the elements. It is going to be much harder to fix what has been damaged, and continue forward than it would have been to have just completed the project the first time. Your mind having once adapted to the task now has to reconfigure itself all over again once you stop midway. Then when you resume the construction the process of the mind shifting gears takes place. This is a skill that takes a lot of practice to develop. In between, you find it hard to focus on other jobs you have because your mind keeps wandering back to the unfinished house project. They call it a loose end. Just finish what you start out to do. Otherwise you are going to waste a lot of time confused and focusing on your confusion. This should be avoided at all cost. I’ll say it again, focus on one thing at a time, and keep focusing on that one thing until you have finished it.
Once having undertaken the project, you must remind yourself not to stop until the work is done. Therefore it becomes important what you chose. Do not choose projects whimsically. It would make no sense deciding to lose weight and work out during a time when you are suffering from flu. Your body just won’t cooperate. Hence decide wisely what you want and once having decided stick to the plan until it is properly executed. Half attempts mean nothing tangible unless they are executed to their culmination. Do not worry if it takes time. Instead of dropping the project altogether, look for alternative approaches to the work, seek guidance, plan a different course of action but do not give up. Your investment to begin in the first place should count ad act as an imperative to carry on.
4. Effortless Action/ Effective Planning
It would make no sense if one spends up all his energy and resources in mindless action. Focus requires meticulous planning or else all of your efforts could result in nothing at all. Albert Camus in his myth of Sisyphus illustrates the uselessness and redundancy of mindless action even when the person involved was totally devoted and focused on the task. When you decide to achieve something, focus is not enough. You need to carefully draw out an action plan that will yield desirable results. A well-defined action plan has many benefits such as:
When you begin with an action plan you are velar on your objectives. You have a good sense of where you are headed and what you can expect out of your efforts. It is important that you be detailed here what you want the end result to be. Think of it as an outline for life. You can do this for smaller tasks as well that you would like to optimize.
Check your progress
An action plan makes it possible for you to keep checking your progress. This is possible because you know how far you have progressed following the course of action that you have designed for yourself.
Up your game
Because one is clear about the progress made in the venture undertaken, meticulous planning also enables one to raise the level of their game when required. You have a clear sense of the trajectory of your task and where it is headed for. Hence you know when the time is right to put in an extra effort and when you can take it easy and let it flow. This advantage of changing gears comes only if your action course is determined in advance.
Efforts go in the right direction
If you have a carefully designed action plan then your efforts are directed towards something constructive. Just having a good idea is not enough. You should know how to act and when to act and in what manner to act. Planning ensures that you don’t tire yourself out needlessly. Shooting arrows in the sky only get them to hit by them on their way back down. Hence plan in advance to see your efforts bear fruits.
You might be asking what is the best way to plan? In order to chalk out a course of action know your routine well. If you do not have any definitive routine then create one for yourself. A routine life is essential for anyone to succeed in life. One can only go as far leading a bohemian life with no sense of direction. Planning and deliberation is a must if you want to succeed in this world.
5. Take Rest; Don’t Exhaust Yourself
This was something that was a challenge for me when I was first getting started. I would work for weeks on end, until I burned out, and then wouldn’t get anything done for weeks. You get a lot more accomplished when you regularly rest. Rest is important in order to focus. If you want to improve your attention, your mind needs to be completely rested and fresh. Nobody can focus with a tired and a distracted mind. In order to maintain the concentration upon the task at hand, your mind needs to be fully receptive. If your mind were ready to engage with the task at hand, it would be very easy to find focus for you. Your mind can only engage with your task if it is rejuvenated. There are several techniques to rejuvenate your mind and prepare it to engage with your job completely and holistically. Follow the given steps to relax your mind and then engage in your task for a more focused approach.
Meditation is the best method to refresh your mind. It involves sitting and clearing all that goes on in your head. All the doubt, every question and any idea that comes to you should be put aside for later. For the time you meditate your mind should be like an empty cup. Focus on your breathing. Take out a fixed amount of time every day for you to meditate and relax. Listen to some relaxing tranquil music while you do it, or simply sit in silence. This prepares you for the hard work that you are going to put in later.
Meditation also gives you practice for focus. When you meditate, you are present in the moment focusing on your breath. If you haven’t meditated before, you will be amazed by the journey that you can go on in your mind. This is all achieved by focus. Those who meditate regularly find it much easier to stay focused and present in the moment. It becomes automatic. If there were only two things I could say to take away from this article and remember, one would be to meditate daily, and the second would be to set up some kind of morning ritual. Why not just set up a morning ritual that includes meditation?
Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Process…
Work should not be a compulsion but an enjoyable experience. It is natural that you can get overwhelmed by the demands of modern life. Take out some time for yourself and enjoy life. Appreciate the efforts that you have put in and trust yourself to succeed. Do not worry your mind with the impending tasks and unfinished goals. You are working on them and they shall come when the time is right. Go watch a movie or spend a night out with friends. Rewarding yourself for your dedication is a must in order to keep the efforts going. It will also give you an extra boost to use when crunching towards that deadline.
It can also help with focus if you can find something about your task that you enjoy. Even if you can’t find something that you enjoy about what you are doing, believe that it is teaching you to be a better person, or that it is somehow preparing you for the future. This will help you enjoy the task more, and also want to focus on it more.
Reflect On Your Progress Daily
The intensity of your efforts depends upon what you think about the project. Your expectations and your motivations can change over time. This makes people give up half-way through a project. In order to avoid this lack of interests, periodically sit back and reflect upon what you are doing and where your efforts are going. Try and understand the nature of your efforts and what more is needed from your behalf.
This mental exercise is important because it gives you the psychological boost it takes to achieve large goals. This can also allow you to put things into perspective to make sure you are taking the most effective actions to get you towards your goals. I do this by taking out a sheet of paper and writing my goal on the top. I then write out everything that I am doing to attain it, and any other thoughts that come to mind. This action will seriously boost your inspiration. Just do it.
In this article I have delivered 5 amazing tools for improving your concentration and focus. What did you think? Did I miss anything? Be sure to share this article to help your friends!
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