Train Yourself to Focus
In a world where stimulation lurks around every corner and the need for constant entertainment grows with the release of each new technological device, the ability to focus becomes an elusive talent. It’s not that we don’t want to focus and get whatever it is that we need to do done; rather the issue for many is that we lead busy lives with issues and situations that constantly demand our attention or force us to seek a means of escape.
Unfortunately, many of us never develop our passions enough to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves or fulfill the big dreams we’ve told ourselves we would accomplish. And so we end up missing out on major opportunities that come our way. We fail to meet deadlines, complete tasks we enthusiastically started, and lead the successful lives we know we were meant to lead, all because we lack the ability to focus. A client of mine, author Rosalind Henderson, wrote in her book, “When we enjoy our daily activities, we focus our attention on the task at hand, blocking out external noise.” This statement is true in my life and I’m sure for many others also; but what happens when you love what you do yet still have an issue using your time effectively and focusing on the task at hand. If that sounds like you, then chances are there are some sneaky focus stealers in your life that need to be eliminated or, at the very least, put in check. If left unaddressed, these seemingly harmless factors in our lives can end up draining our focus and rendering us unsuccessful at reaching our goals.
Which of the following do you struggle with? Sneaky Focus Stealers
Social Media The kingdom of social media has unfortunately capsized the priority lists of many and weaseled its way to the top. Most people check their social media platforms first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and at frequent, random intervals throughout the day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the list goes on and on, have become the centre of our social lives and, dare I say, self-worth.
Tip: Keep a running log (in a journal or notebook) of every time you log onto your own social media sites, whether to post a status update, picture, or just to browse. How much time cumulatively do you spend on a regular day on these platforms just for the sake of staying plugged in? If your result is more than two hours a day, cumulatively, then work on decreasing that number by five or six minutes each day over the next two weeks. The less time you spend on social media, the more productive you will be in your everyday life.
Smart Phone I absolutely love my Galaxy S4 smart phone, but sometimes I think of it as a necessary evil. Smart phones have now become the gateway portal to access all things communication, entertainment, information, and everything in between. Most of us are glued to our phones—we sleep with them within arm’s reach, and should we by chance leave home without them, we feel like a limb is missing. Yes, you need your phone for communication purposes, but if you find yourself unable to survive an hour without checking it, then it is likely one of your sneaky focus stealers.
Tip: Make a conscious effort to keep track of your phone use. If you’re spending two to three hours checking, scrolling through, and being entertained by your phone, then it is most definitely eating up too much of your day. Set specific time blocks in your schedule to take breaks from your work or the task you’re working on. Stick to those time slots and only use your phone recreationally during those times. When your scheduled break is up, put your phone away in your purse or desk drawer.
Peers Relationships are important, but the people who really care about us will also understand that we need to have sacred time to ourselves to get our work done. One of the most challenging tasks I face as an entrepreneur is balancing time between my relationships and my work. If I’m not careful, I’ll lean either too far left or too far right on this particular spectrum.
Too often we lose ourselves socializing, chatting on the phone, or even gossiping at length without the discipline to restrain ourselves. Though our family and friends are essential to our emotional and mental health, they can also become barriers to our focus.
Tip: Utilize your daily schedule to block out time that you consider untouchable. Dedicate this period of time to focusing on your work. You may choose to go to a coffee shop, your local library, your home office, or any other space that allows you to have quiet, uninterrupted time to yourself to do whatever task you have to fulfill. Explain to your close friends and family members that this time block is meant for you to focus and that you will return their calls or hang out with them as soon as you’re done, providing it’s not an emergency.
Life is busy, and at any given time in the day, there are multiple things vying for our undivided attention. As a result, we develop an attention deficit of some sort that prevents us from zoning in on one thing and doing it well. One of the major culprits of poor focus is an ineffective use of time and the presence of the focus stealers above. If any of the three stealers mentioned here is a part of your issue or if there are others that you can identify through prayerful self-reflection, then make it a point of your duty to be more intentional about how you go about your day, especially as it relates to fulfilling your daily objectives. Master your distractions and minimize your focus stealers. It takes some practice; but you know what they say about practice, that’s right, it makes perfect!