Some years ago, if I could describe myself in one word, that word would be “distracted”. I would jump from one task to the next and never seemed to get anything accomplished, often feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. The day finally arrived when I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere and I began a journey to develop better focus. Here’s what I discovered and what worked for me:
Distractions are everywhere and often we set ourselves up to be distracted. I do most of my work online, and that can be challenging if notification settings are turned on for things sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, email, instant messenger, and the like. Add a smartphone or an iPhone to the equation and you have the formula for a productivity meltdown.
Lose the distractions.
Turn off the phone (or silence it) and turn off all notification settings other than those which are vital to your work. You must focus all of your attention on the task at hand and block out the external happenings in order to develop your ability to focus and be effective. If your work does not require you to be online, the same principle applies. Eliminate any distraction that does not apply to the task at hand. This sounds simple enough, but breaking a habit takes some time for most. But don’t fret – persistence pays off!
Create a to do list.
Keeping a to do list that you actively update throughout the day is also very effective. After writing down each task, prioritize them and then check them off at completion. This not only helps you focus, but also will also leave you feeling confident, accomplished and in control.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff”.
Too often the small stuff steals our attention away from what we’re working on. I can play with the heading of my website all day long if I don’t have a self-intervention. It looks fine – no one will notice that it’s a fraction of a hair off center – move on. This is also known as procrastination. There are many reasons we procrastinate and I found that the most common reason for procrastination is lack of confidence. The only advice I have for this (and it works quite well) is take the plunge. Yep. Just do it. You’ll be surprised at what you’re able to do once you dismiss the mind monsters (aka self-defeating, negative thoughts). The more you do it, the more confidence you gain. The more confidence you gain, the more you do it. You gotta love how that works!
In order to develop laser focus you must apply yourself fully to a specific task until the task is complete and you must do this repeatedly and consistently. In doing so, you are re-training your brain to remain focused on one thing. You will be amazed at the amount of things you are able to get done by simply concentrating on each task, one at a time, until its completion. As with everything else, it takes effort to hone this skill, especially in the beginning. Practice makes improvement which develops mastery.
Get rid of the distractions, create a to do list, stay on each task until completion (checking them off the list as you go), don’t sweat the small stuff and be present. These four things will help you develop environmental self-control so you are no longer influenced by outside stimuli and you will have an amazing ability to focus and get the job done. Just remember, where attention goes, energy flows.