Thought for the Week – F is for FOCUS

Last week’s Thought for the Week was “E for Environment” and I hope you found some value in that because my aim for these posts is to offer you value.

So, this week is all about “F for Focus” and this something many of us can struggle with, for instance if we get into overwhelm.

Focus is something pretty much all of us wish we had more of. At the same time, most of us struggle with this on a daily basis. Whether we’re trying to concentrate on a task at work, block out the distractions of the modern world, or even just stay committed to our long-term goals.

Attention has become a wild, seemingly untameable beast!

But research has shown that people who can focus for sustained periods of time regularly perform better on all sorts of cognitive challenges.

Whereas constantly giving in to distraction leads to decreases in creativity and poor decision making.

The problem isn’t just that we’re distracted. It is also that few people really practice how to focus.

“Focus is a muscle, and you can build it. Too many people labour under the idea that they’re just not focused, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you drop this mistaken belief, you can take a much more realistic approach to building focus.”

– Elie Venezski, Author of “Hack Your Brain” –

F is also for FLOW and staying focussed empowers is to stay in flow and build momentum.F can also be for FORESEEING OBSTACLES and if we are focussed, we will be able to see these coming up.

Next week will be about GOALS and if we want to achieve our goals successfully, of course we need to work out which of our wishes are realistic and which ones we need to let go of, at least for now.

Another quote for you …

“Mental contrasting is a powerful tool to link desirable goals to present reality. By imagining the future and then imagining obstacles of reality, one recognises that measures need to be taken to overcome the obstacles (status quo) to achieve the desired future”

– Oettingen, 2012 –

How to apply it …

So, how do you go about rebuilding your attention and learning how to focus? It starts with understanding the power of focus and then building the right work habits, environment, and mindsets to promote it.

Well, for most people, deciding how to learn how to focus comes from a number of motivations such as: –

  1. Us wanting to be more productive and feel good about what we’ve accomplished at the end of the day.
  2. Working towards learning a new skill, building a better product, or overtaking the competition
  3. Trying to protect ourselves from the giddying amount of distractions in the modern workplace.
Whatever your reasoning, it’s probably safe to say that you realise that people who can focus get more done in less time.In that way, Focus is the Ultimate “Productivity Hack.”

We all have the same 24 hours!

“What matters more than the length of time you put into a thing is actually the intensity of focus. Because if you have an intensity of focus you can actually reduce the amount of time spent doing it to get the same or better results.”

– Srinivas Rao –

Srini points to Steven Kotler’s book, The Rise of Superman. In it, Kotler found that top executives are 500% more productive when they’re in a state of flow, or deep focus, compared to when they aren’t.Even if you’re not in a state of flow, focus helps us to get more out of the day.

Staying focussed and sticking to one’s plan is hard work.

Dealing with temptation; the power of believing that you CAN stay focussed. This strategy produces automatic behaviour. That is, we don’t have to make a deliberate effort in confronting tempting situations.

There is nothing more motivating that the power of small wins. I call them “Milestone Wins” towards reaching our Goals.
As the saying goes; “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

If we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, we may find the challenges and chores of everyday life too much and then it is difficult to stay focussed. In this situation, if we take one small step and take a short walk outside, be in nature for a few moments, our challenges can suddenly seem less burdensome. (Last week I spoke about Environment and these steps also help with this)

Here are the 5 Essential Elements of FOCUS: –

1. Be Master of Your Technology.

While there’s no escaping the fact that smartphones, email, IM, news, Netflix, and 24/7 access to the knowledge of the world have destroyed our attention spans, remember that technology is there to serve you, not the other way round.

The default settings on your devices and in your apps are designed to take your attention away. And you need to change them right away. Get rid of notifications and keep your tech out of sight whenever you don’t actively need it.

2. Create a Focus-friendly environment.

Again, I cannot stress enough how important our environment is because our working environment plays a massive role in our ability to focus. And yet, many of us don’t pay attention to it.

Start by clearing out as much clutter as possible (a team of neuroscientists found that clutter competes for your attention and decreases performance while increasing stress).

Avoid noise if you can by using headphones or listening to music that energises you to be more productive. Some offices have an “interruption stoplight” to signal when people are focussing and not to be interrupted at that moment.

3. No more ‘Multi-tasking’ and Less Task-Switching.

If you haven’t heard by now, multitasking is a myth!

When we try to do 2 things at the same time, we are actually switching back and forth between those tasks. And it can take us up to 11 minutes each time to refocus and get back into our flow.

Even worse, the more we multitask, the more our brain looks for more things to do at once. Single tasking, on the other hand, rebuilds your focus, lowers stress, and can even make you more creative.

4. Have clear Expectations around Communication

One of the biggest internal factors that chips away our ability to focus is our expectations around communication.

Research has shown that 84% of people keep their email open all day long, with 70% of emails opened within 6 seconds of receipt.

Even when we’re not receiving emails, the findings showed that the average knowledge-worker checks their email every 6 minutes.

To rebuild focus, we need to have open conversations around communication.

  • When do people expect a response?
  • Can you set times where you’ll check throughout the day so everyone is on the same page and not waiting around for you?
 You can’t be focused if you’re assuming your attention can be pulled away at any moment.
5. Have more breaks away from your computer
Looking at Facebook or checking your email isn’t a real break. Taking real breaks means leaving your computer and phone behind, standing up, maybe even going outside or walking around your workspace.A real break completely takes your mind away from what you’re doing, giving it the ability to reset before you hit the desk again.

The research shows that the kind of unfocused, free-form thinking we do during breaks helps our brains to recharge.

If you find it difficult to fit in real breaks, try scheduling ten-minute meetings with yourself throughout the day.

I hope this has been useful and thank you for reading to the end!

If you have found even just one golden nugget from this Thought for the Week, then job done!

As always, if you haven’t already, I invite you to book your free clarity session with me HERE.

Have a great week!

With very best wishes for your success.

Leave a Reply