Finding Focus

The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear. ~Brian Tracy

Focus, Focus, Focus!! How often have you heard that said? Focus is the new mantra. But equally I hear people say ‘I can’t seem to focus!!’ The world seems to be competing with you for your attention all the time:). And this will just get more intense with the increasing proliferation of digital media.

Let’s get the basic tips out of the way first. You may have heard these before so here goes:

  • Plan your day in advance
  • Have clear results in mind
  • Prioritize ruthlessly
  • Track progress continuously
  • Break large activities into bite-size chunks so you can get moving on them faster
  • Learn to say no to people when you need to concentrate on something
  • Complete everything you start

Yes, these are very useful and form the basis of time and attention management but honestly, for this one, I believe there is no one size fits all. Each person has different responses to various external stimuli Eg. Some people concentrate better with music whereas others need silence to hear their own thoughts!! Some people work better with a plan while others spend so much time agonizing over the plan that they forget to get things done!!

I often get inspired byNewton’s first law of motion – “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it”. Roughly translated that says an object in motion stays in motion. So the trick is to keep moving, fight inertia and concentrate on staying in motion and on track.

My first suggestion to you is to become aware of what takes you off-course most often – is it your phone? the ‘you’ve got mail’ pop-up? hunger pangs? coffee cravings? the cute girl/guy who sits on the other side? Or yourself? (Yes, sometimes we just distract ourselves because we don’t really want to do something) Once you have identified what distracts you, you are ready to roll

–  Make time for your distractions. I know popular advice is to stay away from your distractions but considering they are distracting you so often, be it your mail, phone, friend, coffee etc., it’s obviously something that takes up your mind space and something that you want to do. So schedule breaks in your work for these distractions and focus well the remaining time.

–  48 minutes of High-Focus in each hour. One trick that works really well forme is to break my hour into high focus periods followed by short breaks Eg. Focus exclusively on something for 48 minutes, spend 10 minutes relaxing, stretching or indulging your distractions and then use the remaining 2 minutes to get back on track and plan your next 48 minutes of high-focus activity.

This doesn’t mean you keep looking at the clock!! Use a timer and after some time your mind will get used to it. If you are so engrossed at the end of 48 minutes that you don’t want to stop, well then you are focussed anyway and maybe you don’t need this break :). The time span of high focus may be different for you and you need to experiment to find your perfect fit. The 10 minute break is meant to be an energizer so choose activities that perk you up and keep away from activities that pull you down. And remember, the key word here is ‘high’ focus not simply working at your usual pace and then getting up for a break every 48 minutes 🙂

–  Visualize you day. Don’t just plan the next day, try to visualize it. Try to live through it and identify your feelings as you imagine yourself completing each planned task. The points/ tasks where you feel negative emotions or lethargy are the red spots that need to be your high-focus points for the next day to stay on course.  Identify the triggers that caused these feelings during your visualization and try to get them out of the way in advance. Also, if there are activities you feel less positive about while visualizing simply because you don’t like doing them, simply plan to get them out of the way first or schedule them during a high energy time.

The best part about visualization is that it also gives you a picture of what it feels like when you have achieved the desired results and this can be the magnet for your sub-conscious mind to get things done.

–  Don’t forget to reward yourself when you’ve completed an important task in your day. These could be small rewards like taking out time for a chat with someone, playing a short game or simply a small piece of dark chocolate.

–  Meditation is not a complicated or time-consuming activity despite the many myths that abound. It can be done for a mere 5 minutes and still be immensely beneficial. It provides training in self-discipline to be able to focus on one activity and block out all thoughts from your mind.

So take out a few minutes, close your eyes and focus on nothing but your breath. Do not allow your mind any other thought for those few minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it gets every time!!

At this point I rewarded myself for completing this blog by playing a short game(4 minutes) online so now I am back on track, ready to move on to the next activity on my agenda with renewed energy 🙂

If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.

~Isaac Newton

Copyright ©2011-12 Shweta Handa-Gupta. All rights reserved.

Finding Focus

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