How To Stay Focused
By Leo Gura - January 24, 2014 | 15 Comments
The key to being extremely productive & clear-minded
Hey, this is Leo from Actualized.org, and in this quick self-help segment, I’m going to talk about how to stay focused. Focus is the topic of the day.
Focus is an important topic. Why do you want to stay focused? If you cannot focus, then you cannot be productive and you cannot get any work done. Then you’re staying in place in your life, or you’re sliding backwards. You’re not moving forward the way you want to.
Whether it’s focus at school, focus at work, or even focus in a relationship, or focus in a hobby that you’re doing, or whatever, being able to focus is critical to getting you the results you want. It’s actually not only critical for that, but it’s critical for your happiness too.
We human beings are really not multitasking machines. We suck at multitasking, despite what you might hear out there. We are much better when we’re focused. When we’re focused, and we’re super focused, and we’re using our skills in a process that is challenging to us, and we’re able to match our skillset to the challenge that is coming up, then what happens is that we actually get into a state of flow.
This is a psychological concept from Csíkszentmihályi, who was a famous psychologist in the positive psychology movement, and he talks about flow, it being the state of ease that you enter into, and total absorption when you are focused on a single task, and you’re doing it, and you’re excelling at it, and you’re doing it very well.
How do you actually stay focused? What are the practical ways to get this abstract notion of flow to come into your life? A couple of simple points here that you can go implement immediately. Flow, or focus, is all about eliminating distractions. What are the distractions, right now, that are keeping you from being focused?
Make A List
Go ahead and sit down, pause this video, and jot down five things. What are five things that are keeping you distracted in whatever area of life you want more focus in?
Are you not focused at work? What is distracting you? Is it hunger, because you’re not eating in the morning? Is it your boss who comes in and disturbs you every fifteen minutes? Is it emails? Is it the Twitter feed that’s pinging you? Is it your cell phone that’s vibrating from texts you’re getting hit up with? What is distracting you?
What about school, what’s distracting you there? What about in your relationship, what’s distracting you there? Sit down and identify those factors. Once you’ve got those identified, I think what you’ll find is that one of the biggest factors that you’ll find is multitasking, you trying to do multiple things at one time.
That, of course, is the antithesis of focus. When you’re doing multiple things, you are not focused by definition. You’re splitting your focus. When you split your focus, it’s like we had the Sun, and it was a bright sunny day, and I gave you a magnifying glass and said “Here, you can take this magnifying glass, and if you hold it up at the right angle, and you hold it steady, then you can burn that ain’t right there on the ground, or you can set that leaf on fire.”
At first thought, you’d say “Wow, that’s amazing. I can’t believe that’s true. Let me try it.” Then you’d take that magnifying glass and you’d run over and you’d try to burn an ant, or burn a piece of leaf.
If you didn’t listen to the fact I told you that you have to keep it steady, and you have to focus the rays, then what’s going to happen is you’re going to just move it around and you’re going to come back and say “What the hell? Nothing worked. You’re lying to me. This doesn’t work. It’s not possible to take the Sun’s rays and burn anything with it, they’re too weak.”
Of course, the problem is you didn’t focus the rays first. That’s exactly what it’s like in your life. If you’re trying to get some success in your career, in your business, at school, what you need to do is put your full attention on it. You need to bring all those rays to a point. You need to bring your thoughts to a point. Your mind has to be focused on whatever it is you’re doing.
We can’t do that if we’re trying to talk to our boss on Skype, and simultaneously answer an email for a client, and text with your girlfriend or boyfriend, and trying to cook lunch, and trying to listen to the radio. If you’re trying to do all those things at once, you’re going to be really miserable and you’re actually going to be performing all of them suboptimally.
You’re going to feel very frantic and overwhelmed when you’re doing that. Here’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to eliminate the distractions and really restructure your life so that you have time, quiet time to just focus on one thing at a time.
Working In Block Time
This is called working in block time, and I cover this concept more deeply in my personal development blueprint, which you can find on Actualized.org. What I’ll briefly mention about it here is that to work in block time, what you’ve got to do is basically set off sixty to ninety minute blocks throughout your day, where you sit down and work on a task and you do nothing else.
You do not let yourself get distracted by anything else. You don’t let yourself get up and do other things. You just focus on that one task, and you don’t do multiple tasks at the same time. It’s a very simple concept, but do you actually have it implemented? Very few people I find do.
Even when you know about the concept, it still takes some time to actually go and restructure your day so it’s like that. That means that, when you sit down to work, you sit down and say “OK, what’s the most important thing I’ve got to be doing right now? I’ve got to check emails? OK.” Then you sit down and just check emails, for sixty to ninety minutes you just check emails, nothing else.
You don’t check your cell phone. You don’t check your text messages. You don’t browse the web while an email is loading. You don’t talk to your boss. You don’t go up and grab a bagel. You don’t do anything but checking emails. You do that for sixty to ninety minutes.
Then, because you’ve been so focused on checking emails, you’re going to find, first of all, that you’ve checked a lot of emails and you’ve basically got that task done. Because you were so focused, so determined, you got a lot of work done, you were able to concentrate.
Then, because you were so focused, now you’re a little bit exhausted, because you did put a lot of mental energy into that task. Now what you’ve got to do is give yourself a little bit of a break. Ten to fifteen minutes. That’s where you can go and grab your bagel, talk to your friends, text your girlfriend or whatever.
Then, fifteen minutes later, you come back and start the next task. Maybe you need to do another session of email checking, or maybe you’ve got to do something else. Maybe now, you’re going to have a meeting with your boss. You do a meeting with your boss, for however long that needs to take.
Don’t make these blocks too long, because you’re going to get exhausted. Sixty to ninety minutes. Do that, and then take another break. Basically, have your day broken into these blocks so that you focus on single task.
What you find this way, if you develop this discipline, and really prevent yourself from multitasking, shut off all the distractions, close the doors, close the computer screens, close the web browsers, shut down the cell phones, you’re going to find that each one of those tasks is getting completed so much faster.
Maybe before, where checking the emails would take you half a day, you just focus on it for ninety minutes, without any distractions, you’ll get all your emails checked in just ninety minutes. You’ll be surprised. Right now, you might be thinking “I’ve got to put in as much as time as I can. My work and my productivity is tied to the amount of time I’m putting in.”
Actually, your productivity is more tied to your focus and the energy you’re putting in. A task that should take ninety minutes can easily take half a day, or a whole day, if you’re doing a bunch of other things while you’re trying to do that task.
Here’s what happens: every time you get distracted, studies have shown it can take up to ten to fifteen minutes to get your mind back on track with the activity you were doing. This especially applies if you’re doing creative type of work.
Let’s say you’re drafting up a plan for your business, or writing a complicated piece of code, or you’re planning a presentation you’re going to give at work. If you’re doing something creative like that, that requires a lot of your thinking skills and creativity skills.
You’re sitting there and making that presentation, and then your boss comes in and interrupts you twenty minutes in. You talk to your boss for five minutes and he walks out. Now, it might take you ten to fifteen minutes to get back to that mental state you were in when you started, before your boss came in.
That is setting you back, because those ten to fifteen minutes it’s going to take you to get back into that flow state is time that you’ve lost, time you’re not productive. Also, it’s just not satisfying to us as human beings.
Our psychology is not satisfied when we’re always interrupted, and we’re not able to finish things off. I think that is the key to focus, to just shut off the distractions, and to have the discipline to do that.
I know I personally don’t have enough discipline, so lately, I’ve actually been working on this. I’ve been shutting off my cell phone more. I’ve been muting my cell phone. I’ve been giving myself more quiet time to do the things I need to do.
Otherwise, I can’t get done the important things that need to be done. I can’t focus. For example, right now, I’m doing an hour of meditation in the morning. To do an hour of meditation is challenging because I do have other obligations. I could be checking emails, I get phone calls all the time, I get text messages.
What do I do? I have to just shut it off. I have to shut it off in my mind, I have to shut it off in the real world. If I’m sitting there and my cell phone is not muted, there’s not way I can meditate. I have to mute my cell phone. Just a practical little tip, but it gets me focused.
Again, going back to that list of the five distractions that you have. Now I want you to come up with a list of five things you can do to eliminate those distractions. What would that be? What does that mean for you? If you go ahead and do that, and you implement this working in block time technique, you’re going to find that your focus skyrockets.
Your satisfaction skyrockets. You’re going to be in the flow a lot more consistently. You’re going to be happy, and you’re going to be way more productive.
This is Leo, I’m going to wrap it up here. Go ahead and leave me your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to focus and how these techniques work for you. Then of course, please like this and share it.
Don’t forget: go to Actualized.org for more advanced personal development videos like this, where we really teach you how to become a high perfomer in your life. Focus is just one of those parts, and there’s many other components to that, and I cover focus a lot more in depth.
You can go there and check out my free videos, sign up to the newsletter so you always get new stuff that I’m publishing every week.