How to Keep Focused and Productive
Definition of FOCUS – the centre of interest or activity (noun)
Focus is the most critical ingredient for achieving our goals, especially today when we find ourselves being swallowed up by a myriad of distractions. The energy of the mind is attention, so where we place our focus determines where we expend energy – either on interesting non-productive pursuits or on essential tasks and projects that help us achieve our goals. Discovering the importance of and exactly how to keep focused is critical to our future success and achievement.
We live in a digitally driven world where notifications come swooshing across our screens; pings interrupt our train of thought as they signal a message, another email, tweet or an ‘irresistible’, limited time offer; and we put even more apps and software on our mobile gadgets, intending to be more productive but in reality, setting ourselves for more distractions.
We even have the option to wear our mobile devices as watches. This further ensures we become a willing hostage to checking our latest updates, interrupting our focus and wasting valuable time on exciting but non-essential time-consuming tasks.
While mobile phones and devices have significant benefits, especially helpful when running a business or needing to contact someone, it is all too easy to use our phones as an excuse or diversion from those hard tasks we all have to tackle. Soon, checking phones and distracting our workflow becomes a habit, and we all know how habits can be hard to break.
Furthermore recent and ongoing research has been highlighting the dangers of being too plugged into our gadgets. Many people are becoming addicted to their phones, and there is even a name for this phone addiction – Nomophobia. Our brains are motivated towards pleasure and away from pain, so the perceived anticipation of what a ping or notification might mean for us, what exciting news or possibility drives us to check it out. Our brain starts craving more, and in anticipation sends a shot of dopamine, which creates an urge to recheck our phone or mobile device – again and again.
So – how to keep focused is a crucial question we need to keep at the forefront of our minds on a daily basis.
Apart from the obvious – removing our phones from our workplace, leaving them at home when we go out with friends or have dinner with our families, here are four quick ways that will help you create new habits for your day. When you use them you will be helping yourself to keep more focused on what is important and essential.
How to Keep Focused
- Take five minutes to plan your day. Yes, you say, that is obvious. While it is obvious, most people don’t do this first. Write down 1 – 3 tasks that are important, and you must focus on today. You can even make one or two non-negotiable items. Put this piece of paper where you can see it, remove all distractions (yes, turn your phone off or put it out of sight and sound) and commit to getting going. Write down this question. ‘Am I focusing on what is important right now – or what is interesting?’ Place it where you can see it and read it frequently. By sighting it often will help you keep your mind and your attention on what matters most.
- Set a clear intention before you start work on that critical project. The energy of the mind is attention and where you focus is where you are placing your attention, your energy. And what you focus on grows. When you steer your mind towards what you want, you are in charge. Take a moment to imagine yourself having completed this task and feel how great you will feel. Tapping into how you feel helps your brain create chemicals that match a positive and momentum fuelling feeling. Do this often, and you create a positive internal state that acts as insulation to today’s distraction and stressful world. You also have learned one step on how to keep focused.
- Chunk your time and manage your time around the task you are doing. I create thirty-minute blocks and like an athlete, have a warm-up, race and cool down. I spend two minutes getting preparing what I need, ensuring I remove distractions; twenty-five minutes entirely focused on doing the task – like race mode and lastly, a couple of minutes to cool down. I stop and breathe, drink water and re-focus. Check out the short video here.
- Lastly, at the end of the day ask yourself ‘Did I do my best to keep focused on what was important today?‘ Give yourself a score out of ten and keep a tally every day. If you didn’t get a high score, review and reflect what happened. Ask yourself what you can do differently tomorrow to ensure you do keep on track, make a plan and act on it. When you review your day consistently, you will create a good habit that will help you focus on the important. Oh, and now you can reward yourself with a few minutes connecting with your mobile device. Using it as a reward is a great way to keep your usage in check and preventing wasting time and focus on non-essential things!