An act of concentrating interest or activity on something.
We use the term in many ways. “I need to focus on my family”, “This picture is out of focus”, “She’s very focused on her goals”. Most of us, myself included, don’t fully take advantage of what true focus has to offer.
Over the last few generations, the ability to focus on one thing has become nearly impossible. Between text messages, Skype, email, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, your overall work responsibilities, or just plain laziness, it becomes nearly impossible to focus. Even the way we describe an ideal worker— “ability to multitask” — is something that you see frequently in a job description.
I for one can say that for the first 11 years of my career, I was trapped in this perception that in order to be the best worker that I can be, I had to leave focus behind, and constantly be switching from one thing to the next in order to get the most out of my day. In meetings I was checking my email. While emailing I was texting with my wife. During lunch, I was working on a presentation. Everything I did, I did without focus. And only now, pondering on my past, can I say that my lack of focus only held me back.
What is focus time? It’s a time where you accept that multitasking is a myth. It’s a time where you turn off all outside distractions. It’s a time where you take ONE thing, and put ALL of your effort towards that and only that. All of your creativity, all of your passion, all of your self — focused on that one thing.
The Best Time to Focus
That’s going to vary by person. Some people enjoy the night, some people it’s just after lunch. For me, morning is my time. To truly get the most out of that time, I first need to focus on myself — my health and nourishment. So each day, I start with a 25 minute workout followed by a healthy breakfast, and a shower. That’s when my time starts —that’s when I can get the most out of my day. For the next 2 hours, I turn off all distractions. My email is closed, my Skype is on do not disturb, Facebook is closed, my phone is off and my mind is focused on one thing at a time.
Focus on What?
I don’t…well… I try not to waste a second of my focus time. I don’t work on trivial tasks, like email, but the items on my plate that take more thought — more time. That presentation that I have to give next week. A document for an upcoming sales meeting. A Medium post about focus. Everything else can wait.
If you’re at all like me, this won’t come natural at first — I still feel anxiety at times if I let my mind wonder to what emails I’m missing or critical items I may need to take care of. However, like with anything you do enough, it will become a habit. Focus time will be the most productive time of your day.
I’ll admit, I still don’t focus the right way all the time. Just this week, I fell flat on my face, and in turn, failed to complete what was needed — meaning I worked far more hours than is humanly reasonable in order to get it done. I’m still learning. Still adapting. But I do know that those days that I do truly put aside that time, and allow myself to throw away all distractions — it’s those days that not only am I the most productive, but I’m the most productive in less time, meaning more time for my family. Looking at my career, I wish I could go back to the younger me and gently nudge him to accept that it’s not about doing everything — but doing the things you can with the time you have.