The key to staying focused and productive over long periods of time has far more to do with the act of stepping away—rather than pushing through and grinding past the point of exhaustion.
We are humans.
We have a finite amount of energy, we are dependent upon food and sleep, and we often forget what it is we’re aiming for the longer we keep our heads down, working through tasks.
Staying focused, then, becomes an art of knowing when to be unfocused.
Being productive is about giving yourself time to be unproductive.
It’s a balancing act.
So, with that in mind, here are 3 ways I step away from the grind (for the moment) to ensure long-term productivity and focus.
1. If I want to write, then I read. (Push/Pull)
Whatever action you want to do that entails Output, you need to figure out what action feeds that output — also known as Input.
For example: If I want to write a lot (output), then I need to read a lot (input).
Without reading, my writing becomes stale.
With lots of reading, my writing becomes rich and full.
Because that’s how the balancing act works. You need to give yourself food before you can exude energy.
2. Detox from technology as often as possible.
I find that the more time I spend on my phone, the more agitated I get.
The more frustrated, the more antsy, the more distracted, the more clouded, the more everything I don’t want to be.
So, as difficult as it is, I wake up every day determined to practice not being on my phone as often as possible.
In fact, many times I will walk into my apartment, do a final check for emails and texts that absolutely need to be responded to, and then I’ll throw my phone on my bed, on silent.
I won’t touch it for hours.
And instead force myself to sit at my desk and work (usually write). I find that whenever I do this, I am so much happier.
I am also much more focused and productive.
3. Practice “looking” at an object for long periods of time.
This is a meditation exercise I sort of stumbled upon, and have since become absolutely fascinated by.
Have you ever really looked at something in your room, or an object anywhere, really?
Have you ever looked for so long that you felt like that object and that object alone was suspended, emanating its own energy?
Have you ever looked so long that you could see its shadows, its mannerisms, its unique textures and patterns — things you would never notice at a glance?
Really “looking” at something is such a quieting experience.
It’s also how the greatest painters fully understood the soul of whatever it was they were painting. Try looking at something for a long moment and asking yourself, “If I was to try to paint this, how would I capture that shadow? Where do the angles intersect? What does this really look like?”
If you can sit in this moment long enough, you will find yourself very, very quiet.
You will sink into silence, and very quickly you will find yourself inspired.
This is the value of meditation, and a way to give yourself more input — to be later used for extremely focused and productive output.