8 Ways To Improve Your Focus
Taking four minutes to read this is a good start.
This post doesn’t need an intro.
You know focus is important (that’s why you clicked to read it) so let’s focus on what matters — how to get better at it.
1. Connect your work to a clear goal.
Focus isn’t easy. It takes time, effort, and active concentration.
That means to focus on something we have to convince ourselves it’s worth our effort and attention.
To do that we must understand how it relates to a clear goal.
The more an activity is rooted in a goal we want to achieve, the easier it becomes to focus on that activity.
2. Start. Then focus.
No matter how much our ability to focus improves, we’ll always struggle to focus at the beginning of a project or work session.
That’s ok. Just start. (The same way you get your dream job.)
If we wait to be focused to start our work, we’ll wait forever.
Instead, start and we’ll find the focus as we go.
Think of it like a camera — when we first pick it up and point it at something the chances are it’s not in focus. But, that starting point gives us the ability to hone in and gradually focus on the image in the way you want.
Focus doesn’t lead to action, action leads to focus.
3. Eliminate. Then choose.
Here’s how most of us choose where to aim our focus.
We consider the list of things we need to do and choose whichever seems most interesting or urgent.
There’s a step missing in that process.
Before we choose what to focus on, we must eliminate that which is not worthy of our focus.
The process of removing activities that don’t warrant our focus forces us to set priorities and narrow the scope of our work. It forces decisions about what matters and what’s a distraction, and thins the herd of things competing for attention in our mind.
It’s a better first step to focus than simply choosing something to work on.
4. Make your activity a necessity.
It’s easier to focus on what we need than what we want.
If we were drowning and the only way to survive was to swim to the surface, we’d have no problem focusing on that.
Because it would be a necessity and when something’s a necessity, focus is easy.
Now hopefully our activities aren’t as life or death as that example, but the more we make them feel like necessities, the easier we can focus on them.
5. Recognize the world’s working against you.
I’m an optimist and don’t believe people and situations are out to get us, but when it comes to focus I make an exception.
Because the world around us is designed to distract and interrupt us — everything from social networks, to offices, to entertainment, to advertising are specifically designed to steal our attention.
No wonder it’s hard to focus.
We must recognize this and take control of our own world in order to improve our focus.
These distractions are the enemy when it comes to our ability to focus so we must fight back and create our own parameters for the world we want to live in.
When it’s time to focus, we can shut off our phone, shut down our email, turn off the TV, and get out of the office if we need to — whatever it takes to keep the enemy outside the gates.
6. Don’t multitask.
We think multitasking makes us more productive. It doesn’t. Actually, it doesn’t even exist.
When we “multitask,” we switch back and forth rapidly between a series of different tasks. These each require their own focus, and that constant switching drains our focus.
It makes us less productive and impossible to focus.
Don’t believe me? Read this
Focus is a skill we develop over time. Like any skill, it requires practice.
I’d love to tell you that after you read this post you’ll be a focus master, but that’s not true.
If we struggle to focus today, we’re still going to struggle to focus tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.
But, if we work at it, we will improve. If focus becomes a priority for us, it’s an ability we will acquire.
8. Focus on more than the moment.
Our focus is about more than what’s happening right now.
It’s one thing to focus on a project in the moment, another to make it our focus for the week, and another to make it our focus for the year.
These various forms of focus are equally important and connected.
Our ability to implement different variations of focus makes it easier to execute each of them.
If we know our focus for the year, then it’s easier to decide what our focus for the month is, and our monthly focus makes it easier to determine our daily focus.
Not easy, but easier.
Which is all we can hope for when it comes to focus.
For more actionable ideas about how to improve your work, art, and life, check out my For The Interested newsletter.