How do we keep a sharp focus? Focus is the blade you must sharpen to help you cut through the distractions and clutter you face daily to keep yourself performing at a high performance level. Continuing to exercise your focus like you would exercise a muscle builds your ability to keep your focus sharper longer. You have probably heard the example of how the Sun’s power gently warms the Earth with it’s heat, but if you apply a magnifying glass to that energy, you can burn paper or even cut diamonds like a laser. The more energy you can direct, the sharper the focus and the more powerful the outcome.
The principle is simple. The more concentrated we are, the better we get at most everything we do. Every time we get thrown off course or get pulled into a bunch of mindless Facebook updates or our text alarm sounds, it takes several minutes for us to regain our focus and get back to what we were doing. Imagine lifting weights in a gym or attempting to hit a golf ball. As you begin to sharpen your focus on the task at hand, someone interrupts you. Once your focus is broken, it’s going to take you a few minutes to regain it.
Here are a few things to consider regarding sharpening your focus:
1. Manage your environment rather than letting it manage you. Turn off your e-mail, your text alarms and other things that pop-up and grab your attention away from the areas you need to focus on.
2. Take a break every 90 minutes. Most e-mails and texts can wait an hour and a half for a response. While you are taking 10 minutes, check your message and take action. Most e-mails and texts can be answered within two minutes each. Don’t get pulled into a conversation, offer an alternative as to when you can get back to them if it requires a longer answer.
3. If you get distracted, catch yourself in the act. If you begin to tell yourself “I’m distracted now”, it will begin to cut a new neural pathway to help you catch yourself easier in the future. Once you catch yourself in the act, adjust your behavior accordingly and get back to your planned or scheduled activity.
4. Get plenty of sleep. One reason we find it hard to focus is it requires mental energy. A lack of energy allows us to be pulled off focus really easily. Being able to apply energy in holding our attention is the more effective route, but you can’t apply energy if your tank is low on fuel due to lack of good sleep.
5. Be specific about your goals. Have them handy so you can review them several times a day. Especially when we are really busy, our priorities can get lost when things are moving rapidly. Have the ability to grab your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals. Remember, your brain is not designed to hold everything in it, use notes and lists to free your brain from extra work. The more you can direct it’s energy toward focus, the better you will be able to perform.
Make sure you keep the reasons it’s important to keep your focus sharp around you as well. These might be pictures of your family, vacations you want to take, a house you want to buy and so on. Remember, there are reasons you work so hard to maintain your focus and great performance!