9 Ways to Get More Focused
It takes intentional effort to be focused under ordinary circumstances! So far, 2020 has been anything but ordinary, so if you’ve struggled to get focused, you are not alone!
There are two types of distractions to contend with. Some distractions are internal – your own thoughts and emotions. Dwelling on self-doubt, negative thinking, fear, anxiety, worry, or lack of confidence all limit your ability to focus. These are distractions that a coach can help you work through and eliminate.
Other distractions that keep us from being focused are external, which reminds me of a story about a preacher who made a bet with a friend. The preacher was sure that his horse could successfully walk up the stairs to the second story of his home. The friend, on the other hand, was certain that the horse would not be able to manage the climb.
Guess who won?
The preacher won the bet with ease! Turns out the real challenge was not getting the horse up the stairs, but getting him back down! You see, the horse simply refused! No matter how hard the preacher tried to entice the horse down the stairs he would not budge.
At his wits end, the preacher covered the horse’s head and that’s when the horse dutifully followed the preacher back down the stairs. What did the clever preacher realize? That restricting the horse’s vision enabled the horse to take risks it previously wouldn’t take. The result: the invention of blinders.
Did you know that horses have a blind spot directly in front of their noses? You’d think that would be a full focus spot, right? Horses are also incapable of seeing their own tails! However, they do have outstanding peripheral vision, 180-degree vision in fact! In the wild, this powerful peripheral vision protects a horse from predators. Unfortunately, when it comes to completing a task, it leaves them wide open to distraction.
The Focus Solution…
The solution to eliminating external distractions? Blinders!
Blinders are leather squares or plastic cups that restrict a horse’s vision forcing them to focus on what’s ahead and rely more on the rider, jockey, or carriage driver.
Today, blinders are commonly used with horses when they are racing, working, or pulling a carriage to remove distractions and help them to concentrate on the task at hand. Blinders also help horses from being spooked and backing up. Wearing blinders signals to the horse that it is not just a regular day – it’s time to focus and get a job done.
Horses aren’t the only creatures prone to distraction. Leaders are susceptible too! And just like the preacher’s horse, distractions keep you stuck or in perpetual motion, but not getting where you want to be! Maybe you feel like a wild horse navigating your many responsibilities. It’s tough to know what to focus on when you are inundated with information to read, people deal with, tasks to complete, problems to solve, vision to cast, and more!
With all of that in mind, here are nine ways to get more focused:
1. Get Organized!
Attempting to work in a disorganized mess is counterproductive. Invest 10-30 minutes clearing away the clutter and organize your work area before you start working. You’ll be surprised at how it increases your focus and productivity.
In addition to getting organized, create a work space that you love! Working in an unappealing space will not encourage you to focus and it’s an energy zapper! You don’t need that.
2. Develop Routines
Routines are an excellent way to transition from one phase of the day to the next. Routines are also a fabulous way to ensure that essential tasks don’t get forgotten. What’s your morning routine? How do you kick off your work day or wrap it up? What’s your routine for re-entering home life? Ending your day?
3. Be Proactive
What a horse sees in its peripheral vision is what tempts it to stray from the path. That’s why blinders are so helpful. They proactively block out the distractions. Now, wearing blinders might look a little funny and not be all that practical, so what’s the next best thing? Proactively eliminating your distractions by…
- Turning off your phone and putting it away
- Checking emails at specific times of day, otherwise, keeping your email application closed
- Communicating when you will not be available to prevent disruptions
- Establishing boundaries
- Limit the time you watch the news – the perpetual bad news is a distraction that lingers long after you turn the TV off or log out of the internet
- Get enough rest – fatigue is a distraction
- Eat healthy and regular meals – being hungry is a focus killer
Do you work best in silence? Do you work in close proximity to others? Maybe, you need sound canceling headphones. Does music help you focus? Again, headphones are your friend!
A lengthy to do list is overwhelming. You can’t do it all! Attempting to do it all is frustrating and exhausting. That’s why it’s essential that you prioritize daily! What are the three most important tasks to be completed today? What’s is going to successfully move your closer to your goals? Completing those three tasks a creates momentum! You might even be able to move on to the fourth and fifth most important tasks!
The more you divide your attention, the less focused you are and the less effective you are. Not only does the quality of you work suffer, but so does your speed. Focus your effort on one task at a time.
6. Take Breaks
Remember how school was bearable because you knew recess was coming? The same idea applies to work. Working for an hour and then taking a short break allows you to be more productive both before and after your break. It’s also a nifty way to reward yourself for working hard and it gives your brain a chance to rest. You’ll be delighted by how taking short breaks refuels your creativity and concentration.
7. Set A Timer
It sounds silly, but setting a timer is a fantastic way to focus. It’s like playing beat the clock with yourself. I find it helpful to use an actual ticking timer – the sound reminds me that I have a job to get done. Setting a timer is especially helpful for big tasks or tasks you don’t especially enjoy. Knowing that you only have to focus on the task for a certain amount of time makes working on the task more bearable.
8. Hard Tasks First!
The most difficult tasks require the most thought and focus. That’s why it’s important to tackle your most challenging tasks at the beginning of the day when you are fresh. Once the hard task is behind you will feel like a million bucks! You’ll be more motivated and energized to handle the remaining tasks (or priorities) on your list! And you will be more focused.
A while back, a colleague informed my husband that he only read e-mails between 4:00AM and 6:00AM. While that’s not when I would want to tackle e-mails, I do admire how clearly he communicated his email policy to my husband. That enabled my husband to work more effectively with him. Whatever your policies or boundaries are, be sure those you work with are aware of them.
When it comes to putting blinders on, a horse is at the mercy of someone else. As a leader, putting the blinders on is your responsibility, and “blinders” are more necessary now than ever if you want to be focused!
What will you do to intentionally increase your focus? Even small changes make a big difference!
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Kapai.
This post has been revised and updated just for YOU!
Have you been making excuses about why you can’t focus? Take the NO EXCUSES 7 Day Challenge Here.