Focus is a big deal these days, mostly because it seems so hard to come by (thanks a lot, social media!). There's always something else that will demand your attention, whether it's the laundry, a phone call from your sister, your cat, someone texting you... or even realizing that you really need to file your nails (guilty!).
Anything can be a distraction if you let it. But the good news is that focus can be honed. It's a skill and a muscle that develops just like our ability to remember names and faces. And don't tell me you're just "bad at names." I worked a job for four years that required I remember the names and faces of hundreds of clients, and believe me, when you practice, you get better.
So, how exactly can you increase your ability to focus? Here are three steps that I have personally used to become more efficient, productive, and yes, better focused.
Step 1: Set Aside Designated Focus Times Early in the Day
If you know there's a big project you must complete that will require focused intention for a period of time, get it done earlier in the day if you can.
Interestingly, if you push it off until later in the day, the brain can often expend energy in preparing for that focused time - or, more likely, worrying in preparation for that upcoming focus time! Have you ever experienced that?
Give yourself a little break (and preserve your energy more effectively) by getting that task done earlier in the day. Mental focus does take energy. You will be tired after you finish a stint of focused time, so the better rested you are going into the project, the more quickly you'll be able to complete it on time and well.
Step 2: Examine Your Goals
What exactly is it that you wish to accomplish during your focus time? Sometimes we want to check something off our to-do list so badly that we'll set unrealistic goals for ourselves.
For instance, this morning I looked at my list and saw, "write blog post, revise script, create email string for a client."
Uh. Not gonna happen! There's NO WAY I can write a good blog post, revise an entire 65-page play script and write 6 emails for a client in one day. At least, there's no way I can do it well. And I don't know about you - but at the end of the day, if I can't finish my to-do list, it doesn't really feel that great.
So a better way to phrase these tasks would be, "write blog post, spend 30 minutes on script revisions, map out email string for 30 minutes." Now that feels like something I can do! And who knows? Maybe 30 minutes will turn into 40 and I'll get the task done entirely.
Step 3: Take Frequent Breaks
Expecting yourself to be able to focus for hours on end is a really difficult challenge. When I was in college, students would go to the library and study for four straight hours - or more - and become completely exhausted. By the end of the day, they couldn't really even remember the last things they studied.
Breaks are so important. Drink lots of water, do something physical, do something creative, anything to give your brain a little break! Not to mention that when you move your body after a long period of sitting and working your body can more easily incorporate the new information.
Time off is just as valuable as time on.
So, how do you get things done? Have any tactics that help you stay focused? Leave your ideas in the comment area, below. If you'd like further reading on the topic of focus, check out this article from Entrepreneur Online.
Allison Volk specializes in creating authority and visibility for businesses and entrepreneurs through effective content marketing. Her clients have appeared in The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, Mind Body Green, LifeHack, Bitter Lemons and DentalTown.com, to name a few. Find out more at www.TheBlogBabe.com.