You’re working on an important task that your manager has just given you and you have to hand it in the next day…You’re already stressed with the work load piling up but this task has now jumped the queue into the urgent pile…Your heart starts to beat a little faster, you’re flustered and trying to work out the best way to completing the task but your mind becomes a little cloudy, then all of a sudden… ‘BING..BING..BING’
You try to avoid the temptation of looking at your phone, your eyes start to wonder and then after resisting the best you can, you find yourself rushing to the device and checking your messages. You then start to scroll through your facebook feed, then on your instagram account, then facebook again and so on. Before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and only one line has been written on your report.
This is unfortunately a common issue among many young professionals. The ability to focus is now considered more valuable than talent itself. Where did that come from? While social media is partly to blame for this, we must look into our own discipline practices and our craving for instant gratification.
Many people today believe the best way to stay alert and focused throughout their day is to multitask. They have it ingrained in their mind that if you multitask, it will ensure your brain is extra focused to handle more than one project. Unfortunately, this is a lie. According to Psychology expert Nancy Napier, the start/stop process of multitasking is “rough on us, costs time, less efficient and energy sapping”.
While more and more studies are beginning to support Dr. Napier’s research, many businesses are still inclined to believe the notion that the only way to get more done is to multitask. In doing so, more and more young professionals are getting sucked into this mentality and ultimately creating a limiting mindset.
Furthermore, as their concentration decreases, the demand to FOCUS is increasing. This is obviously counterintuitive and leaves many professionals asking the question..”Yes focus, but HOW?”
Let’s explore this together.
International best selling author and speaker, Simon Sinek famously said that the best way to reach great focus is “to focus on the destination OR clear goals” and secondly, be flexible enough to understand what is important and what is urgent!
The first step in having laser-light focus is to PRIORITISE your tasks. Yes you may have heard this several times before, even to the point of it being cliche…BUT..this is a crucial step in the process of achieving great focus habits. Aim to have your tasks arranged in order of importance the night before going into work. Why? This will clear up space in your mind to get into the zone OR achieve FLOW, in other words, clearing out the cobwebs.
The second step is to identify your PAIN POINTS or DISTRACTIONS. We cannot get work done if we are constantly distracted. The next step in achieving enviable focus is to identify everything that distracts you and get rid of it. Whether that be facebook, instagram, YouTube or even the news, put them away and get to the next step. You may be thinking, but my alarm clock is on the phone, BIG DEAL!! Did you know it only costs a couple of euros to buy a kitchen timer? The whole point to this exercise is to also eliminate excuses.
The third step is to practice the POMODORO TECHNIQUE. The Pomodoro technique is a time management tool developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. The aim is to force you to FOCUS on one task at a time using a domestic timer. There are 6 steps to follow in making this effective.
a. Choose the task you’d like to get done (highest priority)
b. Set your timer to 25minutes. Focus only on your task for this time period.
c. Take a short break (5mins)
d. Every 4 pomodoros, take a longer break.
When you have learnt to master the Pomodoro technique, attempt to focus for 90 minute intervals. You will notice the amount of work you will get done in that short period. Your day will fly by and your work load will be accomplished exponentially.
This process leads into the idea of time-chunking. A technique used by many top executives to achieve ultimate productivity. To time chunk effectively, simply block out 90 minute to 2 hr blocks throughout your day for the most important tasks. Ideally, major tasks are to be positioned at the beginning of your day. In other words, eating the ugly frog first.
The last step in achieving great focus is RECHARGING! Over the period of working, your eyes will get sore and you will start to fidget. The best action to take is to get up, stretch or even go for a walk. During this process, staying mindful is important to not have brain overload. This is why going for a walk is so powerful as it allows you to just breath and take in the atmosphere. Steve Jobs was an avid walker and strongly believed its positive effects to thinking clearly.
The dynamics of the business environment and speed can make it a little difficult to concentrate at times. This is why it is so important to practice using the steps above on a daily basis. Mastery in anything takes time but the benefits always out way the rewards. The top 1% of businesses are those which empower their staff, top-down to excel in concentration. Just like a solid brick wall, in order for a business to remain strong in all conditions, it must have solid foundations and everyone on the same foot.
Therefore; practice practice, practice and before you know it, you will be mastering your mind and able to focus like an elite athlete.
All the best