The subject of focus is a huge one, and very important, as being able to focus means that we are more productive and therefore get so much more done. To provide information that is helpful and doesn’t overwhelm I am going to cover this topic in a couple of different blog posts.
As the title suggests this one is about keeping that focus in the first place.
One of the key things for me is having an environment to work in, or a number of environments, that inspire and nurture me. With more home working and more flexibility in the work environment generally, this can happen more. While in the office, what can you do to make it the best environment it can be for you? This all adds to being able to focus.
Even if you are now retired, between jobs or working out your next step, there are always tasks to be completed and goals to be achieved so all these tips will work for you too.
1. Have a ‘to do’ list
Put everything you have to do down on a list and prioritise. You can do this in various ways so it may be A, B and C or Now, Next, Can Wait. Just do what works for you.
Take the top number of tasks and plan how to tackle them. Remember a bigger task may be 10 smaller tasks, or more or less. One of my mentors taught me to work with 3 things a day and when I do it things flow. When I don’t … well you can guess what happens.
Do the most important first and then move on.
2. Bunch tasks together
Focus on similar tasks at a time as this means your brain is not having to jump from one thing to another and the flow is easier.
3. Be clear about what you are aiming to achieve.
Set yourself realistic goals or tasks, whichever you choose to call them. It is likely that a large goal or project will need a number of sessions to complete. Be realistic about what can be done. Most of us are likely to think that we can do more than we can and then we get frustrated and disappointed in ourselves. By breaking tasks down into smaller chunks we give ourselves better likelihood of success and after achieving a small task, we get to celebrate and then move onto the next task. This motivates and inspires.
4. Be good to yourself
It is so much easier to be in flow and be able to focus if you care about and look after you. This means eating a healthy balanced diet, going easy on caffeinated drinks which have a tendency to raise anxiety, drinking water and getting a good night’s sleep. It also means knowing yourself and being aware when things are working and when they are not. If the flow is not happening try but know when to stop and come back to it later. Ensure you build in breaks.
5. Get rid of distractions
Most humans are easily distracted. Let’s face it, we are curious creatures. Nothing wrong with that but there are times when we do not want to be all over the place. Therefore, let’s get rid of those distractions.
While it’s probably impossible to eradicate them all, especially as you are not in control of everything that can happen, you can make an effort to reduce or get rid of as many distractions as possible.
Start with the simple things:
- Go to a place where you know you can work well. This will be different for different people. It may be a place all on your own or there may be people around. I can get a lot more done in a cafe even though there is a buzz than I can in a quiet alone space sometimes.
- Turning off notifications on your phone/laptop etc.
- Close the room door and if you have to (working at home) put a not to be disturbed sign on the door.
- Explain to others that you are writing/creating/developing…
- Set a time to work for, knowing that you can take a break after that.
- Ensure your space is tidy and organised. That pile of ironing in the spare room you use as an office can be quite appealing when you are meant to be doing something else.
- Play music or nature sounds if that helps.
- Wear ear plugs to cocoon yourself.
6. Try the Pomodoro technique or similar.
This works on sessions of time and trains your brain to focus for periods of time.
Start by setting a timer for 25 minutes and get to work. Then once the time is up you take a 5 minute break and then go again for another 25 minutes. Once you have completed this cycle 4 times then you take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
There are other similar techniques such as “52/17″ which works on the fact that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then take a 17-minute break. Another is ‘Pulse and Pause’ which recommends alternating periods of focused work, the ‘pulse’ with resting which is the ‘pause’. In this method, a work period is roughly 90 minutes long.
Each of these methods works on the idea of a period of focus and work and then the rest and recharge element, so experiment with whatever one serves you best.
The breaks are just as important as the work. We do not always appreciate this, feeling that we have to keep going if we have loads to do but without the breaks we just become less and less productive.
7. Be more mindful
If you find your mind wandering off, check to see whether you have been taking your breaks, drinking water etc. Then know that this is normal and develop a number of ways that you can quickly bring your focus back to where it needs to be. Breathing techniques, meditation and mindful movement, such as yoga, help.
8. Connect with nature.
Take yourself out for a walk. I find that you can take a challenge or subject out with you and ideas will flow and even solutions appear. However, going with an empty mind or with the aim of emptying it also can bring a similar outcome. You don’t have to walk far, it can even be into your garden or to a local park. You will return refreshed, recharged and with much more clarity.
Bringing green into your workspace also helps focus and concentration.
If you’re struggling with focus and want help prioritising, let’s have a commitment free chat and see how I can help you.