It’s so easy to lose focus, and become susceptible to being busy but not productive. Sometimes we miss deadlines and unfortunately we even put off important things and then we wonder where our concentration has gone.
Successful entrepreneurship and productive leadership require a sharp focus and high effectiveness. So how do you cultivate great concentration and improve your focus?
Here is the ultimate focus guide:
1. Increase awareness. The first step in improving your concentration is to organize your thinking. Concentration is a learning and problem-solving skill. If you want to improve it, start by becoming aware of how your mind works when you are trying to concentrate. Focus tip: Keeping a journal will allow you to record and track your thinking over time and find patterns that will help you in the future.
2. Starve your distractions. When you’re doing something important, block out as much distraction as possible. Turn off phones and close emails, chats, etc. Remind yourself that it will all still be there when you get to it later. Once you know what distracts you, it’s easier to make it fall away. Focus tip: Track a baseline attention span. As you work, record the time whenever you lose focus or need to stand up or walk around, then reset it. What things improve or hurt your attention span?
3. Get enough sleep. We’re learning more and more that inadequate sleep affects your mood, motivation, judgment, and perception of events, along with your physical health and even your weight. It’s more difficult to focus and process information well when you’re sleep-deprived. Focus tip: Take sleep seriously. You should only sacrifice your sleeping hours in true emergencies.
4. Eat well. One of the most fascinating things about eating is how various ingredients enter your brain through your bloodstream. Whichever elements make it through to power your brain will help you to either maintain or lose focus. Try to avoid the energy-crash cycle and maintain a steady blood sugar level by eating protein, good fats, and complex carbs. Focus tip: True brain foods include blueberries avocados, green vegetables, nuts, almonds, seeds, fatty fish, and dark chocolate, with green tea and water to drink.
5. Pay attention to your environment. Work in the quietest, least distracting, best-stocked and -organized space available to you. Figure out where you focus best and tailor the environment to your needs. Focus tip: You can be even more productive by keeping your work space clean, organized, and free of clutter.
6. Alternate easy and difficult tasks. Your mind requires recharging to function at its best. Give it a break by arranging your schedule as much as possible to vary the degree of difficulty throughout the day. Focus tip: Start with the tasks that require a lot of attention, then add less demanding jobs in between.
7. Plan well. Planning your day will give you an idea of what you need to focus on and when. You may want to start with something simple to give yourself a boost, or tackle something you’ve been procrastinating first thing. Work around your needs and energy level. Focus tip: Structure your daily work around the question “What are my highest-value activities?”
8. Break it up. Some are just too big to tackle all at once. If you’re facing something daunting, convert it to a series of smaller jobs. Focus tip: Work backward from your deadline to structure big tasks.
9. Manage your energy. Your daily routine should be set up to give your body and mind the periods of stimulation and rest they require. Artificial stimulants like caffeinated drinks may help you power through a period of fatigue, but overreliance will take a toll on your health. Focus tip: Anything in your day that doesn’t contribute to your effectiveness or your personal work-life balance is not a good investment of your time.
10. Reward yourself. A reward may be external motivation, but it can inspire you all the same. Set it up in advance that if you finish a task by a certain time, you will give yourself a specific award. Focus tip: Rewards don’t have to be have to be extravagant to be effective. A walk outside or a long lunch can be enough.
11. Don’t fall for the myth of multitasking. If you really want to accomplish something, do one task at a time. The ability to focus is largely improved by constant concentration and practice. You can’t really concentrate when you’re multitasking. Focus tip: Get in the habit of doing one thing to completion before beginning the next instead of switching up tasks.
12. List and visualize. Get a head start on in your mind. Prepare by asking what you may need to complete the job and how you will carry it out, then imagine that the task is complete. Focus tip: Find a quiet place, close your eyes, quiet your mind and breathe deeply. Imagine that the task at hand is already done, and let that good feeling keep you going as you work.
13. Learn to delegate. Delegation is at the heart of productivity. Focus tip: Ask yourself if a job can be passed to someone else. If so, then why not free up your time, energy, and mental real estate by assigning this task to someone else?
14. Mindful meditation. The power of mindfulness can help you declutter your head. Just 20 minutes a day of any kind of meditative practice will train you to have greater control over your mind. Focus tip: Meditative practices help us to acknowledge that we can have a million thoughts at once, and it teaches us how to deal with them.
15. Have patience. If you’re working to overcome bad habits and processes, there will be a certain amount of trial and error, up and down. Remember, the process is as important as the result. Focus tip: You will not have razor sharp focus overnight. It’s like building a muscle: the more your train, the bigger and better it will become. Every step, however small, is important.
16. Base priorities on what matters most. An effective schedule is built on prioritizing your most important tasks–which doesn’t mean the emergency of the day, but the tasks that are most closely connected to your overall goals and purpose. That may mean spending some time to identify what you want most. Focus tip: To identify your priorities, list the roles you play in life. For example: parent, boss, leader, coach. Then list the most important tasks to be effective in each role.
Better focus means better work, calmer days and more free time. The down side? There isn’t one.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
THE LEADERSHIP GAP
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.