“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”
– Tony Robbins
“I need to focus,” is a familiar phrase. It’s often used to bring wandering minds back on track. But what exactly is “focus” and why is it so elusive and difficult to harness? Focus is the intellectual skill that permits people to begin a task without procrastination and maintain their attention and effort until the task is complete.
Many people are incapable or have a difficult time staying focused. They get easily distracted from their goals or lose sight of what’s important. This hurts productivity and causes stress, which can affect both a person’s professional and personal lives. Focus helps people pay attention amid distractions and setbacks while sustaining the effort and energy needed to reach their goal.
To make efficient use of your time and be more productive in your working day, the following list offers some practical ideas to help you focus on important tasks. To ensure that you’re making the most of your day, you should:
Set Clear, Realistic Goals
Make a list of top priorities for the day or week. This prevents you from reacting to every distraction that comes up. Review your list each morning and decide, realistically, what tasks you can accomplish, and be diligent. If a task cannot be completed in one day, plan ahead and schedule a time to complete it.
Although a to-do list is highly recommended, your mind may still wander. The key is to completely remove any distractions, such as social media, blogs, messages, texts, gossip, excessively loud work spaces, personal emails, frequent snack breaks, or unnecessary calls that may hinder your focus.
The Hate-to-Do List
These are tasks and assignments that we often avoid thinking about. They may be small jobs we believe we can put off and come back to later, but time has a way of catching up. They must be done, so instead of letting the idea of those nuisances linger in your mind, it’s best to complete them and get them over with. With these small tasks out of the way, you’ll have an easier time focusing on higher priority tasks that require more attention.
Don’t wait until the last minute, and don’t make excuses. To stop procrastinating, start on a task you’ve been putting off. If it seems too overwhelming to complete, divide it into smaller chunks that you can work through. As you clear out the jumble in your mind and desk, your focus will get better.
Work in 60- to 90-Minute Blocks
Once all distractions are taken care of, work on a task for a full 60 to 90 minutes. Working straight through this time will allow you to focus and devote your undivided attention to the task on hand. After this is done, take a short break to stretch your legs or even go for a brief walk. The amount of time you spend working should be long enough for you to get some meaningful work done, but short enough that it doesn’t overtax you, which will leave you more vulnerable to distraction.
Although taking small breaks throughout the day is beneficial, it’s also imperative that you take a longer break like a lunch or even a power nap to reinvigorate yourself and recharge your creativity. Being focused at work is the ideal, burnout is not. Overworking yourself has numerous long-term health risks, besides causing significant stress and mental strain in the short term.
Being focused and getting work done productively shows that you’re an ideal employee. These tips are designed to help you optimize your work day by focusing on what’s important. You’ll notice that once you’ve completed your tasks and goals on time, you’ll not only be stress-free, but more content.
Good luck, and stay focused!
Samantha Khan | Contributing Writer