A great manager of time has the ability to point this laser light of concentration on a task to the exclusion of everything else.
Without focus, your quest to get things done is futile. You may get a few quick tasks out of the way. You may get your work done in tiny little chunks. You may even get through your daily to-do list, but without the ability to focus, you’re doomed to a wandering mind, interruptions, and your subconscious playing games with your priorities.
There are high level focus techniques out there that you could learn to hone-in on your tasks even if there is a fire alarm going off, but quite honestly that kind of stuff can take months if not years of continuous practice to perfect, and for most of us probably isn’t worth it.
Being the productivity junkie that I am, I prefer to focus on the low-hanging fruit of the world. The low hanging fruit of focus revolves around one simple thing – freeing yourself†of distractions.
- Free Your Environment of Distractions
- Free Your Body of Distractions
- Free Your Mind of Distractions
Free Your Environment of Distractions
We’ll start with an easy, but often overlooked area that has a drastic impact on your ability to focus – your environment.
Take a deep breath and imagine for a moment you’re on a beach. You’re lounged out on a comfortable beach chair without a soul in sight.†The warm sun shines down on your skin. Waves are crashing gracefully into the shore. Seagulls serenade you with their relaxing songs.
How does that make you feel?
I’ll tell you how. You’re at peace with your environment (assuming you’re a beach person), and your ability to focus is at it’s highest because you’re in a relaxed state of mind. We focus best when we are completely relaxed. There are no noisy office machines churning away. There are no annoying co-workers to bother you. There are no phones ringing or emails dinging at you to answer them.
You’re all by yourself, without a distraction in sight, and you’re relaxed.
This is what you need to try to replicate in your work environment. All of the distractions I mentioned above and then some are present in office environments. While they’re meant to bring like-minded people together to accomplish a common goal, office environments are HORRIBLE for productivity.
They’re like ticking productivity killing time bombs just waiting to blow your focus to pieces, and each time you’re distracted you have to pay a mental switching cost to regain your focus. It’s nearly impossible to stay focused with all of that going on. But there is hope.
- Work From Home - Working from home in a relaxed environment is the ideal get-away to increase your level of focus, but most of us don’t have that option. So the next best solution is to find a quiet and cozy conference room off in a corner somewhere. Disappear for an hour, get some work done, and come back to your desk to be available.
- Headphones Up -†To cut down on the potential for outside distraction you can do things like wear headphones filled with white noise (like a beach), or even music if you can keep your focus alive. Headphones not only help you focus on only one sound, but they also tell people, “I’m busy. Please come back later.”
- Cut the Phone Cord – You’re not a slave to your phone, so don’t be afraid to set your phone to go to voicemail if your job allows. This will put the phone completely out of your mind.
- Email is Evil – †Email notifications are the worst. These things literally pop up every single minute. Literally close out your email altogether if you really need to zone in.
Your job here is to eliminate anything at all that could distract you from what you’re doing, and get into the most relaxed state of mind possible.
Free Your Body of Distractions
Next I want you to be completely comfortable. Another thing that can really hinder your ability to focus is your level of physical comfort.
Do you find yourself fidgeting at your desk every few minutes to try to find a comfortable position? Maybe you’re hungry. Any number of things with your body can distract from your ability to focus.
Each time you adjust positions, each time your stomach grumbles- any thought that isn’t geared directly on the task at hand is a lapse in focus.†And there again are those switching costs.
Before you sit down to work on a project for the long haul, make sure you’ve done everything you can to make yourself as comfortable as possible. This will contribute greatly to your level of relaxation and thus to your overall level of focus.
Free Your Mind of Distractions
Lastly, I want you to free up the clutter in your subconscious that is hindering your ability to stay laser-focused.
Too often, we put off†minuscule†tasks for the end of the day, or to take care of when we have downtime. It sounds like an effective strategy, because we have more important things to do right?†Well, that may be the case, but what if I told you these tiny little tasks are kryptonite to the level of focus you can achieve?
See, these little buggers pile up over time much to the dismay of your†subconscious. You know you need to do them, but you toss them in the back of your mind to worry about later. Then while you’re right in the middle of trying to focus on a large task, they jump out of your mind and say “Hey, you didn’t get this done!”
You then acknowledge the fact that you’ve put these things off, and try your best to get back in your zone, but at that point your focus is broken, and there again are the re-focusing switching costs to be paid.
The solution is this:
- Any task that is going to take you less than 5 minutes, go ahead and get it out of the way
- Anything else, commit that to a priority list, and acknowledge that you’ll get to it when you get to it
This will allow you to eliminate all of those tiny tasks that cloud up your thoughts, and it will tell your subconscious that everything else is a lower priority than the project that you’ll be working on next. The chance of distraction from within your mind is greatly reduced.
Putting It All Together
Learning to focus effectively is a building block for productivity. Eliminating distraction is a huge key to elevating your potential level of focus. Remember to free your environment of distractions, free your body of distractions, and free your mind of distractions, and you’ll have a much easier time focusing on the tasks at hand.
Cody Wheeler is a Lifestyle Design blogger at Academy Success. He†focuses on teaching his readers how to develop themselves into more productive, effective, and happy people through simple and actionable content. Grab his Productivity Success Secrets action guide now available for free download.