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Focus means paying attention. It can mean getting things accomplished. But even if you have laser focus, you can improve your focus.
So if you want to improve your focus, you need to develop the skill of paying attention to a particular thought, task, or goal for a specified amount of time – without allowing distractions to break your concentration.
I’m a busy father with 3 young kids, a full-time job, a 2-hour commute, and a demanding tech job for a hospital. Oh yeah, and I also write and blog on the side – so I NEED to stay focused so I can juggle all of my tasks – and have developed some tips over the years that help me keep focused on what I am doing st the moment.
This is the power of focus
The purpose of this article is to help you develop the habit of focus with small simple exercises that you can do every day. That way when it comes time to focus on a big, important task you can remember the experiences of staying focused on the smaller tasks. This will increase your willpower and self-belief so that you can stay focused and accomplish your goals.
(Side note: One of the best ways to get what you want from life is to create and set SMART goals. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.)
What You Will Learn
- How do we improve focus?
How do we improve focus?
Improving focus uses a similar technique to building muscles. You work on it a little bit every single day (without fail) and your focus improves. The resistance you overcome hurts a little bit, but it strengthens your willpower and you get a little stronger (and more focused) every day. Simple. (To learn more, read the best books about willpower.)
So no matter what objective you're trying to achieve in your life your stronger focus will make a positive impact.
Improved focus improves a wide variety of goals:
Focus is improved by overcoming the temporary discomfort challenges and inevitable setbacks to stay on task. That's why the power of focus is such a valuable skill to have.
In this article I want to share 11 simple techniques and habits that you can use to build the skill of paying attention and staying focused.
1.Think About What You Want – VIVIDLY
The first, and I would say, the most important way to improve focus is to think intensely and deeply about what it is that you actually want.
Think about what it looks like. Think about what it'll take to get it. Think about how you feel once you actually achieve it.
Can you imagine the joy the sense of accomplishment the gratitude the sense of power worth and confidence that you feel having achieved your goal?
Great. Because most people don't do that.
And if there's one secret to developing the kind of focus that helps you smash through your obstacles, it's to imagine that you've already achieved your goal.
Imagine how you would feel, where you would be, what it would look like, and what others would say.
This is the way to take your goal from being a dry lifeless wish to a vividly burning desire. Because once you have this desire it'll give you the motivation the strength and the mental fortitude to plow through the end as portable challenges that you face.
So you have to develop the focus habit of thinking about what you want – vividly.
Action Item: Close your eyes and think deeply about a goal you want to achieve. Tell yourself that you’ve ALREADY achieved it. Now feel the feelings of happiness and confidence. Keeping thinking about the details – where you are, who’s around you, and what you did to achieve this goal.
2. Be Grateful in Advance
Now that you know exactly what you want, the second step to developing focus is to be grateful.
It might sound strange, but gratitude helps to develop focus because when you're grateful, you train your mind to look for the good in every situation.
By being grateful, you are focusing on your present situation. You become more aware of your present opportunities. You become more aware of the people around you that can help you reach your goal. And you are more aware of what steps you need to take to achieve your goal.
Think about it no one ever achieves their goal by sulking, complaining, and feeling sorry for themselves.
So get in the habit of being thankful. Be thankful for your hardships. Be thankful for where you are in the process. Be thankful for your setbacks. Be thankful for the people in your life. Be thankful for your situation.
When you're thankful and grateful your mind will start seeing opportunities that he did not see before.
So get in the habit of being grateful for your goal before you’ve achieved it. It will help increase your focus because you’re training your brain to always look for the good in every situation.
Action Item: Think about 3 things that you’re thankful for right now. To make it even more valuable, think of 3 obstacles you’re facing and list reasons why you’re grateful for them (perhaps you’re learning a lesson from them)
3. Learn to Be Ruthless With Your Time
Ruthlessly cut out “fluff” tasks and focus on the main items to achieve your goals – delegate everything else.
The best way to do this is to have a to-do list that you actively work on every single day.
I prefer writing my to-do list on a Post-it note because I like to the feeling of actually writing it with a pen and scratching it off as a complete each item.
But there are plenty of online to-do list apps on your phone you can use to help you be more ruthless with your time.
The point is that you want to be single-minded with your time and focus your attention on the things written on your to-do list. Don't allow distractions or other last-minute items to take you off task unless they are on your to-do list.
By planning out your day, you are increasing your focus on the important tasks that you’ve defined for yourself ahead of time, rather than letting distractions creep up on and steal your attention.
Action Item: Make a to-do list for today (you do have one don’t you?) and focus on getting your most critical tasks done!
4. Create “Layers” of Focus
Do the hard stuff and follow it up with easy stuff. The feeling of accomplishment and confidence will enhance your focus – not deplete it. Things like:
Doing these low-effort things makes you feel more accomplished and are a powerful visual cue when you look at your to-do list. You have accomplished things, and this improves your focus!
That's why having a to-do list is so important – once you have it, you can start easily doing the low effort items this will help you build self-confidence motivation and a sense of accomplishment that you can use to tackle your bigger tasks.
Action Items: Right now, do the tasks on your to-do list that would take no more than 2 minutes to do. Just get them done – now!
5. Pay Attention to HOW You’re Eating
Many of us eat too much and too fast.
Be mindful when you eat, appreciate the flavors, chew slowly, enjoy your food. By chewing your food slowly, sitting down, and appreciating what you're eating, you will feel more full and more satisfied with your meals. The simple act of being present and focused on what you're eating will help you not only enjoy your food more but also lose weight.
This is a classic technique that my wife uses as a dietitian to help her clients feel more full and more satisfied after a meal.
The sneaky thing is that by focusing on this mindful eating you also improve your focus.
Action Item: Sit down at a table and eat. No T.V. or cell phones. Eat your food and be conscious of how it tastes and feels. Enjoy your food and notice when you start to feel full. Listen to your body and allow yourself to easily stop eating when you feel full and satisfied.
6. Devise a Bedtime Routine
If you're fatigued and not eating well you won't be able to put your energy intent and focus on the critical task at hand most of us don't eat properly or get enough sleep.
Focus on having the same bedtime every night.
You want to build the habit of going to sleep on time and to focus on your body's tiredness cues by being more aware and focused on how you feel.
That way you give your body what it needs, which is proper rest.
Most of us ignore our tiredness cues and stay online queue up the next Netflix video or play games on our phones when we should be heading to bed.
So focus on the structure of your evenings so that you naturally go to bed when your body is telling you that it needs rest. Not whenever you “feel tired”.
Action Item: Plan out your evening and set a bedtime. Notice how you feel throughout the evening and head to bed when you feel tired.
7. Make a Game of Clearing Up Clutter
Hey! Steve and Barrie have an entire book series dedicated to this topic so it's kind of important!
Nothing zaps focus like clutter and disorganization.
Clear up your desk, your car, your room so that you feel calm, peaceful, and serene.
One fun way that we clean up clutter with our kids (I have 3) is to set a timer for just 5 minutes and make a game out of it. Whoever puts away the most stuff wins!
Get in the habit of clearing off your office desk at the end of the day. Get in the habit if cleaning up the kitchen before you go to bed. Get in the habit of clearing out your inbox.
You don't want any unnecessary distractions to deplete your focus. Plus the simple act of working on these small organizational tasks every day helps to strengthen that old focus “muscle”.
Action Item: Look at the space around you and for the next 3 minutes, start clearing up items that have a defined location (trash can, bookshelf, etc.)
8. Reward Yourself
Make a game out of completing your daily routine. Humans are motivated by incentives and punishments, so make sure that you set up a reward for accomplishing your tasks. You want to build positive associations around accomplishing your goals.
You will channel these feelings of accomplishment into focusing on your bigger goals, so it’s important to reward yourself for staying on task.
Another tip for how to improve focus that I've learned is that when you do get distracted, or don't complete items on your to-do list or don't keep a commitment that you've made yourself there needs to be a consequence.
Consequences for failing your focus challenges is extremely important because when you don't do something that you know you should, you feel a tiny bit of guilt and that guilt if allowed to fester, will deplete your feelings of positivity and motivation. A guilty conscience is utterly counter-productive.
I’m not saying to “punish” yourself. But I am saying there to be a consequence so that you feel like you've “atoned” for slipping up.
One great “consequence” that you can have for yourself is to donate to a cause that you believe in. That way you still feel good about yourself and are able to channel those positive feelings towards your goals again this will help you maintain your focus.
Action Item: Think of a reward and a consequence that you’ll have if you accomplish your goals – or if you don’t.
9. The Sex Advantage
Napolean Hill, in “Think and Grow Rich” talks about using your sexual instincts to learn discipline and self-control.
If you’re married, use it to build love, gratitude, appreciation, and happiness.
Whenever you find yourself attracted to someone else whether at work, at the store, etc. focus on diverting your attention from them and start thinking about your spouse.
Now this is hard, and most people won’t want to do it, but by placing your attention and thoughts on your spouse, you’re training yourself to avoid distraction and ultimate temptation.
By channeling your attraction for others back into your relationship, you'll notice yourself treating your spouse with increased kindness, complimenting them on their appearance, and generally being more thankful to them.
By focusing and being aware of putting your attraction and desire towards your spouse, rather than allowing it to be siphoned outside of your relationship, you’re not only building discipline and focus, but you’re building positive feelings and happiness that will further help you with staying focused on your goals.
Action Item: Whenever you find yourself attracted to someone else, send a quick text message, email, or phone call to your significant other telling them that you love them or complimenting something about them.
10. Focus on Your Posture
The final way to improve focus is to pay attention to your own body.
Focus on your posture when you're standing. When you're sitting in the car. When you're walking. Etc.
Focus on making sure your spine is straight. Make sure your shoulders are back. Your head should be upright.
Good posture is important. It helps you be healthier. It makes you more efficient. But focusing on your posture also gives you a tool to help you improve your focus.
Action Item: Right now, as you’re reading this article, straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head upright. Notice how good it feels and do this throughout the day.
About the Author: Raza Imam writes about simple strategies and tips regular people can use to get healthier, stronger, and leaner. Check out Raza’s book, “30 Days of Focus” on Amazon.com.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.