Social media, plan dinner, don’t forget the kid’s school concert, reply to that SMS … Each day your attention is is divided by almost everything going on in your life.
As you read this article, chances are your focus is going to wonder, away from this and onto something else. The amount of information and the numerous mediums through which we access it, means our focus is often shifted from what we’re busy with. These shifts in focus often lead to a chain of more attention-grabbing-elements and leave the initial task incomplete.
Eric Kandel a Nobel prize winner, neurologist and author of the book “In search of memory” says the best way to link new ideas and concepts to “knowledge in established memory” is through time of complete focus. So in order to come up with your best, well thought out plan or strategy, you should spend time focusing on that, and only that.
How do you do this with all the elements that take your focus on a daily basis? There are two critical things you should start with right now to get uninterrupted focus into your life.
Most of us have become accustomed to multitasking and managing more than one thing at a time. We are skilled at taking calls and answering questions on email at the same time, or report writing while thinking about social activities. Research conduct at Stamford University in the US in 2009 show that people who conduct more than one task at a time, retained less information about what they were working on than those that focused on only one thing at a time.
If you’re the person that is busy with three things at once, it might be time to practice the way that you focus. Firstly you need to identify what distracts you and eliminate it from your focused time. While you’re working on something that you’d like to allocate all your focus you should turn off everything that could distract you, mobile phone, office line, kids etc.
As you start to work in this focused time, keep a note of what distracts your attention, and eliminating it from your future sessions. Thinking about what takes your attention away from what you’re busy with, means you’ll become more aware of it as you work.
The first few focus sessions may be difficult, but with practice and time you’ll find you are much better at working on only what you plan to in the allocated time.
There are 2 elements in planning. Firstly allocating time to spend focusing, and secondly planning what you want to get out of each session.
The time that you chose to allocate to a focus session needs to be thought out. Different people have different times which would be most suitable. Pick a time that is least likely to encounter distractions from your life around you.
Next, plan what you’d like to get out of each session, and why you want to achieve this. As with longer term goal setting writing down your objectives ensure you’re more likely to focus, as know exactly what you want to achieve in each session.
Tips to take action now:
- Write down one thing you’d like to work on with complete focus.
- Allocate a 30 minute focus session, applying the points discussed above.
- Review the session. What was achieved? What could you change to improve the next session?
Once you’ve completed this, create more focus sessions until you’ve complete point 1 above, then look at other areas of your life you want to focus on and handle them the same way.