The Need to FOCUS

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Trying to stay focused has only become harder over the past decade or so, thanks to our smart devices, social media, and constant notifications. 

Ok, so this has become obvious to almost everyone with a pulse.  We’ve heard it all before so what is the solution you ask?  

Having read countless books on this subject over the years, it is somewhat amazing to think that many of these books each have a couple of hundred pages dedicated to just this one topic.  Some methods get rather elaborate, ironically end up inducing more procrastination in the reader. The very last thing we need! Wasting more time, getting distracted deciding which method or what tool/apps you should be using to just stay focused.

Those of us who remember the early internet or pre-internet days might recall how it was easier to concentrate in general, unless you were trying to do your homework in front of the TV. Even so, I vividly remember getting less distracted doing work in front of the old cathode-ray displays then I do with my email, WhatsApp, and other notifications all designed to grab my attention.

Keep it really simple!  You’ll thank me later

Turn that phone off!  Don’t put it on airplane mode, just switch it off!  Imagine you are sitting back in time, maybe the 1990’s if you’re old enough, even the very early 2000’s where the most exciting thing you could do with your phone was either playing snake or texting. Great times though nonetheless.  Shut all email windows down unless you are actually clearing out your inbox.  

Now open the internet browser with all notification popups turned off. You want absolutely nothing to flash up. Anything that pops up or makes a sound could destroy your momentum and this is an absolute no-no.

 It takes our brain around 15-20 minutes to get into the rhyme, vibe, mode, flow state, whatever you want to call it . Only once we achieve this mode do we start producing quality output which ramps up further still as we continue. This is something you do not want to mess with since the next 2-3 hours of focused work could see you making more progress in just this one session, then you would otherwise have made in days.  

Every time we get interrupted our brain ramps down, then it’s hard for us to ramp back up again. Imagine the effort and fuel we burn trying to regain that lost momentum. Like a big truck or bus stopping at traffic lights constantly. It is obvious the MPG is going to suffer. Now imagine that same truck or bus traveling along a motorway with no traffic, just cruising steadily.  The MPG goes up dramatically.  As mere humans and not machines, ( well not yet anyway) refueling isn’t that simple for us. Just one traffic light could ruin our productivity for the entire day, but multiple are guaranteed to destroy our productivity.  How many times have you checked your phone in the last few minutes or within the past hour?  

Keep good posture & clear the mind

It takes more energy to slouch than to sit up straight.  You need to push hips as far back as possible when seated in your chair.  Adjust chair accordingly and ensure feet are flat on the floor and knees equal or lower than your hips.  The whole of your back needs to be supported.  This will help you focus and also prevent posture related issues later on.    

Clear the mind for a couple of minutes by thinking of nothing. Maybe concentrate on a steady background noise, but don’t think of anything, which is essentially all meditation is.  Now you will be sharper and will process information slightly faster. Congratulations, you just upgraded your RAM, but don’t get too excited, we are only talking a few megabytes here, but like an early 90’s computer you will notice the difference.

Finally, try working in 45-50 minute chunks. It is widely accepted that if we go on much longer our brains tend to start becoming inefficient. However, one size does not fit all.  Personally, my ‘flow state’ lasts around two hours without suffering a degrade in performance, so see how you get on.  This ‘flow state’ is just too valuable to cut short! Once established, milk it for all its worth. 

Skip the big lunch

If your stomach and digestive track is loaded then you are not going to be on top form. No if’s or buts but objective reality here. Sure, you must eat but avoid heavy carbs and certainly no junk food! Plenty of water, yes you’ve heard it before but hear it again and just do it!

Focus on just one thing

Limit yourself to one key task. Save the multi-tasking to only very low resource demanding work. Anything that requires real brainpower should be given almost everything you have for at least 45-50 minutes.