How many times have you seen a generic meme that says something like “Mental Focus is Crucial for Success” and you clicked like, agreed that it is important, and then moved on to the next distraction in your newsfeed?
It seems in the world of online conversations that take place often via memes, GIFS, or emojis we forgot that just telling someone something doesn’t help them improve or increase their ability to take action. It may, to some extent, give them an increased awareness, but awareness is not actionable.
Yes, mental focus is one of the most important leadership and personal development skills you can possess when it comes to achieving success in any area of your work and life.
Focus, more than any other talent, behavior, or skill, is the needle mover when it comes to getting the leverage you need to consistently reach your goals.
Okay, so what the heck is mental focus then if it’s so important? Well, first of all focus is a verb, not a noun. So, "to focus" means to concentrate on a particular task or problem for an extended period of time. Focus is something you can get better at with practice but can be especially hard in our “always on” home and work environments.
Let’s get real for a minute here and address a few practical ways that you can improve your mental focus so you can get stuff done. After all, awareness is not actionable.
Focus Is Like a Pair of Blinders Fending Off Distractions
Unfortunately, we are all well aware that distractions are all around us. You sit down at your desk and end up checking email, browsing through Facebook, or getting lost on YouTube watching cat video after cat video.
Or we get distracted by new projects, things that need taken care of around the house or the office, and of course by nearly any shiny object that will take us away from what we should actually be doing. With all these distractions it’s a wonder we get anything done. There’s always something else that demands our attention, or a fun new project we’d rather be working on.
This is where focus can make a huge difference and help you get things done. Focus is like a pair of blinders. It helps you concentrate on the task at hand until it is done. Yet, until you are able to use more than your willpower and your improved skill of focus to fend off distractions, let’s take a few actions that can help increase your chance of success.
First, consider turning off the notifications on your email. Better yet, close your email application entirely. It is much easier to stay focused if you don’t have distractions literally pinging you in the ear all day. Really, it is highly unlikely anyone will die if you check your email at the start of the day, at lunch, and at the end of the day.
Second, consider setting expectations with those around you on when you are available or not. If you do not want to be interrupted by personal text messages all day, tell those that might text you, so they don’t get offended when you return their message after hours. Better yet, put your phone in your desk or in another room so you are not tempted by the distraction.
Third, consider creating an appointment on your calendar for things that you normally just leave on a to-do list. If you allow your calendar to dictate your day instead of your every changing email or text messages, chances are you will be less distracted by lower priority activities and able to keep your focus for longer periods of time.
- Why else might an increase in your focus benefit you?
Focus Helps Reduce Making Mistakes
Because you are not constantly distracted and you’re giving your full attention to whatever it is you are working on at the moment, you’re less likely to make mistakes. Mistakes happen when your attention is divided, and you’re not fully engaged and immersed in the task you are working on.
Imagine how nice it will be if you got to spend an entire hour on your hardest project without one single ping, phone call, or text message. Doesn’t it feel calmer and less stressful? Don’t you feel like you make fewer mistakes when you are calmer?
Being focused helps you concentrate on your work. It allows you to make fewer mistakes and when you do make them, if you’re not distracted, you’re that much more likely to catch them and fix them. The end result is a better-quality product, no matter what you’re working on.
Focus Helps You Get Stuff Done - Faster
Have you ever worked on a tight deadline? Let’s say you have to finish a report or write a blog post before you can head out to lunch to meet a friend. If you’re highly focused (thanks to that looming deadline), a task that would usually take you half a day is suddenly accomplished in 30 minutes. Best of all, the end result is often better than your usual work because you’re highly focused and are getting into the flow where everything just comes together almost effortlessly.
How to Work on Increasing Your Focus
If you have read the post, you will more than likely agree that focus is important for success. You might even have some ideas on how to eliminate a few distractions that might be causing you to lose focus. Yet, that still begs the question …
- How do I work on the skill of increasing my mental focus?
There are a number of different strategies for increasing mental focus, but one of the most practical ways to start a "focus practice" is by journaling. If you start journaling every day at the same time for just five minutes a day until you can do it without getting distracted, then increase that by five minutes until you reach 30 minutes a day and then 60 minutes and finally 90 minutes. 90 minutes seems to be the sweet spot based on various research studies.
Now if you don’t intend to keep a journal practice active, that is fine. The intention is to find a specific activity that you could literally do for five minutes a day or 90 minutes every day without any possible excuses for not getting it done. If you can build your focus skill from five minutes up to 90 minutes – then you can transfer that skill to any activity that takes up to 90 minutes.
You can also try this same concept by walking five minutes a day and then ten and increasing until you get to 90 minutes. Ensure that you are walking and not doing anything else. Learning to stay focused on the walk and not get distracted by your surroundings will help you with increasing your mental focus and ability to eliminate distractions around you.
Mental Focus is Crucial for Success
Mental focus is crucial for your success, but it isn’t enough to just be aware of this important skill without taking some inspired action toward increasing your mental focus. Eliminating distractions, better managing your calendar, and practicing increasing your mental focus duration are all practical ways to increase your chances of success.
Looking for more personal or professional development ideas? Be sure to book an appointment with me!