The art of Being Focused

October 8, 2015   

Being focused is something that I often fail to do. A new YouTube video comes up, a new tweet comes up or a new email… All these things are “demanding” my attention. And my brain immediately tells me “Hey, the stuff you’re doing is not as important as that new video man! Go check it out”. This is something that I believe everyone has suffered in the past and is suffering right now. What can we do about it?

Our brain always wants us to take the easy way: it's our job to make the choice of neglecting that wish or to grant it.

Being focused is hard. It’s really, really hard. Especially in today’s digital world. Anything can serve as a distraction, and we usually fall prey to it. It’s important, however, that we understand that this phenomenon has a deeper foundation to its existence. That foundation, I believe, can be one of two things: Either we aren’t enjoying what we’re doing or, even if we are enjoying, we allow ourselves to work in a place with unlimited sources of distractions. Maybe you’re working at home with your phone turned on (the Wifi is on, all notifications are on, etc), with your email application turned on, with a browser with tabs open for each social media website that you’re subscribed to, with your family coming in and out to your workplace, noise on the street that you can’t block, etc.

Combine doing something that you don't like with unlimited sources of distraction, and you have the perfect recipe for procrastination and zero productivity.

This first foundation makes the task of being focused even 100x harder. No one likes to feel like doing something because someone else forced us to do it. The first step towards fixing this is changing the perspective that you have about the task at hand. if you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy doing at the moment, think of it like this: “Tomorrow, I’ll wish I had done this today”. If that doesn’t get you going, then realize that it’s OK not to like that particular task. Accept it. Then, reason about why you don’t like that task and identify the aspects of that particular task that you don’t enjoy. Is it because you think it’s hard? Well, new’s flash buddy: very few things in life are easy, at least the things that will move you forward and improve you. You really gotta push through it. Remember, “Tomorrow, I’ll wish I had done this today”. If the reason is because that task seems SO big or SO hard to complete and you see the finish line SO far away, break it down. Break your task into smaller tasks and focus 100% on each one of those, one at the time. Build your momentum like this. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that you should be doing these things while closing Facebook and Twitter. Install some blockers on your browser to help you. You need to be proactive and you need to know your weak points.

The second reason is easier to solve. You just need to consciously make a decision to leave that workplace and go somewhere else. Right now, I’m trying to implement something like this in my life. For the past 4 years, I’ve been studying at home. I was never much interested in staying in college studying. Lately, I’ve realized that I have A LOT of distractions at home, so I’ve been trying to purposely go to college just to study. The “study environment” of a college library really helps you being focused, because you are surrounded by people who are focused themselves, and thus you kinda feel “pressured” to maximize your ability to be focused as well, also, you can’t exactly stand up and go to the couch and watch TV, and even though you can still easily access websites like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, I feel bad because I took the effort to leave one workplace to another with the purpose of being focused and productive, and I’m just wasting time on these websites while other students are trying hard to get work done. At least, for me. This is something that I’m still trying to implement in my daily life, but with time, I believe it can be a good change in my working routine.

Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.
Jim Rohn

“I keep Facebook or Twitter open because I’m afraid of missing out on something important!”, “My friends are constantly talking to me and I can’t just ignore them”, “I need a feeling of reward after a hard 30 minutes session of work”.

Look, here’s the thing: you need to separate your concerns. What are you trying to accomplish, exactly? Because focusing on more than one thing at once, it’s not going to work. It has been scientifically proven that our brains aren’t wired to multi-task. That’s just how it is. Stop making excuses, stop trying to find new ways to complete your tasks while satisfying your desire to always be connected with the outside world and stop trying to trick your brain. If you want to get something done, just start doing it and allocate a separate time of your day to check all the social media stuff you want to. If you’re afraid of missing out on something important, well, then you’re doing all this wrong. What should be important, is yourself. What you’re doing. Not the rest of the world. Focus on doing YOU. On improving YOU. You have time to check all that stuff later, the news will still be there for you to check, don’t worry. It’s hard to make our brains accept this mentality, but it’s possible. You just need to make an effort in order to change.

With this being said, I believe that being focused in today’s world it’s a form of art. Just like an artist plans and tries to figure out the best way to create something, a human being trying to be focused must plan to be focused. It’s kinda weird but accept it. It’s ok to plan for something as mundane as being focused. Realize where your weak points are. Is it because you work at home and you have many distractions there? Is it because you’re subscribed to so many social websites that you are constantly bombarded with notifications? Is it because you can’t have your browser open without having 10 or more tabs open? Every problem here listed has a solution, but that solution has to be backed up by a desire to become a better and more focused person. So, stop making excuses, close those tabs and allocate time to check them later.

Breath in, put your head in the game and start doing the stuff you know you should be doing and embrace the art of being focused.

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