Sunday, August 14, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

How to develop a sharper focus

We all know the great feeling of laser sharp focus. The times when we manage a singular focus on what we are doing. The times when you don't realize that time is passing. The feeling of exhilaration rather than fatigue as you work on.

When the mind is acutely focused we see a glimpse of the productive potential we all have. For most people though, these moments are rare. They seem to happen by coincidence. This randomness of focus is what people refer to as finding their muse or being struck by inspiration. This kind of language supports the idea that a focused mind is a rare fleeting gift that we can't control.

In reality however, a focused mind is something that can be learned. Here are some simple ideas on how you can improve your ability to focus your mind.

The tell tale sign of an unfocused mind is fuzziness. When you work on something you get distracted easily. 10 minutes of productive work gets interrupted by a coffee break, a bathroom run, or some web surfing. What we are working on is typically vague. We might have a clearly defined goal, but the deadline is sort of fuzzy, how to get to the goal no well defined, and your progress not measured.

This is the default working mode of most people. It leads to reduced productivity and less enjoyment of your work. I am convinced that the reason why so many people hate their job is because they are in this mental fuzz year after year. After all, most people work with something that they find at least somewhat interesting. When focus is lacking however, work becomes frustrating and uninspiring. People end up mailing it in waiting for the weekend and then do it all over again the week after.

To develop a greater focus, the first rule is to simplify what you are doing. I believe the most important factor in fuzzy thinking is trying to focus on too many things at once. This can not work. The word focus implies that you should work on just one thing at a time. A lens focuses light in one single point. When you try to work on several projects at the same time you start to lose focus.

I realize that it is not possible to only have one task on your to do list at any given time. Schedules at work and at home are packed full and there will always be several things you need to take care of. The secret is that even if you have many tasks you are responsible for, you don't have to have them in your mind at the same time.

To use work as an example. You might be involved in four different projects at the same time. There are emails and phone calls to deal with, meetings to go to, people to talk to and papers to print. The standard way of handling this is to balance most of the tasks in your head. It is impossible to perform optimally while doing this.

To be able to handle this kind of workload efficiently a system to organize your thoughts are essential. Some people prefer to keep a notebook, others use online tools, the only thing that is required is that you can't keep your system in your mind. If you do you will overtax yourself. The mind simply can't work at peak performance while keeping track of tons of other tasks.

To be able to focus fully on a task, all other tasks must be banished from your mind. The best way I know to do this is to spend some time regularly to identify your current overarching goals and then breaking these goals into required tasks. This can be either a big project at work, or planning a vacation trip to the Grand Canyon. It doesn't matter, spend the time to identify the goal, and the steps you need to do to get to the goal.

Write this stuff down! Put down the end goal and the tasks you have identified. You can use one sheet of paper for each goal, or a separate Word document or whatever you find easy to work with. The key is not what kind of system you chose, but that you chose a system that you trust. It is absolutely essential that once you put your tasks into your thought system that you know you will act on these tasks at some point. If you can't trust yourself to use these notes, your brain will still hold onto these tasks to make sure they are not forgotten.

To be truly focused however, you absolutely have to forget everything that you are not currently working on. Your mind should only hold information and thoughts relevant to the current task. If you religiously take down all important thoughts and tasks in your thought management system, it will be a lot easier to let these thoughts go until you need them again.

If you develop a system like this and stick to it, your productivity will skyrocket. You will be more satisfied at work and most likely impress everybody else at work. But you have to make sure your system works for you. Just taking notes and never going back to check on them will not work. You have to develop a system that functions as an extension of your own mind. You have to know that onces something is put down in your system, it is as good as keeping it in your memory. Revisit your system of tasks daily. Make it the first order of business every day to resort your tasks and goals, then pick one task of your list and focus on nothing else until it is done.

One last note of advice. When you work with a singular focus, you will finish tasks a lot quicker. This will let you take on more work, but don't forget to take breaks. It is ok to grant yourself 10 minutes of complete rest between each task you complete. You will find it easier to stay focused when the mind is relaxed, and your improved productivity will more than cover for the increase in mental breaks.

Powered by Blogger.
Copyright Reserved COURAGEOUS MIND 2010.
Design by: Bingo | Blogger Templates by Blogger Template Place | supported by One-4-All