There is a very high chance that you reading this is an act of distraction.
Maybe you found it via social media, or it was a link in another article you’d half read. The chances of you intentionally clicking on this article because you wanted to build your focus are low.
Don’t worry, I’m not offended.
We’re going to use the opportunity we have here together to help you become more powerful.
A few years ago I realized that I had almost zero ability to focus on one thing for more than about 3 minutes. It wasn’t intentional, it was something that had crept into my unconscious behavior. Ever since I got my first cell phone, I noticed that my ability to focus had started lowering.
I realized how ridiculous it had become one night while I was watching television, while using my cell phone to text a friend and trying to read an article on my iPad, all at the same time. In a moment of rare self-awareness, I saw how useless my behavior was. Not only was I not reading the article, I was also missing the TV show and ignoring my friend.
That night, I attempted something I hadn’t done for as long as I could remember: I tried to do one thing at a time. I decided to switch off the TV and try to finish the article. Within 3 minutes, I failed. My cellphone lit up with a new text message, and my attention was lost wondering what it said.
It was from that moment that I resolved to do something about my weakness.
Although it took me almost 3 years, I am glad to say that today I can focus on tasks for up to an hour or two at a time. I am able to get results I want, and I actually experience what I am doing, while I am doing it.
Here are the three simple methods that I use today to channel my focus:
1) Focus on one task, all the way to completion
This is more difficult than you might imagine. But simply choosing one thing to do at a time will narrow your cognitive powers and channel them. Depending on your capacity, you may find that within a short amount of time you start feeling your mind wander.
When this happens, bring it back to the task. Keep the outcome you want clearly in mind, and see the path you on that is leading you to it. Trust me when I say that the first few times you try to do this, it will be excruciating. Your mind will try to trick you into doing something else – anything else – just to satiate the desire for distraction. Don’t waver. Stay strong and keep telling yourself you are focused.
In the beginning, I suggest picking one task per day, and working on it both for the skill and result. If you do this for about 30 days, you’ll find your ability to focus increases almost automatically.
2) Create a forced environment of focus
A big key to focus is environment. If you are located somewhere that other people can somehow push their agenda onto you, your mind will coalesce to it. One thing I’ve learned to do is create a ‘forced environmental focus’ for something I really want to work on.
I take myself to a location where I’m not able to be influenced or interrupted by other people, and I set a task to complete. One of the best places I’ve found (for me) this to be effective is busy coffee shops. For some reason, having the bustle of other people around (and the fact they can see me) makes me feel more productive. I settle in for at least an hour at a time to do something I want to get completed.
3) Create a false time constraint
Once I have a task to complete, and an environment that forces me to focus, the final ingredient is simply to set a false time constraint. If the task usually takes about an hour, I see if I can get it done in 30 minutes. By halving the usual time I’d spend, I seem to be able to focus even more.
Something about the fact that you challenge your own sense of ability drives your power to focus. I have found that setting a false time constraint is the key to getting almost double the amount of work done that I used to. I think this is because it goes directly against Parkinson’s Law.
If you allow yourself a lot less time, you’ll usually end up using it incredibly well.
These three factors will do a lot to help you focus. You can build a new skill very quickly, you can do important work in almost half the time, and you can feel a sense of personal power growing from the inside.
I truly believe that the ability to focus is one of the keys to living an exceptional life. The power is yours to use as much or as little as you choose.
Remember: whatever you choose to pay attention to is eating up your life. It might make sense to focus your attention on things that truly matter to you, and go at them with all your power.