Lack of focus. The disease of your over-connected world.
Better than the black plague, you might think. I don’t agree.
At least, when you had the plague, you knew you were sick. Ok, ok, I can already hear the sobersides claiming you would end up dead.
The thing is, lack of focus won’t kill you per se but will kill any shot you have at achieving your dreams. It might doom you to a long but jejune life. And as my favorite movie line from Whiplash goes:
I’d rather die drunk and broke at 34 and have people at a dinner table talk about me than live to be rich and sober at 90, and nobody remembered who I was.
Step 1: kill your self-limiting beliefs
Stop making up excuses
Excuses. As sweet as a chocolate babka French toast. But as poisonous as that milk bottle in your fridge that was there before you moved in.
If you love excuses, you’re giving up your life to an external locus of control. Call yourself creative or not; I’m sure you excel at making up reasons for why you can’t focus.
Excuses have been around for centuries, even millennials. Cavemen used to explain to their families they won’t be serving any mammoth tonight. Because some razor-tooth tiger ate half of the hunters (source missing). Well, in that case, excuses are legitimate. But nowadays, you have Uber Eats. What you don’t have is solid excuses. Am I digressing?
For anything to happen in your life, you have to schedule it. You need to be specific in your planning. Do you want more focus on your work? Schedule deep concentration sessions in your Google Calendar, and make it happen. When are you going to sit down and have an uninterrupted work session? What day? What time? For how long? Where? Make sure you stick to it. Act now. Life only rewards action.
You think postponing on working on that project dear to your heart is no big deal. After all, you need to go pick up the kids at school. And hit the gym. And finish that report. By allowing yourself to flake on yourself, you open the gates to a flood of excuses. You think tomorrow will be a better day than today; without doing anything to make it better.
Believe in yourself
More dangerous than external excuses, you might think the source of your lack of focus is… you. You might have an internal locus of control, but you’re toxic to yourself.
“I’m just not like that.” “I’m not a morning person.” “I have A.D.D.“.
Cut the B.S. would you?
Focus is not innate; it’s earned. You have to work at it. Concentration is a habit. So pop that Adderall and get back to work. Just kidding. Unless you can get me some. Just kidding. Or am I? Food for thoughts.
The only enemy is yourself. Do you believe in your lies? Do you judge yourself for daring to have high standards but being perfect in your pursuit? Then you will never find that needed peace of mind to focus.
The more you train your ability to focus, the quicker and deeper you’ll be able to concentrate.
Every single thought we have is creative: it has the power to build or to destroy. What will you choose for yourself?
Take the wheel
Self-discipline is not self-deprivation. It’s about raising your standards and going for and being more.
Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do when you should do it. Whether you feel like it or not.
The more we struggle and debate, the more we reconsider and delay, the less likely we are to act.
It’s time to grow grit. It’s time to push through. Learn to enjoy the pain. Self-indulging and short-term reward chasing have never built anything. Reach out of your comfort zone. Embrace challenges.
Step 2: be here Now.
Trust me; you can’t do it.
When you start working, cut away distractions. No notifications. No social media. No email. No Doritos over your keyboard. Just freaking do it.
You feel like your mind’s wandering? You feel like you’re losing focus? Take a break. Do a breathing exercise. The perfect way to learn is to make lots of firsts and lasts by having lots of breaks.
I use a timer for 25-minute deep focus sessions. During that time, I can’t do anything that is not related to my project. No internet, no phone, no nothing.
Focus with purpose
Learning with a clear goal makes your concentration level skyrocket.
When you read, make sure you have a clear goal. When you write, focus on the central message you want to convey. When you work out, focus on the muscle you want to grow. Always have a purpose. Avoid mindlessness. Otherwise, you’re merely losing your time.
Purpose allows you to read faster, to remember better, to reach a more in-depth understanding. What is it you want to learn from this article? How to do mindful focus sessions? How to give up excuses? Be aware of what you’re after.
Doing things that interest you is pretty straightforward. You get into that flow where time seems to freeze. You don’t feel hungry, nor thirsty, nor tired. Nothing. Only sheer enjoyment and smooth learning.
But what about those tasks that we have to do and aren’t appealing? Find out how they connect to what you enjoy doing. Create your pathways to interest.
Sometimes, you won’t find these pathways. Remember then the grander scheme that got you started in the first place. And show self-discipline.
There’s no such thing as a boring subject, only a bored listener who hasn’t bothered to search for the relevance of the message to them. ― Hugh Mackay
Find the connections. Create the links to what moves you.
Reaching peak concentration is the cornerstone of a lifelong learning habit.
You need first to lay the groundwork for new seeds of information to be learned. What are your concentration methods? Share with us. Help us all grow and become the best versions of ourselves.
Coming up next: How to remember everything forever. Follow me to stay in the know of my next articles. Take care.
Also published on Medium.
Gary. Great post. Just found your (for the lack of a better word) ‘blog.’ I’ve been looking for these mindset adjusters. Thanks, man. Love the smell from your kitchen.
Olaf, I appreciate your support! “Whenever I do a film, it has to have the potential to fail miserably, otherwise it’s not worth the walk.” Damn, thanks for that one! Be edgy or go home!
Thanks Gary. I sense a ‘Skype for not reason’ around the corner of distant future. Truly appreciate your work here. Helps me sharpen each morning.
Sure! Hit me up on the contact page.