As someone who is working on creating or scaling a business, you need to decide to focus on one thing. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that go into
the process. So today, I wanted to address this struggle of having too much to do and a having a
1000 different things that you think you should be focusing on.
Are you focused on too many things right now? If yes, you might not even finish reading this
article. So how do you focus on one thing when your mind is exploding with to-do lists and
goals to achieve?
I think of focus as the power of saying no. When you decide to say no to other options
(distractions) and choose to pay all your attention to one thing, you become focused. It is
something that can boost your productivity with immediate results.
Elie Venezky, the author of Hack your brain says that Focus is a muscle and you can build it. Too
many people think that they are no focused enough, making it a self- fulfilling prophesy. You
can take a more realistic approach to building focus once you drop this belief.
Instead of focusing on the thought that you are not focused enough, give your complete
attention to the task at hand. I believe that building focus comes with practice and it is a habit
that once developed helps you achieve a lot in a little amount of time.
Focus comes down to simple steps you can take every day to clear your mind, break down tasks
into batches, achieve each task and then repeat the process. Becoming aware of your
distractions and being able to avoid them plays a major role in achieving the focus you desire.
Get rid of all interruptions
First things first. No matter how hard you try, you are not going to be able to focus a 100% on
any task if you keep checking your email or social media. The next time you are working on
something, keep a track of the number of times your hand reaches out for the phone. I tried it
and was shocked to realize that reaching out for my phone had become an unconscious habit
for me. It was like I had no control over it. The best way to get over this is to become aware. If
you can’t keep your hands off your phone, it is best to keep your phone far away when you
have a task that needs your attention.
Close all unwanted tabs on your laptop. A lot of times we don’t realize but this is one big reason
for us not being able to concentrate on one thing. It is so easy to switch to another tab while in
the middle of something when you have 20 tabs open. When you don’t have any tabs open,
you become more aware when open a new tab in the middle of a task, and most of the times,
you will not even do it.
Prepare your brain, everyday
When you wake up in the morning and take 5 minutes to run through your specific tasks for the
day, your mind will be better prepared to work on those during the day. It is a mental
preparation that will help you stay focused and not think of 50 things that need to be done.
If you do have a lot of tasks to do, it is best to prioritize and assign 2-3 tasks to each day at the
beginning of the week. This way you will not only be more focused, but also more organized
and I think that both of those go hand in hand. It is important for the mind to be organized and
not overwhelmed, to focus. It is much easier to focus once you know what you must focus on.
It is easier to focus when you tell yourself that I am going to work on this task for 30 minutes
and then give myself a 5 minute break. if you spend too many continuous hours doing
something, you are going to burn out over time. Most of us have a very low attention span so
the quantity and quality of work we can complete diminishes over time.
This study states that brief diversions can drastically improve the ability to focus on a task for prolonged periods. Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused.
Measure your results and focus on the process
When you track your results, you become better aware of the progress you have made.
Measuring outcomes is an important step in maintaining focus and concentration. Try
comparing the time a task takes you to complete with and without distractions. Once you
realize how much better the results are, when you work without distractions, you will be
motivated to focus more on one task at a time and make it a lifelong habit.
When you think of the result you are looking to accomplish every single day, your mind
becomes overwhelmed. It becomes much more difficult to focus on one single thing at a time.
But once you fall in love with the everyday process, it becomes easier to split your goal into
batches and concentrate on that one part at a time. Think of it like the process of losing weight.
When you have to lose 20 pounds, only the focus on getting through each day of exercise and
clean eating can help you get there. 20 pounds as a whole seems like an overwhelming goal but
when you split it into 1-2 tasks each day, it is much more easily attainable.
Multitasking is a myth
Yes, you can do more than one task at a time. An everyday example could be watching
television while eating or cooking. But when you really think about it, even though you are
doing those things at the same time, at any given moment you can concentrate only on one
thing. That is because it is humanly impossible to concentrate a 100% on two tasks at the same
time. Multitasking fills your brain with a lot of tasks at the same time making you switch your
focus back and forth without complete concentration on one particular task. It is like that
feeling you get when you are thinking about something, someone interrupts and then you lose
your chain of thought.
For a long time, I felt proud of my multitasking skills. I used to have so many tabs open that my
laptop used to crash. I reached a point where I thought my brain would burst. Once I stopped
trying to multitask, I was able to focus more which helped me complete tasks faster and in a
more organized way. It also helped me not feeling overwhelmed all the time. The way I could
achieve this was to make a comprehensive list of tasks I wanted to achieve in a day depending
on the time I had and stick to only those tasks without thinking about any other tasks. The
important thing was to clear my mind of all the dump by writing everything down and then
choosing very specific tasks to do on a particular day.
This article by the American Psychological Association defines “Switching Costs” as the amount of time lost due to this mental juggling. The article states “multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time and involve more error. Even brief mental blocks created by shifting
between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time.”
The feeling that we are constantly short on time is a state of mind. And it is very difficult for our
mind to focus in such a state. So instead of continuously thinking about having no time, lacking
focus, running behind schedule, we should put our mind to developing the habit of focus, one
day, one task at a time.
As the Frenchman Blaise Pascal rightly wrote in his Provincial Letters, “If I had more time, I
would have written you a shorter letter.”
What are you focusing on today? Let me know in the comments below.